How to Grow Your Twitter Audience with Smarter Questions

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I guess we are all finding out that building your Twitter audience and influence isn’t as simple as writing and retweeting kick-ass blog posts. If “great content” was really the only answer, then millions of smiling tweeters would be publishing books and bragging about their Klout scores.

The good news is that the web is littered with strategies for growing your Twitter audience.

The difficult part starts after you’ve tried all of the obvious techniques. Once the well runs dry, you need to dig for the unorthodox.

Recently, I stumbled across a fascinating infographic about the growing popularity of, well, questions. Click here to view the infographic.

Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see two interesting stats:

According to the survey, 80% of individuals trust businesses’ responses as much or more than responses from their own followers! Ouch.

It gets better. When a business answers a question, the grateful questioner is more likely to follow and purchase from the business.

Which leads me to wonder…

Why aren’t bloggers and Twitter ninjas answering more questions?

Here’s how solving problems can kick start your Twitter following

Regularly Search for Topical Questions

Get in the habit of using search.twitter.com for common questions. For example, gardening enthusiasts can search Twitter for “How to grow (fill in the blank).”

Look through the questions and offer answers or relevant links.

Answer Without Strings Attached

Answering questions builds trust and credibility. Offering your help without conditions, obligations, or shenanigans will quickly build you a loyal following.

You can practice this by participating in a Tweet Chat—I suggest either #blogchat or #tweetdiner—and adopt newcomers who need a helping hand. Don’t include links to your own posts unless they exactly match what the questioner asks.

Use the Progressive Insurance Approach

Progressive Insurance built a multi-billion dollar business around helping their customers get the lowest priced insurance – even if it wasn’t their own. Progressive is widely regarded as the most “trustworthy” insurance company, and their revenue proves that their approach works.

You can do the same.

If your competitor has the answer, send the questioner there. Remember that this is a game of trust. You’ll get the credit (and ultimately the sale) by demonstrating that you focus on the person first and the sale second.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Make sure your URL is in your Twitter bio and that your blog or website’s About Me page is ready to tell your story. Consider creating a special welcome message to build rapport with your followers as well.

One More Thing…

Mine Questions for Topics, Products, and Friends

You will uncover valuable insights into what your market wants and is willing to pay for. Remember, people spend money to solve problems, and their questions reveal their problems. I suggest that you save questions and your answers in a Word file. Once a month, take a look at this file and write cornerstone posts that offer information for the most common questions.

Does this make sense? Have you ever thought of answering questions as a Twitter or blog growth strategy? If so, tell me how it’s worked for you in the comment section below.

About Stan

Stan Smith is the Managing Director of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

30 thoughts on “How to Grow Your Twitter Audience with Smarter Questions

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  2. rickyyean

    Hey Stanford – just wanted to point out that the newer version of Twitter search is located at: http://twitter.com/search (flipped around basically) – try to see if it’s better or if you still prefer doing what you do in the old interface.

    Thanks for your post!

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  9. Shallie Bey

    This is my first visit to your blog. It certainly will not be the last. I found you through a twitter retweet directing people to this particular post on establishing your reputation by answering questions. This concept has so many potential applications that it is amazing. My particular interest is in helping aspiring baby boomer entrepreneurs get established. Your post is virtually a manual for any aspiring entrepreneur seeking to gain credibility in any market. Thanks for the wonderful suggestions.

  10. Stanford Post author

    Excellent suggestion Chris, Evernote and Springpad are great tools for quickly stashing away questions for future reference.

  11. Chris / Kampaweb

    A post that stands out form the crowd, because it shares useful insight that is both well founded thought and practical advice. Thanks for that!

    Nevertheless. I frowned, when reading the last paragaph: The suggestion to mine questions for longer term use is another candy. But then:

    “I suggest that you save questions and your answers in a Word file.”

    Why on earth a Word file? This becomes a large and confusing chunk of text in no time.
    Hence, I suggest using a more elaborate (but still easy to use and maintain) information management system for these valuable pieces of text. E.g. something like evernote or springpad. This allows you not only to find content more easily but also to organize it with tags and thus create new and inspiring links between topics for yourself, too.

    Cheers,

    Chris }:0)

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  14. Jacqueline Morrison

    Thanks for your post. I work with small businesses where the folks involved are very knowledgeable and your suggestion to mine for information and create cornerstone blog posts that answer questions is going to be valuable to them.

  15. Ryan Critchett

    Great post – Huge points. That’s it. As simple as it is for people to say “stop broadcasting, start being remarkable, give a crap and be as authentic as possible,” it’s still rocket science or something so unfathomable to most. Questions are huge. Rapport is king, genuineness is the emperor. Cool post.

  16. Stanford Post author

    Amazing how much business is left on the table. I wonder if we could pull the country out of recession by simply helping local businesses earn the money they are leaving on the table. I wonder…

  17. Stanford Post author

    Thanks for the comment Annie. You hit on a great point. You really have to be strategic and persistent about how you use Twitter. There aren’t any real shortcuts.

  18. Stanford Post author

    I’m thinking that to. It looks like they are trying hard but they are leaving it up to Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to handle the heavy lifting

  19. Stanford Post author

    Whoa! That’s an awesome tip Kristi! I’m plugging that in Hootsuite now

  20. Kristi Hines

    I keep a blogging ? -filter:links search stream in HootSuite. This will locate anyone asking a question about blogging that doesn’t include a link. Taking out the link sometimes helps you weed out people who have question titled posts and those who really are asking a question.

  21. Annie Sisk

    I work with a lot of writers and other creative sorts, and it never ceases to amaze me how many have just given up on Twitter altogether because they “tried the Twitter thing” and “it didn’t work.” Almost invariably, their efforts consisted of following other writers and tweeting about (A) their eating habits and (B) what the Twitter user was writing at present. :::facepalm::: Um, how about following some AGENTS? Or participating in the MANY chats about the publishing industry? Folks just don’t know HOW to use Twitter, I remain convinced. When it’s used properly, it’s far from a timesuck. (Which I also wrote about on my blog some time ago. Hm. May be time to revisit the issue.) Great post, Stanford!

  22. Brandon

    Amazing! I didn’t even know this was out there or possible. You see the other ‘question and answer’ sites a lot, but I had no idea that you could integrate SM into the equation! I have gone back and looked over some old posts and tried to figure out where I am getting the most in-depth comments and what starts conversations. I have also gained several great followers via chats (which during most of them I spend answering questions rather than asking them.) Makes complete sense that starting out answering questions would elicit this kind of action.

    Great advice, Stan. Much appreciated!

  23. Laura Click

    This is great advice, Stan. I think Twitter search is often under utilized. I wrote a blog post recently about this. I sent out a tweet asking for hotel recommendations and was shocked that I didn’t receive one tweet from the many local hotels in Nashville that use Twitter. It’s a huge opportunity to get business from someone who is actively looking for the product or service you provide. Showing you are listening when people ask questions is HUGE. It’s a shame more people and businesses don’t do it.

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