The pragmatist’s guide to Twitter accounts [infographic]

Assessing Twitter accounts

Yeah, it’s been a hot minute.

Most of the time I feel like the Plato’s chair of that cobbler’s children thing: I churn out all kinds of content for other people, all day long, and yet my own blog sits here like a single 38-year-old straight woman who keeps having to go to bridal showers and remind herself that it’s better to be alone than to be with the wrong person.

It’s hard for me to keep telling clients that content and social media and consistency and ‘SEO blah blah blah is so important when I can’t get it together to write a blog post in 5 months. (Confidential to clients: Do as I say, not as I do.) So here is a post.

Some days, I feel like I live on Twitter.

These days, I manage a lot of social media accounts – about 90, all told, with about 30 of those being Twitter. I know Twitter gets a bad rap in some quarters, but I’ve always liked it. There are some fantastic writers (comedic and otherwise) who use it to great effect; it’s a good place to learn about breaking news; it can be an excellent way to stay on top of pop culture; and every so often you have a conversation with someone who’s both interesting and thought-provoking, and a whole other train of thought opens up to you. And it can be a great tool for businesses, brands and people to build awareness, word-of-mouth, thought leadership and networks.

(For writers, BTW, tweeting on behalf of others is a fantastic crash-course in mastering ‘voice’. Twitter only works when it seems authentic, so being able to accurately create or mimic the voice of your clients is crucial – and actually a lot of fun. For me, anyway.)

However, Twitter can also be a scary, soul-sucking morass of despair, especially when you fall down a Trump/#MAGA/anti-vaxxer/prepper rabbit hole or stumble into a thread of rabid Bill Cosby defenders.

Luckily, I’ve learned a few things in the past 8+ years that I’ve been tweeting for myself or on behalf of clients. And today, I will share them with you! In a handy infographic format that you will be sure to like and share!

This isn’t comprehensive, but it’ll help you avoid the worst of Twitter and learn to like it again.

Pragmatist's guide to Twitter accounts infographic

More tips from the seamy underbelly of Twitter

How to avoid letting Twitter make you crazy

Twitter will make you crazy if you aren’t careful

How to avoid letting Twitter make you crazy

I think Twitter can be both useful and even fun: It’s a great way to find out about breaking news, it’s a good way to quickly connect with people who are interested in something you’re wondering about right this minute, and it can steer you to information and topics you might never have discovered on your own (right now, I’m finding #blackhistorymonth very interesting). For businesses, it can be an excellent CRM tool, delivering the kind of instant gratification that customers tend to like; it can assist with SEO by ensuring you have regular content attached to your brand/name; and over the longer term it can be quite effective at building your profile, particularly within a particular industry or field.

Twitter is also fraught with dangerous rabbit holes. Make the mistake of clicking on a trending topic like #zayndontleave or #gamergate and you’ll find yourself sucked into a vortex of vitriol, misongyny, anger and illiteracy so bad you’ll start to wonder if social media really is the scourge of humanity.

But don’t worry!

More tips to help you actually like Twitter

1. People who have text on their background pictures are trying to sell you something. If you see text on the background pic of an account, think twice before following, even if you can’t actually read the text without clicking on the picture. If the text includes a number, be extra careful – anyone whose main message is “Ask me how I can increase your traffic by 92% in 2 weeks!” is trying to sell you something you almost certainly don’t need. And, worse, is going to tweet really, really boring stuff.

1.(b) If the text is a quote, do not follow. People who put inspirational quotes like “Walking in the sand, I knew my heart was in the sky” can be classified as one of 3 things: A bot/fake account; a person who tweets way, way too much; or a person who spends 98% of their leisure time on Pinterest. None of these people will help you professionally (and probably not personally, either).

2.  It’s okay to follow brands. I used to say that it was better to follow real people rather than brands – my reasoning was that people would actually tweet interesting stuff while brands would just regurgitate party-line soundbites. I’m happy to say this has changed. Some brands have great individuals running their Twitter feeds; others have hired content strategy types (like me) to give them interesting, relevant content which is even sometimes funny.

3.  Don’t follow anyone wearing a hat in their profile pic. The exception to this might be a professional baseball player wearing a ball cap. Otherwise, it just means “I am a self-published romantic fiction/sci-fi author and I like tea and cats.”

4.  It’s okay good to get personal. Sometimes.  No, you shouldn’t tweet endless photos of your meals out (unless you’re a food blogger). But a quick tweet about the marathon you just ran, or a pic of a funny sign you saw, or an amusing comment about current events lets your audience know that you’re a real person who does interesting things and has interesting thoughts. And it will often generate better engagement than a link to an industry-related article.

5. If someone with 10k followers, who is only following 100 people, follows you, ask yourself why. In fact, you don’t have to ask yourself – I will tell you: Because they are going to wait for you to follow back, then unfollow you immediately. They are not interested in you or your business, they aren’t interested in your tweets – they just want to build their follower base so they can sell someone something (possibly access to their follower base). Which brings me to…

6.  Follower: Following ratio is important. Twitter, like so much of adult life, is like high school: The winner is the person who seems most popular. A person with 20k followers who is only following 543 people looks more popular (and probably actually is) than someone who has 80k followers but is following 93k people.  When you’re first starting out on Twitter, your ratio will be poor (see #5 in my previous Seamy Underbelly piece), but your goal, over time, should be to ensure you have more followers than people you’re following.

7.  It’s a long game.  Digital media types in skinny pants often try to give you the impression that in the Modern World, everything happens superfast! and supergreat! But the truth is that Twitter, like almost any other component in a social media/content strategy, delivers results over the longer term. It takes time to build up a following and think up some clever tweets that get attention and push out content that people actually read. I tell clients they need to keep at it for 6-12 months before they can really assess results.

8. Be very clear about why you’re bothering with Twitter in the first place. Twitter can deliver lots of benefits for small businesses: It can feed your other social media channels; it can amplify your content; it can give you access to eyeballs you wouldn’t otherwise have for free; it can help your Google rankings; it can be a CRM tool; it can make your otherwise static website look continually updated; it can act as a focus group; it can raise your profile within your industry or target market – all these things can be valuable.

But Twitter can also be a lot of work – it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time especially if you’re using the right tools, it just requires sort of constant care and feeding, and that can be tricky for small businesses with limited resources. That’s why it’s crucial to know why you’re doing it and what you hope to achieve. If you can stay out of the rabbit holes and stay the course for a year, you might find it more effective than you think.


Tips from the seamy underbelly of Twitter (mostly for SMBs)

Sarah Welstead Twitter for small business

Things the ‘social media gurus’ won’t tell you

Sarah Welstead Twitter for small business

The other day I wrote about why almost all small- and mid-sized businesses should have a Twitter presence.

But let’s face it: The world didn’t need another blog post about why Twitter’s so great for SMBs. Every day, my own Twitter feed is clogged unto bursting with articles by supposed marketing geniuses (if they call themselves  ‘guru’, it must be true!) promising that if you’ll only follow their 23 Foolproof Steps, you too will achieve business success via Twitter.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that all these “Top 10 tips for succeeding on Twitter” pieces littering the web seem to be written by people who’ve spent about 2 hours on Twitter, put quantity over quality, and who are too busy driving traffic to their keywords that they don’t actually tell you anything useful, like “If someone whose profile pic is a possibly-underage girl in a bikini follows you, do not follow back.”

Avoid disaster by following these simple rules

1. Don’t go more than a week without logging into your account or tweeting. Dormant accounts, especially if they have 1000+ followers, are targets for hackers/spoofers who take over the account and start tweeting spam. You don’t want to discover that your long-ignored account has been tweeting porn for 3 months without you noticing (true story).

2. Do not follow anyone with a US flag as their profile pic backdrop.  95% of the time, this person will turn out to be a super-right-wing conservative who will, sooner or later, tweet something unbelievably offensive, which will lead to two problems: Either (a) you will want to tweet a response, which will end badly; or (b) you will get associated with a whole community of offensive types that are not good for your brand. Prevention is the only cure.

3. Almost anyone who tweets more than 5 times a day is going to be boring – or worse.  Yes, you should tweet every day. But almost any non-celebrity/non-genius who tweets every 5 minutes is just going to clog up your feed with Inspirational Quotes or a zillion links to their Free Ebook – Download Now! page. Follow back if you want to keep your numbers up – but then see #4.

4. Use the ‘mute’ option liberally. Putting someone on mute means you don’t have to unfollow them (if you think that would cause offense and/or a mutual unfollow, thereby reducing your numbers), while still avoiding their incessant Maya Angelou quotes. Here’s where you can find the mute function:


5.  To grow your base, you have to follow 25-50 new people a day.  Here is what hardly anyone will ever tell you: Unless you’re famous, or really super-hilarious, no one is going to seek you out on Twitter. I’m sorry, but they just aren’t. So you have to follow a whole bunch of people and then hope that some of them follow you back.

6.  A half-naked profile pic is not someone you want to follow. There is a lot of crap on Twitter – the sheer number of accounts focused on pantyhose fetishists alone is astounding. To avoid falling into the Twitter slough of despond, do not follow, or follow back, anyone whose profile pic shows more skin than you’d see at the office on a normal day.

6.(a) Don’t follow anyone doing an elaborate duck-face, either. For mostly the same reasons.

7. Beware of secret religionists.  #6 notwithstanding, there are a startling amount of religious types on Twitter, and my personal philosophy is that religion and business do not mix. People who include ‘Christ-follower’ in their profiles are easy to spot – it’s the ones using secret code you have to be careful of. Religious tip-offs include using the word ‘servant’ in a list of personal adjectives (“husband, father, servant, SEO master”); Bible verses (any numbers separated by a colon, like 3:11); use of the words ‘saved’, ‘believer’, ‘disciple’ and ‘Israel’ are also problematic. And I’m always a bit dubious about anyone whose bio includes ‘family first’.

8. More hashtags = more spam. A person whose bio and/or tweets #consist #of #almost #nothing #but #hashtags is not interested in anything but promoting their own, probably spammy, website. Don’t follow them; don’t follow them back – they will do nothing for you, your brand or your business.

9. Don’t retweet a link you haven’t checked. Twitter-scammers are smart: They can make a headline sound great, so you retweet not realizing the link actually goes to some ad-filled clickbait or malware site. At best, you look lazy; at worst, you lose followers who think you too are a scammer. Check every link you tweet.

So there you are: 9 handy tips that should keep you out of the morass of mediocrity that Twitter can seem to be if you aren’t careful. Social media is not for the faint of heart.



7 practical reasons your SMB should be on Twitter

Sarah Welstead Twitter for small business

Yes, Twitter is probably a good idea as part of your marketing strategy.

First, my Twitter bona fides: I have been managing Twitter accounts for clients (yes, for money) since 2009 and I have had my own Twitter account since 2010.  These days, I’m running 15-20 Twitter accounts for various clients at any given time, and most of those clients are small-to-mid-sized B2B businesses which run the gamut from professional services, IT and finance, to retail, hospitality and even building trades. I have about 6800 followers of my own; each of my clients has between 1000-9000 – and those followers are rated 95% real, not just spammy #teamfollowback types.

In other words, I’ve had to be serious about Twitter for quite a while now (6 years practically qualifies me as an eminence grise in social media terms) and I’ve had to do it for a lot of different types of businesses.

7 pragmatic reasons your small/midsized business should be on Twitter

If you follow me on social media or know me in real life, you’ve probably heard me say, dryly, that some days I’m convinced that 85% of all non-1Direction-related tweets are generated by me and about 11 other social media managers, diligently tweeting away at each other. (The other 15% are a combination of Chris Brown defenders, mommy bloggers, and whatever spambot operation that JabberDuck company got to promote them on Twitter.)

There is a lot of noise and nonsense on Twitter.


Twitter won’t instantly generate a zillion sales for an SMB company, especially in the B2B space. But here’s what it can do as part of the marketing strategy for almost any SMB:

1. Help boost your SEO: Google (and other search engines) indexes Twitter. Because tweets are updated (ideally) daily, they look current to search engines, which means they give them a decent ranking score. What’s more, they increase the sheer volume of content attached to your URL or business name, which makes Google think your company is more relevant than companies mentioned less frequently.


2.  Helps keep your other social media channels looking current: By automatically feeding your tweets from Twitter to your Facebook page or LinkedIn profile or other social media, you can keep those channels looking up-to-date without actually having to create additional content.


3.  Keep your website from looking dormant:  Many SMBs don’t have the time, resources or inclination to update their website very often, so it can start to look a little cobwebby. Setting up an automatic feed from Twitter sends visitors the message that you’re very much an active, going concern.


4.  Raise your profile among your target market, vendors, supplies, competitive set and prospective employees:  Sure, people who aren’t on Twitter aren’t on Twitter. But I guarantee you that plenty of your stakeholders are paying attention, and a consistent Twitter account does drive awareness.  And don’t underestimate the role of people like me: I may be ‘just’ a ghost-tweeter, but my clients depend on me to identify the key players and trends in their space, and I notice who’s doing what.  Yes, it’s hard to measure ‘awareness’ and ‘profile’ – but they do matter and Twitter can make a difference.


5. Support your content strategy. How the heck are you going to promote your new blog post or media release if you haven’t built an audience on Twitter?  I promise that almost no one is just going to accidentally stumble on it by going to your website directly, and only 323 people like your Facebook page.  Twitter gives you access to an audience you just can’t get elsewhere without spending a lot of money.


6.  Improve the thought-leadership profile of your CEO (or equivalent): In my experience, most CEOs (or presidents, founders, etc.) of SMBs actively look for speaking engagements or opportunities to expand their sphere of influence by networking.  I can’t tell you how many small-business leaders I’ve seen get tapped for speaking engagements or keynote addresses because someone has noticed their Twitter/social media presence.


7.  It keeps you on top of your game: Twitter, for all its faults, has the advantage of immediacy. Finding articles or information to tweet about forces you to keep up with what’s going on in your industry, and following the right people means your Twitter feed gets filled up with hot topics that are relevant to you. Both of these things mean you’re better informed and better able to spot trends in your industry earlier than you would otherwise.


Yes, there are certain SMBs for whom Twitter doesn’t make sense – but in the past 6 years the only times I’ve recommended against Twitter for SMBs was for companies in the B2B space who sold a highly-specialized product/service with a very limited target market, whose resources would be better spent marketing directly to those targets on an individual basis.

Now, go find your Twitter password.