Sunday, May 13, 2012

No shortcut to building an audience on Twitter

Can you build a Twitter audience without tweeting?

Answer: not really, or at least, not with as little work as I'd been hoping.

I set up six accounts and fed them, through Twitterfeed, with news stories relating to six big tech companies. I also set up a blog to cross-promote them (but pretty much ignored it after the first couple of weeks). 

Here's what happened to follower numbers for the six accounts over the year: 
There's a generally upward trend, and my Facebook News account (orange) is the most successful, but only acquired a pathetic 50 followers. Google News (green) enjoyed fast growth for about a week about half way through the year, but then fell back again - I don't know what was going on there.

I've had more success with some accounts I've started to cover news of my local area. And I feel more interested in them, which may be a critical difference. But even the tech accounts, to which I subscribe on my personal Twitter account, haven't been a complete waste of time.  They aggregate news about companies I like to know about, so just by following them, I learn things I might otherwise have missed.

I suspect other people are having more success with automated Twitter feeds. There is (or was) one for UK media news with a few thousand followers, but I can't find it now.

Here's a report about the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal also coming to the conclusion (albeit on a quite different scale) that you can't really build an audience without some genuine human input:

"Full-time, human hosting of a brand’s main Twitter account is unquestionably a better approach, said Zach Seward, the main voice behind the Wall Street Journal's @WSJ account. 
The @WSJ account has been run by people since January 2010, Seward said. “The metrics went up considerably and almost immediately after switching from automated to personal. We’ve seen the same effect with several other accounts.”

Here's how to set up an automated Twitter feed, by someone who knows a lot more than me. Next week will mark the full year of this experiment. I'll write about my local Twitter accounts next, and why I think they may work better than these ones if I give them a little tender loving care. 

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