Twitter can feel like a crowded subway station at rush hour—everyone pushing past each other to get where they need to go. But in the Twittersphere, where exactly is the destination?
"People really have defaulted in social media to just putting out content," says Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of social media brand consulting agency VaynerMedia. "That's no different than a newsletter or a blog. It leaves an enormous amount of opportunity on the table."
Vaynerchuk, author of the book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, should know. He's got more than a million Twitter followers (@garyvee) and has turned digital engagement into a life's calling of sorts.
Vaynerchuk sees three main categories of Twitter users:
- The people consuming content (most of us)
- The ones pushing content (the second biggest group)
- The ones actually engaging in a meaningful way with content (by far, the smallest cohort of the three).
Inside that last group, there's an even smaller subset: those people using the search feature to discover conversations outside their circle and inserting themselves into them.
That last small subset really understands what Vaynerchuk sees as the secret sauce of Twitter—that engagement is everything. But what does this catchall buzzword "engagement" actually mean when it comes down to it?
Twitter is constantly gathering data to determine what tweets are most engaging and why. It's no surprise that tweets with embedded photos get more engagement—an estimated 313% more according to Twitter data. In analyzing the activity of 2 million tweets posted over the course of a month last year, Twitter found photos resulted in a 35% boost in retweets; videos boosted retweets by 28%; quotes resulted in a 19% boost in retweets; and including a number or hashtag increased retweets by more than 15% respectively.
The lesson: People like variety. In the world of 140-character messages, finding more ways to engage will stand out more than you think.
It’s easy to favorite or retweet a post, but what if you put a bit more effort into your interactions? "The thing people grossly underestimate is how much people care about effort on Twitter," says Vaynerchuk, who makes a point of regularly responding to and acknowledging individual mentions on Twitter.
Since Twitter began rolling out its new video feature in late January, which lets users shoot, edit, and post videos up to 30 seconds long right in the app, Vaynerchuk has been taking this engagement a step further. He's taken to making quick video responses to users. Some of them are literally five or six seconds long. "Thanks so much Joseph," he says, earnest-faced in one. "No worries Damien," he says, eyes on the camera, in another. Vaynerchuk, who made a name for himself nearly a decade ago when he started video blogging about wine, is convinced video is the "holy grail" of Twitter, allowing for personal connections with others in a way photos and 140 characters simply can't.
We often get so caught up in making sure we've used all the right hashtags and links that we forget to sound like the human beings we are. Too often everyone ends up sounding more or less the same on Twitter, but resist the urge to just conform to the collective voice.
Whatever your strong suite in person, find a way to apply it to your tweets. Maybe you're good at explaining things and giving presentations or you're a great schmoozer at networking events or you like making people laugh or you prefer one-on-one conversations rather than being in big groups. "If you're amazing at cocktail party environments, you should be jumping into conversations on Twitter," says Vaynerchuk. "You should absolutely be applying what you are good at in real life and replicating that on Twitter. That's the blueprint of success."