[INTERVIEW + eBOOK] How to Improve Your Twitter Marketing Strategy with Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media

[INTERVIEW + eBOOK] How to Improve Your Twitter Marketing Strategy with Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media

October 6, 2022

Before we dive in, I'd like to take a moment to introduce Andy Crestodina. He's seasoned marketer and co-founder of Orbit Media, a successful agency in Chicago. He's an expert in all things web, in fact, he's a bit of a guru. If you're not a fan of his work yet, please take a moment to check out his company and blog for some brilliant insights.

For this interview, we focused on the dos and don'ts of building a winning Twitter Marketing Strategy. Andy offers tips, opinions, and his hot takes on what works, what doesn't and why he doesn't bother with paid ads...yes, you heard that right.

We're also including a FREE E-BOOK, "How to Organically Grow Your Twitter Audience," to help you on your marketing journey.

DOWNLOAD HERE

Now start reading...

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Twitter has more than 450 million monthly active users. When you're using Twitter to create a winning strategy with marketing, what are some of the first things that come to mind that you think marketers miss when they're thinking about how to incorporate Twitter, or even if they should?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Well, here's a story about me on Twitter yesterday. Someone shared something, it might have been mine, it might have been someone else's, and there was a comment on it that was really interesting and that was from a person that I'd never heard of. I read the comment, engaged, interest piqued, clicked to go see the person, and I see that the person in their bio had some things that were very relevant to some topics that had come up recently, relating to UTM tracking codes and SEO. This person, Mark someone, I go to LinkedIn to see if am I already connected with this person. I should know this person. Those are favorite topics of mine. And then saw that I was not connected with that person and sent a connection request because I had just discovered someone new who was relevant on a topic.

And then he had seen that I engaged with him on Twitter, so he responded after he accepted the connection invite. And I said, "Hey, you're a CEO interested in UTM tracking codes. I'm going to be writing an article about setting up a redirect when the client changes the domain. Should we add UTM tracking codes to the redirect itself so we can track the people who were redirected from the old site to the new site?" He's like, "Here are the pros, here are the cons." I'm like, "Can I collaborate with you on this piece coming up? I'd like to include you. I'm going to need a contributor quote because you just gave me a perspective I hadn't thought about before."

So what happened? Twitter made someone visible to me. That person was relevant to me in my day. I networked with them just a little bit, took a half step in that direction, started a conversation, and then the whole story is 20 minutes long maybe. We're making something. We're going to collaborate. We're going to build. Okay. So the point here is that Twitter is not just a dumping ground for links.

Twitter's a place to find people through active research or just passively coming across people, networking with them, "Hey, let's start a conversation," maybe even jump over to another network, like I was on LinkedIn, and then collaborating with them. Call it influencer marketing, if you like — either way, it’s the most social use of social media, which is a very powerful way for people to get value from Twitter. And now I've got a new friend that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

How do you feel about using Twitter to analyze your competition? Do you ever find there's value for you in that regard, seeing how people engage with your competition or using that as some sort of barometer for your competitive research?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Lauren, this is going to maybe be a counterintuitive insight. I get great results by just ignoring my competition. I don't really care.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Good for you.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Are they really competitors anyway? It doesn't matter. They're relevant on some topics, they're sharing some ideas, and they're interacting in some conversations. How does it improve my marketing to see that they're currently talking about X or that they're chatting with so-and-so? My best hope in that scenario is to try to follow them and keep up with them when I'd rather just find my own path honestly.

On the other hand, if you use Social Listening Tools or other sources, you can see what's trending or what is interesting. 

Yeah, so it's not the competitors per se, but it is topic research and will show you this is something that's taking off now or that article, this headline got a ton of traction and is socially useful. Very useful. It gives me ideas to write better headlines or to consider a topic, but it's not because one of my competitors wrote about it. If I use my competitors as ideas for topics or for networking, then my best hope is to be one step behind someone else. Not my plan.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

No, that's smart. Do you also ever find that you can uncover your brand voice on Twitter? I've noticed some Brands using Twitter as a testing ground. For instance—I've noticed some brands doing very cheeky things on their support accounts, or things like that, trying to be very colloquial or imbue satire or cynicism. Do you ever find that's a valuable tactic for people to try out on Twitter or is there a better strategy for that?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

I think it's fun and cool to see people just being more authentic, kind of a boring way to say the same thing, cheeky or interesting or funny or witty or taking little chances or just being more direct, being more concise, not being strictly promotional, making little comments, responding to other people, starting interactions, starting fun conversations. And some of those conversations can become famous. They're hilarious.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

They are. Yeah. I do notice that's something where Twitter is very unique in that capacity where you can test out those different strategies. And I feel like it doesn't tend to get remembered as negatively as if you test on Facebook or Instagram… but I don't really know why that is. I don't have any theory on that.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Well, I mean a more reliable testing approach would be to say social media is a low stake but high data environment, and email is a high stake but low data environment. I can only send this email once. So why don't I go to social media and share some of my candidates for subject lines? So you share the same post two or three times with different social posts and whichever one of those seems to get the most traction, you use that to inform your writing of the subject line for the email.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

I love that. That's a great tip.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

I don't usually do it but I have done it many times and it's interesting. A more systematized way to do that is using a social scheduling tool or even Twitter analytics. I think Twitter analytics will show you which of your posts had the most engagement.

That'll definitely inform because, remember, the competitive analysis, those people don't even have your same audience maybe. So you're trying to like, "Oh, this worked in their audience for a similar company." But if you're looking at your own just Twitter analytics, you can see, "These were the things that got the most engagement. I should double down on that."

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

How do you feel about using some of the fun tools that are on Twitter like Twitter polls and paid ads? Do you find any of those things valuable? I've heard a lot of people prefer the polls and putting sponsored money behind those instead of actually a paid ad. What's your perspective on those kinds of tactics to use?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

If you're a content marketer and you're trying to find something interesting to give people something to talk about, then polls can be hilarious. They could be really fun and they could bring you a step closer to doing some more legit research.

I did a spam report. Where is spam the biggest problem? Hey, let's make a two-second Twitter poll.

  • Where do you get the most spam?
  • Are you getting spam from text messages?
  • Which social network has the biggest spam problem?
  • Which gets the most engagement?
  • Which of these gets no engagement?

Now I can go launch a big survey project where I'm going to reach out to hundreds of people and invest more time. My questions for my survey will be vetted because I saw how people responded to them on Twitter.

Also, just to put a fun question out there, do a poll, and take a screenshot of it, now you've got a strong visual asset. Now you can share it. It's simple. It's data. It ticks a lot of boxes.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

How do you feel about Twitter ad strategies, if you're on a limited budget, do you think they might be not the best use of your budget?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

I'm a terrible person to ask about ads, Lauren. I've never bought an ad.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Really? Wait, tell me more about that. For your business as a whole, you do not run paid ads and never have?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

We're a 100% content and inbound strategy. We've done a few very small experiments that we quickly abandoned, but we generate approx. 900 leads a year where we only need 55 projects to hit our growth goals with only organic email content. It's a content strategy. So paid is just a giant blind spot for me. I think it's optional.

I mean we're an example. There are tons of us but we're an example of a brand that is 50 people, $7 million in revenue, and no budget for ads. In fact, our marketing actually makes money weirdly.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

That's wonderful.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

For what it's worth, let me show you ... So we do a survey every year of a thousand bloggers and we ask bloggers what they use, and how they promote their content. And we also ask bloggers if their content program is effective. So we just talked a minute ago about influencer collaboration. Let’s look at my survey results. Only 8% of marketers do it. We just talked about paid. Only 12% of marketers do it. Even though they're the least popular channels for traffic, those are exactly the channels that align most with bloggers who report strong results.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Wow.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

So even though I said I don't do paid and that's interesting, I suppose, it doesn't mean I shouldn't, right?

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Yeah. But with the fact of cookies changing, all this, I do feel as though it's getting harder and harder for marketers to make it worthwhile if they have a lesser budget. So in that capacity, you're not using Twitter in that way, but you would maybe push paid behind a poll if you were running some sort of very specific research maybe?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Yeah. A paid-for-a-poll is a cool idea. Paid directly to generate demand— terrible idea. Paid to promote a piece of content, is probably a good idea. Like the blogger survey. Okay. Let me spend $200 to just make that much more visible to a bunch of people. I'm sure we would reach more people with it.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

When it comes to your clients, how are they typically using Twitter? I'm assuming they have that baked in as some of their strategies, but what are you noticing some commonalities of dos and don'ts that they adhere to?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Oh, I'm not impressed mostly by what a lot of companies are doing on Twitter. A lot of companies have their Twitter bio as a little About Us description when a far better bio would tell the visitor why they should follow. "Orbit Media, web design company, follow us for practical advice about analytics and web design." That's going to grow our following faster. But if you say, you're a global IT consultancy. That's not a reason to follow you. If you say, "We're a global IT consultancy that shares "security hack insights shared weekly." I don't know. Oh, I need that. That's valuable. That's helpful.So I think that the social media bio when done best can be like a tiny call to action to follow. And a lot of people do it without almost any thought. They just try to make it say About Us, which seems to make sense. 

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

What are some other bad Twitter practices you're seeing from other businesses?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Most people don't have this problem but some people are just overly self-promotional where every post is just a link, just dumping links on the internet. And also: A lot of people just quit. They just lose steam. They stop. If you decide you're going to abandon the channel, which is not unreasonable, maybe that's your strategy change and it makes sense. You should do so deliberately and I'd make one final post and pin it to the top of your stream that says, "I'm no longer active on Twitter. Find me on LinkedIn." Call forwarding. Tell people where to find you.

No one's angry that you're not posting on Twitter, but if maybe you're just active somewhere else, why don't you let people know? Make a pinned post that says, "Hey, glad to connect. No longer an active account, but you can find me on Instagram or find me on LinkedIn," or something. Send them to the right spot.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Would you say there are some brands that should really have Twitter as part of their strategy and some brands that really shouldn't? And is there for you a distinction when you're talking to somebody about building up a great marketing strategy, that you need this or you don't, and what are those distinctions for you?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Well, to an unreasonable extent, people look at a Twitter following and use it as a proxy for that person like they must be influential because they have 50,000 followers.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Vanity metrics.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Vanity metrics, but people are so affected by that. That if you want to personally become a thought leader, an author, if you're going big on your personal brand, I think you probably need to be there because if you're not and someone looks you up and they say, "Oh yeah, I'm a big shot but I have 400 Twitter followers," it looks like negative social proof.

So for people whose personal brand, they're prioritizing their personal brand and want to be like speaker/author/ consultant, I think that it's unreasonably beneficial. It doesn't make sense how effective it is. But when people see that that person has a large Twitter following, they're like, "That person must be an influencer." It's weird but it's very powerful. The size of your Twitter following is, to a silly extent, used as evidence of that person's influence.

Also, I think also I think you should be on Twitter if you are just active on social media more generally because it's not hard to add it as a channel if you're doing things like scheduling, and social scheduling.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Cross-posting and all that. Yeah. I agree.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

When you're using Twitter for support or to get in touch, like help desk-ish stuff, I feel like that is a very effective tactic and I feel that's one of the coolest things brands have kind of adopted over the last few years, maybe decade or more, is making that their channel for support.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Then kind of a segue question…What's your theory on hashtagging? I know this spans platforms so this doesn't have to be a Twitter agnostic question, but in terms of at least Twitter and hashtagging in general, what do you feel is effective? Do you even feel it's effective?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

I've never heard anyone say this, but I'll go ahead and say it out loud. I think it's dumb to put hashtags in your Twitter bio because it doesn't help you get discovered. You're not ranking if someone searches for small business tips, but because you put small business tips in a hashtag in your bio, but if someone sees that in your bio and says, "Oh, that's a great topic," and they click on that, they just left your page... It's like an exit without an entrance. It's a cost without a benefit. 

So I don't think that hashtags belong in bios, but I think it's a good idea to say my content strategy or my social media strategy for this channel is small business tips. Therefore, when I post these kinds of things at this sort of frequency, I'm going to hashtag them all that way. So that's committing to being relevant for a topic.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

And in that capacity, you would recommend including your brand name perhaps — to make it attached to you. Is that the key?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

I love that idea. So making up your own hashtag so people can easily find all of your stuff. Why not? It's clever. I think that's a good idea. I think it's a slightly different strategy. That's like saying, "Oh, I've got visibility from this person on this post. I want to keep their visibility and show them these other posts by creating my own hashtag, Orbit Tips," or whatever in our case…

Hashtags for events, of course, are very effective. People that want to show off that they're at an event are often adding the hashtag to their name. It's like “Andy's hashtag” ... It shows you're a speaker at that thing. A lot of people do that now. That's become almost standard in social media for social media events.

Hashtags are used for comedy. They're funny sometimes. People do really interesting and weird things with hashtags, but don't overdo it. Twitter's not Instagram. So don't put 65 hashtags. One or two I think is a good number.

I also think it's foolish to put hashtags in the middle of a sentence. Just put them at the bottom. It's a tag. You don't have to put tags into the words because those links take them away from your post. So not a fan of that either. Don't put them in bios. Don't put them within the post. Put them at the end of a post and just use one or two. Use one or two, and use them consistently. Consider making one for yourself.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Let's say by some crazy chance, something goes viral that you have posted or shared. When something goes viral, which on Twitter is really a crapshoot, pardon my French but it is. And when that happens, what do you guide yourself or your clients to do in that circumstance? How do you maximize this gift from the social media gods?

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

Well, if the thing that goes viral has a link to you, to your website, then you should immediately open up your content management system and just polish that page because it may be attracting a silly amount of visibility at that moment.

But separately, if a page ranks but doesn't rank that high and you update that page to make it higher quality or better indicate relevance or to spread out the meaning across the broader topic, I think that's a fantastic way to improve your search rankings if the page is already performing but not performing super well. It's like Google did the keyword research for you. Any page that you had that's ranking like 11 or 12 for any topic, go update that page immediately and then take the rest of the day off because you did great marketing today.

But viral posts, I don't know. How to maximize the impact of a viral thing, I'd probably be looking through to see which influencers are engaged with it and then maybe jump to a different network and connect with them because they have a high impression of you at that minute. So I'd get a bigger networking benefit from it. But I guess my strategy would depend on whether or not the viral post has a link to me or not.

Lauren Ventura of NowVertical Group:

Yeah, exactly. When you think about Twitter and you think about marketing strategy, what are maybe your top three tips of dos and don'ts that you would say people should really be careful with or adopt in a sense? 

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media:

I'd say remember that these are all people and good marketers are good networkers and so try to extend the conversation or deepen the relationship or connect them on another social network and look for opportunities to collaborate because liking something or commenting or retweeting something is not going to build a relationship with anybody. So I start with that story. Definitely do that.

And then for what you post, the rule of thirds. Make sure that not every one of your posts is self-promotional. You should be interacting with people. You should be saying "Hi. Happy birthday. Thank you." Creation—the content you created and promoted is only one of the thirds. The other is curation, sharing stuff other people made, and the third is: conversation, talking to people. So keep in mind the rule of thirds and make sure that your streams aren't overloaded with self-promotion.

And then, third, I don't know, pay attention to your headshot and your bio and differentiate. As you said, through a more conversational tone, tell people why they should follow you. Be as helpful as you can in the channel and then stick with it. These are channels where the people who are very good at them and get the best results from them are the ones who invested and stayed invested.

Want to learn more about NowVertical Group?

Please fill out the form and someone from our team will be back to you within 48 hours

Get in Touch
Optional