Confessions of a Twitter Tag Abuser

For those of us who use Twitter tags purely for adding a layer of sarcastic commentary to our tweets, the idea of using tags properly — to categorizeĀ  tweets and make them easier for others to find — may seem a little humdrum. But as I realized last week, using Twitter tags properly can help you to reach a much broader follower base.

While playing around on Twitter over the weekend, I tweeted an image of some asparagus from my garden, and tagged the tweet #productivitytips. Suddenly, users from as far afield as China and Senegal were finding their way to my asparagus image. I’ve never had a follower access any of my links from either country, so I guessed that these users had found my tweet by searching Twitter for the #productivitytips tag.

Putting aside the fact that users looking for productivity tips probably weren’t particularly satisfied with my asparagus picture, this story does point out clearly that — properly used — Twitter tags have the potential to expand your exposure and your follower base. If you (or in this case, I) used them properly, that expansion could be considerable.

The properly tagged tweet acts like a teaser for the would-be follower. They find your tweet via the tag, and, if they like it and any content it links to, they may follow you. Conversely, the tagged tweet can help you to access and qualify followers — using tags wisely, you can help to ensure that the people who follow you actually want the kinds of information you generally provide.

Since my asparagus adventure, I’ve been looking into some of the ways business-focused Twitter users might employ tags strategically to expand their follower base.

Tags as Keywords

If tags provide metadata about your tweet content, then it may make sense to see them as playing a similar role to that fulfilled by meta keywords on a web page.

You might decide to define a list of key tags you’ll focus on, and apply them to your tweets whenever they’re appropriate. This approach might help you to continuously fulfill the expectations of users who follow you on the strength of a well-tagged tweet.

As a tag misuser, I often gain followers from well-tagged tweets that are one-offs — they don’t relate to the topics I usually tweet and write about. The followers I gain with those tweets quickly become disappointed by my usual tweet content, and stop following me.

If I selected a number of “keywords” (tags) that actually — and accurately — described the topics I most often tweet about, and applied them consistently wherever possible, I expect I’d be more likely to keep the followers I gained, and to build a loyal, satisfied follower base.

Tags as Content Flags

Every piece of content I publish online is tagged somehow. So it might be a good idea to tag the tweets I use to promote that content with the same tags I’ve applied to the content itself. If I write a blog post that’s tagged “social media tips,” for example, it seems logical — and advantageous — to tag my tweet with the same words.

By creating consistency between my tweet tags and my content tags, I can qualify my follower base and ensure those users are satisfied by the content they access through the links I include in my tweets.

But, perhaps more importantly, consistent tagging could help me build rapport or respect with users. If a user’s looking for social media tips, they might find tweets using that tag through Twitter. ImagineĀ  they then arrive at my blog, which offers access to more content tagged “social media tips” via my navigation or a tag cloud. Those users may be more likely to look at that information than if I used no tags, or tagged my blog content using different terms from those I used in my tweet.

In effect, consistent tags can help me to show that I speak the user’s language, and reduce confusion. Using Twitter tags as content flags could make new visitors to your site feel more at ease, help them access the information they need, andĀ  — if you appear to be an authority on that topic — help communicate that you’re worth following.

Tags as Trend Tie-ins

There are plenty of tools designed to tell Twitter users what the trending topics are in particular fields. The astute Twitter user could combine a trending topic tag with their standard keyword or content-flag tags. This could help them to reach a much broader audience (via the trending topic tag) and tap into a sub-segment of that audience (via the topic-specific tag).

A marketer I follow on Twitter frequently writes blog posts that are sparked by celebrity news, scandal and other popularly trending topics. He writes about these topics from a marketing perspective — saying, in effect, “this is what we can learn about marketing” from Brangelina or Lady Gaga or Tiger Woods or, well, you get the idea.

He has a great opportunity to tag his tweets around the trending topics he writes on, and to appeal to a broad audience in doing so. True, only a comparatively small portion of the readers accessing those trending topic streams will be interested in his marketing angle. However, in its own right, that comparatively small portion may add substantially to his follower base, his retweet levels, and his audience access over the longer term.

These are just a few of the tagging techniques I’ve seen in action on Twitter recently. What tips can you add from your own Twitter tag experience?

Image by stock.xchng user speedy2.

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