They may not be famous, but in the digital world, they wield the power of celebrity. They're the Twitter elite – those with tens or hundreds of thousands followers – and they are courted by tweeters who hope they'll favor them with a retweet or two. Getting on their good side can mean an instant boost for your business.
More importantly, however, these masters of the Twitter-verse have some lessons to offer. How exactly does one acquire 100,000 Twitter followers? Sounds like a full-time job, right? We asked five very successful Tweeters to share with us their secrets to taming the Twitter beast. We'll run their stories all week in our five-part series: The Twitter Elite.
Tommy Clifford, Manager, IT and Digital Development, HC Miller, Green Bay, Wisc.
Twitter Handle: @tommytrc
Twitter Followers: 120,000 +
"I have been using Twitter since spring 2007, but initially I didn’t like it," said Tommy Clifford, who goes by the Twitter handle @tommytrc and currently has more than 120,000 followers. "I thought it was really dumb and had no real purpose. But it wasn’t till I was away on business and in a really boring meeting, I picked it up."
Initially, Clifford was proactive in accumulating followers — by following other people who would then follow back. "I look at twitter as a huge party," he said. "The more the merrier. I like following people that are listed by friends of mine… kind of like inviting them to the party. If they follow back, good. If not — no biggie."
Eventually, though, his followers began growing exponentially.
"It grows by hundreds a day no matter what I do," said Clifford. "I can go to sleep and I’ll wake with 100-plus new followers."
Clifford initially began using Twitter for social purposes. It wasn't until his most recent job, as a manager of digital development for Wisconsin-based office products manufacturer HC Miller, that he put his social media skills to work.
In fact, it was Clifford's use of Twitter for a very personal reason that initially got him a lot of attention.
In 2009, he accompanied his wife to the hospital where she was to give birth to their son.
"It really started out as fairly normal trip to the hospital — Dad helping pregnant mom with all her needs, plus my iPhone, laptop and Flip camera. I started tweeting pics of "dad's chair" and the room and my followers started tuning in and asking questions and really following along. Pretty soon the hospital's marketing department picked up on what was happening and then their PR firm. Next thing I know, there was a news crew knocking on the room door."
"After that experience, I was asked to do some public speaking on social media at local Chamber of Commerce events. This changed my focus at work also. I was always very customer-focused, but Twitter has made it much more exciting and far-reaching."
Tools of the tweet
Handling so many followers (and the 124,000 people he follows, as well) could easily turn into a full-time job. Using tools to organize the process is essential, Clifford said.
"You must use lists," Clifford said. Twitter's own list tool is the best way to keep track of what’s happening. I love using Tweetdeck on my desktop along with a tool called Pluggio. I have both open at all times."
Clifford said he uses Hootsuite on his iPhone and iPad.
"Twitter tools are really personal preference [based on their] features. I tend to use the tools that fit the way I work…but there are so many good ones."
Even though Clifford starting out using Twitter for personal communication, he's come to see it as an invaluable tool for business.
"Small businesses need to find their niche," he said. "In this day and age, everyone is making a widget. Social media is one way to share what makes your widget better than anyone else’s. Is it customer service ? Is it the way the product is produced? What differentiates you from your competition?"
Using social media can make you stand out to your peers as the thought leader in your industry, Clifford told BusinessNewsDaily. It has the added value of improving your SEO and makes you easier to find, he added.
So should every business owner consider using Twitter?
"No," Clifford said, "just the businesses that want to survive."