The work that goes into building a brand new business can feel like a full-time job all by itself – and that’s before you even think about marketing it.
That’s what Tony Jacobson found earlier this year as he prepared to launch Winetracker.co, an app that allows users to easily track, rate, and review wine wherever they go. With three children and a day job to keep him busy, building and perfecting Winetracker on his own was a project relegated to evenings and weekends, leaving precious little time for actually promoting it.
In just six months, though, Tony has singlehandedly grown his Twitter following by about 125 users every single day, going from just 700 to more than 21,000 real, engaged fans. Twitter now accounts for about 80% of his website’s traffic.
I talked to Tony about his three secrets for building a massive, highly engaged audience on social media – all in about an hour or so a week.
Adding visuals to your updates is an easy way to boost their visibility and engagement – those with images score an average of 150% more retweets. Whether pulling an image from the source content he’s tweeting about (like a news story) or using image editing tools like Pixelmator and Sketch to create his own, Tony adds an image to everything he shares on Twitter.
“It’s critical to rising above the noise on Twitter,” he said in our conversation. “And it doesn’t have to be beautiful.”
— Winetracker.co (@winetrackerco) August 11, 2015
Adding a visual component to his tweets has helped Tony give them the visibility and the personality to score more engagement across the board:
To make the time he invests in creating images go even further, he also uses Edgar to share his tweets more than once, so they can be seen by new people.
“Some of my posts are getting retweeted 30 times even though they just got retweeted 30 times four days ago,” he said. “Sure enough, they get the same amount of traction every time.”
Before adopting this strategy, he only had time to create and share about three new updates a week. After signing up for Edgar in February and using batch-writing to build up a library of recurring tweets, he was able to eventually start sharing seven tweets every day, spending exponentially less time while watching his engagement levels soar.
“Now I only spend maybe an hour a week finding new stuff, and I’m creating maybe one or two new posts a week,” he said. “Or some weeks I just go without, because I have a library of content already. People probably think I’m a full-time social media manager.”
But when it comes to building an engaged audience on Twitter, Tony’s found that it’s a matter of not just how you share, but what you share.
Of the seven tweets Tony shares in a day, only one is the type of self-promotion that sends traffic to his website. The rest are strictly the type of content that people love to share most on social – a strategy that helps his profile reach nearly 19,000 impressions per day.
“I’m just giving people things that give them social capital,” he explained. “They can say, ‘I learned this cool thing today.’ It arms people with nice, valuable, interesting information on a topic they care about. That’s the guiding principle of the content I’m generating.”
By tweeting facts, tips, links to other people’s content, quotes, and more, he gives his followers content that they’ll want to share – and will make others want to follow him, as well.
— Winetracker.co (@winetrackerco) August 9, 2015
“As long as there’s social capital,” he said, “and I’m helping people have something interesting to talk about with their friends, I’m continually surprised how well people engage with that over and over.”
While about 40% of Tony’s new followers are users who find him on their own, he also grows his audience by dedicating time to outreach.
By using Tweepi to track and organize users interested in wine, he’s able to proactively create new connections:
Using the time Edgar saves him to focus on interacting live, he keeps the relationship between himself and his followers strong by engaging in conversations and responding to comments and questions.
“When you have your library set up, it frees you up to do true social engagement,” he explained. “That’s where the bulk of my time is, and that’s just bits and pieces, no different than it would be checking your personal Facebook feed throughout the day. You can always spend 2-3 minutes on your phone, checking your notifications, interacting real quick. Acknowledge their existence. Acknowledge their effort.”
@SOMMspirations Sounds amazing! ????????
— Winetracker.co (@winetrackerco) August 10, 2015
In the end, though, it all comes down to what you post – creating quality content, and giving it the opportunity to be seen.
“Outreach helps, but I think definitely people are sticking around because of the content,” Tony said. “Most people just don’t see it, because you’re mixed in with other people posting on their feed. They only see bits and pieces. So to them, even when you share things more than once, you’re giving them fresh, wonderful stuff all the time.”
Whether it’s using tools that make it easier to share updates and engage with your followers or just dedicating the time to create stronger content, knowing how to invest your resources is the key to growing not just a bigger audience, but a more engaged one.
“It takes upfront work to generate social content,” Tony explained, “but it’s not rocket science. Be empathetic. Be digestible. Be visual. Give people social capital. Once that exists, you’re free.”