Update: Since writing this blogpost, my Twiiter following has grown to over 10,000 followers. Nevertheless, the same lessons apply.
Last weekend, I passed the 5,000 follower mark on Twitter. While that 5,000 number has never been a goal, it’s a great mile marker to look back and reflect on what I’ve learned about Twitter and solar marketing, and why over 5,000 people would ever waste their time following me. The short answer is that I worked hard to ensure that it wasn’t a waste of their time and attention — or mine.
First, let me give you some raw numbers from Twitter, which keeps track of most of these stats. There are other programs that fill in the gaps. If you don’t know the terminology below, it’s time to learn it.
As of this writing on Thursday, June 7, 2012, here’s where I am:
The above stats reflect my @SolarFred Twitter account, only. It does not include any of the Tweets I’ve done for client accounts, so my cumulative total Twitter stats are actually higher.
And what have I learned? So much, and more than I can sum up. But briefly, here are 9 things that I’ve learned about solar marketing and Twitter:
Lesson 1) Using Twitter is free (cheap!), but it’s also a lot of hard work.
It may only be 20 or so minutes a day and 5 minutes each weekend, but you do need to think about what you’re Tweeting, why, and to whom. So join the solar Twitter-sphere, but if you want to be effective, put the time in to figuring out a strategy first. You’ll be much more effective.
Lesson 2) Twitter is social. Duh, but not so duh.
I’ve met and interacted with a lot of people through Twitter, both in the solar world and outside. Some are solar celebrities, some are actual celebrities, some are reporters, and many became customers or referred customers. I would say that 80 percent of those interactions were just “conversations” about a common cause: solar. Twitter is social media marketing. It’s not just about you. You must be interested and interact with the people you’re following. You’re developing a (brand) relationship, not an immediate sale. The value comes later when these interactions not only lead to a purchase, but also these people recommending you a zillion times. See? Not so duh.
Lesson 3) In terms of numbers following you, it’s quality, not quantity.
Want thousands of followers fast? Fine. Follow anyone. Just randomly pick people and follow everyone. 70 percent to 80 percent will follow you back, and your number of followers will rise. Nice. Except if you're all about vanity numbers? It never looks good that you're following more people than are following you. Worse, look at your Twitter stream and you’ll see a stream of mostly useless blah, blah, blah from people who have little to no interest in solar, regardless of sector. On the other hand, if you focus on just following prospects, solar advocates, competitors, and solar news sources, you’ll grow a smaller following, but a very powerful and useful one who will recommend you to friends, family, and pets. Trust me. It’s quality, not quantity for solar Twitter success.
Lesson 4) Twitter is more than 140 characters.
Sure, people have back and fourth conversations on Twitter, but 90 percent of what I Tweet and re-Tweet has a web link to something: Blog post, news, photo, press release, etc. That’s why it’s important to have a blog incorporated with Twitter. The two work very well together to stretch that 140 characters into more useful information that drives leads and web traffic, plus builds solar brand relationships.
Lesson 5) Twitter is not an advertisement. Really.
Related to #4, but this is must-know lesson: If all you do is Tweet about your solar product/service and “Get a solar quote from our wonderful service and save!” or just Tweet your press releases, you’re wasting your time, and hence, moula. You’ll be ignored and dismissed as a spammer, and rightly so. It's better to follow the advice below. And that is...
Lesson 6) Twitter is a community. As much as Twitter isn’t an ad platform, it is a little town center. So, while you may be on Twitter to increase sales and referrals, and that’s grand, you have to act like you’re part of a virtual solar community, whether it’s the solar industry community or the green advocacy community. Doesn’t matter. Chose one or both, create lists of influential members, and then contribute to that community through supporting the town’s causes (Tweets) or at least by contributing useful solar information.
Lesson 7) You can have a vibrant solar seminar and gatherings through Twitter.
I wrote about this already, but in case you missed it, read this post. You can also get real people together in one place through Twitter, and I don’t mean virtually. I’ve hosted many “Tweet-ups” at solar conventions, and I’ve benefited tremendously from meeting fellow Tweeters in person. The next one is at Intersolar if anyone’s interested. But those personal interactions never would have happened without first without virtually “meeting” people on Twitter, and believe me, those relationships can be very strong.
Lesson 8) You can make life long friends on Twitter.
Related to Lesson 7, but in addition to business relationships, you can make great friends on Twitter. Also, you can suddenly lose them. Nevertheless, you really can never have too many friends, and I’m honored to have made so many through Twitter from all over the world. These friends are a fraction of the 5,000 followers, but still, it’s a pleasure to know them and have a common solar language and a goal of having solar become main stream everywhere.
Lesson 9) Twitter has an ROI, but it’s is up to you how you measure it.
Last but not least, people always ask me about the ROI of Twitter. Yes, there is a return on your mostly time investment, but you must have a strategy, number one. Two, you can measure success through web traffic reports and clicks to see if your strategy and execution is working. Many solar companies are on Twitter for brand recognition alone. Others use Twitter for brand protection and customer support, responding to complaints. And of course, there’s lead generation, and yes, I’ve generated many, many, leads for myself and my clients through my 16,000 plus Tweets. So, Twitter’s return on investment can be measured in many different ways. The most important value, though, is in customer relationships, brand loyalty, and if you do it right, leads and referrals.
Those are just a few of the things I’ve learned — so far. As the technology changes and I build relationships with more followers, there will be many more lessons. As always, Twitter is just one more way…to UnThink Solar.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Want more solar marketing info? Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact Solar Fred through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.
About the above word cloud. It was created through words automatically drawn from my recent Tweets through a program called Tagxedo, a fun free marketing tool. Use it.
The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.