They may not be famous, but in the digital world, they wield the power of celebrity. They're the Twitter elite — those who have 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.
Imad Naffa, Owner, NAFFA International, Inc.
Twitter Handle: @imadnaffa
Twitter Followers: 54,000 +
Imad Naffa, a civil engineer and building code consultant from Fresno, Calif., started using Twitter in September 2008. Today, he has more than 54,000 Twitter followers and they've helped bring his building code consulting business NAFFA International to an international audience.
"In the beginning, I did not see a business reason to use Twitter," Naffa said. "I thought it was mainly a social media tool with no business application."
Though Naffa considers himself an early adopter of new technologies, he said that he was initially intimidated by using the new social media tool.
"I liken Twitter to a fast-moving river — and new users try to figure out where and how to jump in," he told BusinessNewsDaily. "In hindsight, the learning curve is not that bad. For me, it was about three months to reach a comfort level to use. You just have to dive in or at least start swimming very slowly."
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Naffa said the secret to attracting so many followers it to initiate relationships with other Twitter users.
"When I started on Twitter, I mainly posted and engaged with engineering and building code topics," said Naffa. "After about three months, I started engaging and posting on many topics of interest beyond engineering and codes, such as the economy, technology, iPhones, iPads, anything and everything dealing with social media and global affairs. The followers count increased dramatically at that point."
To manage all those followers, Naffa uses a few social media management tools to "filter through Twitter's noise," as he says. For example, he uses Pluggio to follow users and the topics they are tweeting about. He also makes a weekly habit of maintaining his Twitter account — what he calls cleaning up and optimizing.
'Affordable and powerful'
Twitter has helped Naffa grow his business and reach a customer base he never could before.
"When Twitter came around for me, there was a synergy and perfect fit for what I was trying to do — provide information about the building codes, showcase products and services that architects, engineers, code officials and builders were seeking and fill my hunger for knowledge and engaging with like-minded individuals worldwide," Naffa said.
Naffa said Twitter is both affordable and powerful. "For the last four years, social media became a critical component in our marketing efforts, establishing online reputations in the engineering and building code arenas and keeping up with technological advances," he said. "Before Twitter, our online resources and products were available and used by international end users — but only on a smaller scale. Twitter took it to a higher level and penetrated areas of the world we could not reach before to engage, collaborate and showcase our professional services."
Jump in and start swimming
While Naffa thinks every small business — even those that are targeting a local audience — should embrace Twitter, he warns against jumping in without a plan.
"Many [businesses] are frantically rushing into social media trying to get on board with no clear goal or agenda of how social media fits in their business and operations," Naffa said. "Some want lots of followers, yet they are not clear what to do with them if they get them or how they would maintain the ongoing engagement."
Another way in which businesses are misusing Twitter is by starting an account and then dropping the ball by either not engaging or not taking the time to learn and maintain an online presence, Naffa said.
He suggests businesses accept that social media is here to stay and said that to remain competitive and relevant in any business, you have to take a part in it.
"Start slow, learn as you go and realize that like anything else, it takes time," Naffa said. "Don’t give up. Just jump in the water at your own pace and ask for help. Most people on Twitter are helpful by nature and can [remember] when they started. Engage with small business owners and follow the leaders in your field."
Naffa tells his whole story on his blog.
Editor's Note: We are sad to report that Imad Naffa died in early September 2011.
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