Building a twitter following:
1. Create a reason to be followed
Set up your account and start tweeting. Contribute something original, useful, funny or interesting to your ideal ‘follower’. Most people will scan your profile before choosing to follow you, so make sure there’s something there to interest them at first glance.
2. Search for people you already know
Use the search box at the top of your Twitter screen to search for people you already know. If you find them on Twitter, follow them! Look for authorities/leaders in your niche, blog authors you enjoy, people you connect with on other websites, etc. Twitter is a very social site and people you follow will often follow you too.
3. Put the word out!
Invite people to follow you on Twitter. Blog about it. Mention it in your newsletter. Put out a MySpace bulletin. Add a Twitter widget to your Facebook profile. Let people know about this cool new way to stay in touch with you!
4. Get involved in the current discussions
Reply to tweets you find interesting. If they reply to your response and a dialogue gets started, your twitter link will end up on their profile page. A person with a strong following, or even a smaller but targeted following, could end up sending you several new loyal followers.
5. Be consistent and let it grow naturally
Do the first four steps consistently, and you’ll find that your Twitter following grows daily. Post a good mix of resources, humor & personality, news and updates throughout the week or even throughout the day.
Bonus Tip: Use your real name on your Twitter account – or the name people will most likely know you by online, such as a common username. This will help people find you easily when searching for you on Twitter or Google.
Twitter Branding:
1. Claim your Twitter handle
Prime domain names, especially those ending in “.com,” have long been desirable, hard to find and extremely expensive. By not reserving your domain name, your business or personal brand is at risk and you may never be able to reclaim it once you’ve lost it. With Twitter continuing its meteoric rise in popularity, it’s no surprise that Twitter account names are starting to be treated like domain names.
What happens when you don’t claim your Twitter handle:
• Exxon Mobil failed to claim their name on Twitter and was forced to deal with reputation management problems, when an imposter started tweeting using @ExxonMobilCorp.
• Jack Canfield, founder and CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul Enterprises, had to take a different user name because he didn’t act quickly enough to secure his full name (he has @J_Canfield, not @JackCanfield).

2. Decide how you want to brand yourself
Before you start actively using Twitter, you need a strategy, and the first step in developing that strategy is to completely fill out your user profile. One of the goals of having a Twitter account is to gain followers and few people want to follow an account that doesn’t look legitimate (i.e. the profile hasn’t been filled out and there’s no avatar).
Take a good look at your other websites and profiles and draft a Twitter bio to match the rest of your online branding. This is how people will find you and recognize you now and in the future, so be honest. Don’t brand yourself as an expert unless you already are one. Do brand yourself based on your passions and skill set.
Once you have everything filled out, you should spend some time focusing on your Twitter background, which gives you an opportunity to extend your brand image onto Twitter and create a more cohesive experience for your followers. There are many sites that you can use to help you develop a custom background, such as Twitpaper() and Twitterimage.
I recommend creating a Twitter background that resembles the colors, format and logo from your personal or corporate website. When you create your background, add in additional information that isn’t covered in your Twitter profile, such as pointers to more websites, contact information, or information about products or services you sell.
Three techniques for branding yourself on Twitter:
1. Lead with your company: Pete Cashmore puts his company (Mashable()) ahead of himself on Twitter by using @Mashable as the account name, but uses his personal avatar and bio. This is a smart approach for Pete because he wants to build his company’s brand, while associating his own name with this successful property. This also gives Mashable a face and a personality to go with it.

2. Mutual branding: More and more companies are realizing that their employees are on Twitter and that they can be tapped to help promote their initiatives. Some of these Twitter accounts are mutually branded, so that the avatar has the person’s picture and the corporate logo. Two examples are Kodak’s Jennifer Cisney (@kodakCB) and Allison and Mike from CareerBuilder’s PR team (@CareerBuilderPR).
3. 100% personal branding: If you’re trying to build a strong personal brand, then focus your Twitter handle, avatar and bio information 100% on you, instead of your company.

3. Become known as an expert or resource

Essentially, Twitter is a shorter and more viral form of blogging, so the same rules actually still apply, and by constantly writing or tweeting about your expertise on a specific topic, you’ll become known for it and people will gravitate to you and follow you. If you already have a blog, then I recommend using Twitterfeed(), so you can syndicate your posts on Twitter automatically.

For many people, Twitter has become a filter. Trusted experts are relied upon to send their followers interesting and relevant links. You can subscribe to blogs and keywords using Google.com/alerts, and then act as an arbiter for your topic, constantly pushing out the best content. Do you want to become known as a personal finance enthusiast? What about a search engine marketing consultant? The best thing you can do for your brand on Twitter is to take your current interests and activities and establish a feed on Twitter to deliver that content to your audience again and again.
If you are an expert in your field, then have Q & A sessions, where you answer questions from your followers. The more you tweet about the topic you want to be known for, the more people will remember you and when they need your expertise, they will contact you. It’s that simple!

4. Establish a Twitter marketing plan

Just like with any other website or blog, just because you build it, doesn’t necessarily mean people will come. You should have a marketing plan in place to acquire new followers.
Elements of a Twitter marketing plan:
• Email signature: You probably already place your blog or website URL and contact information in your email signature, so why not add your Twitter handle? It’s free promotion and every email you send can turn into a new follower.
• Personal/corporate website: If you already have a website for you and/or your company, then you have a platform on which you can promote your Twitter address to people who will probably be interested in following you.
• Blog() homepage + posts: Your blog is a great place to promote your Twitter account because most people who read blogs know what Twitter is. You should take a two pronged approach. First, put your Twitter address in one of your sidebars and second, promote it discretely in posts every once in a while.
• Email newsletter: If you have an email newsletter, you can write about Twitter and link to your profile or put it at the bottom of your template, so that each email has a link to your account.
• Presentations: Do you do any public speaking? Why not include your Twitter account on the last slide of your presentation and tell people that they can follow you on Twitter?
• Business Card: Try including your Twitter handle on your business card. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, did this with his card.
• Article writing / guest blog posting: Whenever you write an article for a magazine, news website or guest post on a blog, try to include your Twitter handle in your byline.
• Networking on Twitter: By using the “@” symbol and either retweeting or communicating with other people, you’ll have some of them responding to you, thus promoting your Twitter account to many of their followers.
• Promotional products: Some people take Twitter promotion to the next level: Ted Murphy, for example, created custom Twitter shirts that have your Twitter handle.
Just like with any social network or blog, the more people who follow you, the easier it is to grow your already existing community. Retweets and following other people are two essential ways to get new followers. However, content is king on Twitter, so it is vital to make sure you produce consistent, quality tweets.

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