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Stick a Fork in Them; They’re Done

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Stick a Fork in Them; They're Done


In 2012, Google’s Matt Cutt published his now-infamous post proclaiming that guest blogging for SEO was “done” because it had “just gotten too spammy.”

In 2022, I think you can say the same thing about expert roundups.

I’ll explain why below. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page…

What are expert roundups?

Expert roundups are blog posts that feature quotes from industry experts about a specific topic.

For example, below is a roundup of SEO tips. You can see that it features quotes from 30+ experts, including some extremely well-known faces like Glen Allsopp and our very own Tim Soulo:

Expert roundup example

Why do people create expert roundups?

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In my opinion, there are three main reasons:

  1. Exposure
  2. Backlinks
  3. Relationships

But rather than just share my opinion on the matter, I polled my Twitter followers.

Here are the results of the poll:

Let’s take a look at the results in more detail.

Backlinks

According to my poll, backlinks are the top reason for creating an expert roundup—with 43.9% of folks citing it as their primary aim.

The idea here is simple: If an “expert” is willing to contribute to your roundup, perhaps they’ll also be willing to link to it. This is good for SEO because backlinks are one of Google’s top-ranking factors.

Building relationships

Building relationships is the second most popular reason for creating an expert roundup, with 36.8% citing it as their primary aim.

This makes sense, as building relationships with influential and well-connected industry experts can open all kinds of doors. It’s how I managed to get a backlink from Glen Allsopp (Detailed) back in the day, and it’s kind of how I landed my job at Ahrefs.

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Exposure

Exposure is the least popular reason for creating an expert roundup, with only 19.3% of respondents citing it as their primary aim.

People tend to share content that paints them in a positive light. So the idea with expert roundups is that, once published, many of the featured “experts” will share the post on social media and your blog will get some nice exposure.

It’s basically egobait. You’re literally referring to these people as experts in your content, so why wouldn’t they want to share it?

I also got a reply to my tweet from Jeremy Rivera, who gave a fourth reason for creating expert roundups: crafting expert-supported content:

This makes sense. But personally, I’m not convinced the “expert roundup” format is usually the best way to do this. (More on this later.)

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Why do “experts” contribute to expert roundups?

Given that most “experts” are already well connected, they’re probably not contributing to roundups to build relationships. They’re almost certainly doing it for backlinks.

But again, let’s not trust my opinion…

I polled my Twitter followers. Here are the results:

No prizes for guessing the outcome here. I think it’s pretty much what we all expected.

Sidenote.

This poll attracted fewer votes than my first, so take the results with a pinch of salt. However, in my opinion, backlinks are the number one reason to get involved in expert roundups. 

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What’s the issue with expert roundups?

Expert roundups have no real downsides for contributors. It rarely takes more than a few minutes to answer the creator’s question and, in return, they get exposure, a backlink, and a nice egoboost.

For example, here’s my contribution to an expert roundup. I was asked to name my top three keyword research tools:

Joshua Hardwick featured in an expert roundup

In this case, replying to an email with six words landed me a mention and backlink on a DR71 site. The post I’m featured in now gets an estimated 284 organic monthly visits:

Traffic to expert roundup

But for the creators and readers of roundups, there are a few issues…

1. It can be hard to get enough actual experts to contribute

In the early days of expert roundups, someone reaching out and asking for your contribution made you feel special because it didn’t happen often. Now, everyone is creating expert roundups, and genuine experts are inundated with requests.

This means they have to pick and choose which ones to contribute to, making things harder for publishers to get the quotes they need.

As a result, some publishers seem willing to accept quotes from, well, pretty much anyone.

Just look at this expert quote in a recent roundup I found about link building tactics:

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Bad expert roundup contribution

Really? The best strategy for building backlinks is blog commenting, where 99% of links are nofollowed and almost certainly won’t pass much “authority” either way?

I can’t imagine anyone close to being a link building expert saying this in the last 10 years.

Sidenote.

I changed the wording of the quote above slightly, but the gist is the same. I did this because I don’t want to pick on anyone, and I know you savvy SEOs can easily find the exact quote. 

Now, I hold no grudges against the person who gave this quote. They were clearly asked and thought “why not?” But the reality is that including these kinds of quotes leads to a deterioration in the perceived quality of expert roundups over time—which further dissuades experts from contributing.

It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s why expert roundups have (in my opinion) become so spammy in recent years.

2. The format rarely aligns with search intent

People are typically looking to do one of three things when they type something into Google:

  • Buy something
  • Learn something
  • Get somewhere (i.e., a specific website)

You may think that an expert roundup matches search intent when the searcher is looking to learn, but let me ask you this: How often do you really want a list of hundreds of random and potentially opposing opinions when you’re just trying to find the answer to something?

Probably not very often, which is why expert roundups are rarely an optimal content format if you want to rank high on Google.

3. Experts rarely link to roundups they’re featured in

If you’re publishing an expert roundup with the aim of attracting backlinks from contributors’ websites, I have bad news: Most experts probably aren’t going to link to your roundup.

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How do I know? I cross-referenced the external links and referring domains to an expert roundup we published in 2015 to see how many of the featured experts linked to the roundup. I found the result to be 21%—or roughly 1 in 5.

That may not sound too shabby, but you have to remember a few things:

  1. We published this post when expert roundups were arguably at the height of their popularity.
  2. Pretty much everyone in the SEO industry wants to be featured on the Ahrefs blog, so being featured in our roundup is something to shout about.
  3. We already had relationships with many of the people who linked to us.

In other words, in 2022, unless you’re a well-known brand, this number is almost certainly going to be much lower.

My opinion: You may get 1 in 10 contributors to link to you—if you’re lucky.

4. Experts rarely share roundups they’re featured in

You’d think that sharing the roundup on Twitter would be a no-brainer for those featured. But it seems that very few do this either. I checked Twitter, and only a handful of those featured in our expert roundup appear to have shared it.

Even if they do, the reality is that their share is unlikely to send much (if any) traffic our way.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the number of link clicks a recent tweet of mine got:

Dire performance on Twitter

Again, the numbers may not look too bad. But here’s what it took to get those clicks:

  • 8,000+ followers
  • Retweets from the official Ahrefs account and two of my colleagues, which exposed my tweet to a further 135,000+ people.

Of course, true experts tend to have lots of followers too, but they rarely have the amplification of big brands like Ahrefs behind them.

All in all, it’s unlikely that you’ll get more than a handful of clicks from experts sharing your post on social media.

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Three better alternatives to expert roundups

Expert roundups may have had their day, but there are still ways to utilize expert contributions to improve content and SEO. You just need to be a little more creative and put in more effort. Let’s look at a few ideas.

1. Interview an expert and write up their insights

If you want to write about a topic but lack the expertise to do so, consider interviewing an expert and writing up their insights.

This is precisely what we did for our post about Google penalties.

Interview format is often better than an expert roundup

Having limited experience with Google penalties ourselves, we interviewed three experts on the topic, including Marie Haynes. We then compiled their knowledge and insights into a guide.

There are a few benefits to this approach:

  1. You can still match search intent – As you’re writing up expert insights, you’re free to use any content format you like. If search intent calls for a list of tips, you can write a list of tips. If it calls for a guide, you can write a guide.
  2. You improve E‑A-T – E‑A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It’s what Google’s human quality raters use to assess the quality of search results. It’s not a direct ranking factor, but improving and demonstrating E‑A-T can lead to many SEO benefits.
  3. Your expert is arguably more likely to share the content – Being included in an expert roundup among dozens of others may give you a bit of an egoboost, but having a piece centered almost entirely around your knowledge and insights will surely give you a bigger one. This will, thus, increase the chances of experts sharing the content.

If you’re not sure who to interview for your piece, run a search in Ahrefs’ Content Explorer.

The tool is a searchable database of over 9 billion pages, and it has authorship information for some of them. This means you can run a search to find prolific writers on a topic.

For example, if we want to write a piece about Google’s Knowledge Graph, we can search Content Explorer for the pages with “knowledge graph” in their titles.

Search in Content Explorer

If we then go to the “Authors” tab, we’ll see the names of authors who’ve published the most pages matching our search.

Here, we can see that Aaron Bradley has authored 12 pages with “knowledge graph” in each page’s title:

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Searching for experts in Content Explorer

If we click on the number of pages, we can see everything he’s written on the topic:

Content Explorer results

This guy clearly knows his stuff, so he is a fantastic person to interview for our article.

2. Poll experts for interesting stats

People often cite statistics and link to the source. If you don’t believe us, just look at the anchors and surrounding texts of backlinks to our search traffic study:

Cited statistics leading to links, via Ahrefs Site Explorer

You can see that pretty much all of the links are from folks citing statistics on our page.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to unique data and insights as we are, publishing content laden with statistics is easy—and you’ll naturally earn backlinks as a result. But if you don’t have in-house data, a good way to create unique statistics is to poll experts.

This is precisely what Paddy Moogan did for Aira’s annual “state of link building” report.

He polled 250 digital marketing professionals and consolidated their responses into graphs like this:

Aira state of link building report

The result? Backlinks from 346 referring domains and counting.

Aira state of link building report backlinks

If you’re wondering who to poll for this kind of content, use Content Explorer to find experts who’ve already written about your topic.

For example, here are a few top authors who’ve written about link building (you may notice a familiar name there!):

Link building experts via Content Explorer

TIP

Maximize the link-earning potential of existing posts by adding insights from your poll. For example, we mentioned a statistic from our search traffic study in our keyword research guide, and it earned a few extra backlinks as a result:

Statistic links via Site Explorer

3. Poll experts for product recommendations

Most affiliate websites make their money by ranking for general comparison keywords, i.e., “best [product category].”

Unfortunately, to create truly useful content for these keywords, you usually have to test and review dozens of products yourself. Not only is this costly, but you’re also basing your recommendations on one person’s opinion—which may not align with the consensus of others.

One solution to this is to poll experts for their recommendations.

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This is precisely what Robbie Richards did in his post about the “best link building tools.” He asked 82 link builders to vote for their favorite link building tool, tallied up the results, and recommended their favorite to his audience:

15-ahrefs-poll-recommendation

You can use this approach for non-affiliate keywords too.

For example, we polled the 10,000+ SEO professionals in our private Facebook group to compile recommendations for our list of the best free SEO tools.

Expert poll example

Final thoughts

Expert roundups, in the traditional sense, are dead unless you have clout. And even then, these roundups are less effective than they once were. But by creatively using experts to source information, you can still apply some of the same principles to enhance your content, earn more backlinks, and get organic traffic.

Got questions? Disagree? Let me know on Twitter.





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Here’s How We Do It

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Here’s How We Do It

I’ve managed Ahrefs’ social media accounts for nine months now—and it’s been a journey, from experimenting with content formats to figuring out what engages people the most.

To keep things succinct, I’ll be focusing on our primary social media platform: Twitter.

I’ll also make it clear now that I won’t cover my content creation process in too much depth, since many people expressed more interest in learning about our growth strategy and how we measure engagement.

Twitter’s a convenient way to build camaraderie, lead conversations, get immediate feedback, as well as respond quickly to mentions and/or related news. Mind-blowing, right?

Now let’s get to the reasons for Ahrefs’ focus on the social media platform:

It’s the place for marketers to be

If you’ve been in the SEO space for a while, you’ll know that many prominent marketers and influencers spend their time on the platform, including Lily Ray, Rand Fishkin, Amanda Natividad, and scores more.

It “humanizes” us 

We get to interact with our followers closely and in a more casual manner. This reminds people that we’re actively listening to their concerns and engaged in the SEO space.

Brand-building 

In all, 47% of people who visit a Twitter profile also visit the website linked in that profile. In our case, we get an average of 113 link clicks per day across our tweets.

Graph showing link clicks

For versatility’s sake

We’ve got a wide variety of content and resources: product updates, blog posts, videos on Ahrefs TV, free courses in Ahrefs Academy, and free tools like Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.

Twitter allows us to amplify all of these in fresh formats, plus cover them in both breadth and depth. They’re also easily shareable (e.g., via RTs and quote tweets).

And because it’s impossible for us to cover everything within our own content, we sometimes create threads based on others’ content—I’ll get to this later.

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Cracking the Twitter algorithm

It’s common knowledge that as long as you use a social media platform, you’re at the mercy of its algorithm. So how to crack it? Is there a formula to win the game?

Unless you go the Google Sheets hacks route, the answer’s… no. (Were you really surprised?)

The Twitter algorithm is constantly evolving, just like our social media strategy. So your best playing cards are experimentation and gathering feedback from your followers.

For instance, I try to publish each blog post in at least two formats on Twitter and stagger their publishing dates to reduce content fatigue.

Take these examples that are based off a blog post on promoting your website for free.

As you can see, numbered lists are one format that consistently gets a decent number of likes and RTs. That’s one measure of success in our books. 

Still, the secret isn’t to stick to one formula that works. Rather, it’s to keep finding new formulas over and over. That’s because repeatedly using the same format could tire out your followers by making you seem uninventive and boring. (Fight me on this one!)

In fact, some of my biggest hurdles include two key things.

First, finding a way to tell effective stories through tweets and threads. Capturing an audience’s attention once or twice is good, but getting them to view Ahrefs’ Twitter account as a go-to for SEO-related topics is the bigger challenge.

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Second, not pandering to trends. Memes aren’t really our thing, and neither are snarky tweets. My colleagues, Si Quan Ong and Rebekah Bek, set the tone for Ahrefs’ social media pages early on—and ultimately, we’ve kind of stuck to it. 

That isn’t to say things won’t change, though. Our CMO, Tim Soulo, and I have discussed adopting a more casual tone of voice in the coming months and possibly experimenting with non-educational tweets. It’s all about trying things out to see what sticks.

(I kinda like some of what Shopify is doing on Twitter. Would you be averse to that if we took cues from it? Our DMs are open to suggestions. 👀)

Still, these realizations armed me with some lessons that will help you to sharpen your Twitter marketing strategy.

Lesson 1. Develop a thick skin

I originally joined Ahrefs as a content marketer, with a focus on producing and peer-reviewing content for our blog. Sure, I did things on the side—like run our Instagram accounts—but my knowledge of Twitter best practices was embarrassingly paltry.

After all, I hadn’t been active on Twitter since 2016 and only had a basic foundation of SEO to get things rolling.

So when I transitioned into looking after all of our social media pages, it was daunting—especially when it came to responding to our users, seasoned SEOs and, sometimes, trolls. 🥲

If you can relate to this, I’ll encourage you to speak with people who’ve been in the industry for some time. 

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That may include reaching out to your colleagues or marketers whom you admire or even putting out a tweet (#DidABraveThing).

Make it clear you’re looking to learn and then build out your network from there. And ask questions, because no question is silly.

I also get regular feedback from the team about my published tweets—including from Tim.

Tim's feedback about a tweet

When writing threads based off blog posts, I share my drafts with the respective authors via Typefully too; then I refine them accordingly.

Mateusz's feedback about a tweet

Keeping a tight feedback loop helps me learn more quickly.

Lesson 2. Normalize making mistakes

Sometimes, you will inevitably stuff up. Think about it: The more you post, the higher your chances of making a mistake… but that’s part of the process. 

Here’s a tweet I put out that divided our followers—yet gained plenty of engagement.

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Regardless, it was a mistake on my part because I left out some context when writing it. My intention hadn’t been to be divisive for the sake of it.

Lesson 3. Talk to people outside your circle

I also began lurking in marketing communities to have a look-see at what people were discussing and looked at top tweets for relevant hashtags (e.g., #SEO).

After doing this for some time, I noticed some patterns.

People love:

  • Relevant recommended reads.
  • The “I’ve been a [marketer/SEO] for XX years. Here are XX lessons I’ve learnt” format.
  • Infographics and clean charts/visuals.
  • Google updates—these are almost always a talking point.
  • To read things that reaffirm their points of view or are so grossly contrasting that they are irked enough to leave a response.

In fact, the latter observation holds true regardless of the topic you’re broaching. But don’t do it just for the sake of it.

You need to add value to the conversation, like this tweet by SparkToro’s Amanda.

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It takes discipline to remain active in communities—and guts to reach out to seasoned marketers! But keep at it, and you’ll soon see how much you’ve learned from moving beyond your comfort zone.

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You may even start your own marketing community, like what I did. (Drop me a DM via Twitter for invite details!)

My content planning process 

And now to the fun part!

If you’re setting up a Twitter page from scratch or are fresh into your role as a social media manager, you may wonder: How to get traction?

That’s a loaded question, but I’ll attempt to guide you by sharing my workflow.

At the start of each week, I plan the content schedule for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Doing this weekly instead of monthly makes more sense, as things move so quickly at Ahrefs and in the SEO space.

As part of my research, I look at:

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  • Our upcoming publishing schedules for Ahrefs TV and the Ahrefs Blog.
  • Product updates and announcements (in Slack).
  • The most recent edition of our newsletter, Ahrefs Digest.
  • Brand mentions on Twitter.
  • Top-performing tweets on our account.
  • Past Ahrefs blog posts and other pieces of content that may be worth sharing.

In my opinion, you’d be remiss to keep all social content on-brand. Sharing content from others is a win-win: You can amplify other voices while introducing your followers to new ideas. (Obviously, use your discretion when doing this!)

This is why I also look into promoting external content, including:

A content calendar isn’t a necessity

I’d initially maintained a content calendar in a spreadsheet but soon found it to be needlessly time-consuming.

My current process involves writing and scheduling content directly in scheduling tool Hypefury—then adapting my tweet for LinkedIn and Facebook. Much of the content is mirrored, albeit in different formats. 

Example of content planning spreadsheet
Contentious opinion: I ditched my content calendar because keeping it updated was hampering my productivity.

If it feels counterintuitive to neglect maintaining a content calendar, you’re right to have your doubts. Still, my current system works better for me.

My advice: Do this only after you’ve figured out how often to publish content and at what times of day.

I established these by studying Ahrefs’ Twitter analytics. Our weekly organic impressions tend to peak on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so I try to queue at least five (or more!) pieces of content on each of those days.

Graph showing data on impressions

Refine the process

Speaking of giving my content calendar a wide berth—I’m working on an SOP document to improve my workflow.

My aim is to iterate each step of the process (plan → write → schedule → update Notion cards with copy → promote → track engagement) so that, eventually, I’ll have a leaner and more efficient system for planning our socials.

Many of you showed curiosity about how we analyze performance.

Our main goal is to maintain steady growth to our Twitter page. A larger audience means we get to showcase the utility of our toolset, content, and ideas to a wider pool of marketers.

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The end goal will then be conversions. For instance: get people to try Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, install our SEO Toolbar and, eventually, convert into a paying customer of our toolset.

Here’s the thing, though:

We don’t measure our goals or track conversions

(Phew, that deserved a subheading in itself!)

We don’t track any of these goals. These include click-through rates to blog posts or YouTube videos which, frankly, is a great load off of the marketing team. This allows us to focus on consistently creating quality content that resonates with our audience.

Tim elaborates on the rationale behind this process:

We do, however, try to identify successful posts—tweets that get >100 likes or more RTs/comments/quote tweets than the average post. But we don’t obsess over numbers. 

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This brings me to my next point.

Vanity metrics aren’t our final source of truth

Likes,” follower numbers, and impressions are useful indicators of what our followers and potential followers (literally) like, but they still are vanity metrics. So they aren’t our only markers of success.

Not all your content can or will resonate with all of your followers at any given time. Relinquish the heavy obsession with numbers and focus on sharing valuable yet unique content instead.

For instance, I dug into Ahrefs’ past tweets to identify content formats and topics that were worth pursuing.

Example of past tweets that performed well
Researching top-performing tweets on Ahrefs’ account using the highlighted search operators.

I then categorized them in a spreadsheet and repurposed some of them accordingly:

Spreadsheet of content that could be repurposed

Reporting on performance

Every four weeks, Tim and I review the past month’s tweets and their engagement. Our discussions center around content formats that worked, what didn’t work (and why), and the types of topics that got traction.

Example report to Tim
Here’s how I open a typical report. You don’t need a fancy deck to get the job done.

The third section (“tweets”) is further categorized into:

  • Repurposed blog posts.
  • Monthly content picks (a thread).
  • Ahrefs TV + product updates.
  • Quick SEO tips/did-you-knows.
  • Question tweets/Ahrefs trivia.
  • Guest tweets/threads (external content sourced from newsletters and Twitter).
Tim's suggestion of creating a simple visual
Tl;dr: try everything at least once (within reason).

Many of you also asked about running ads on Twitter and how much they contribute to our growth.

Hold your hats, because I’m about to deliver yet another disappointing kicker: We don’t track ad performance all that closely.

(Breathe! Let that sink in, then read on.)

Amplification is only a part of the process, and it helps in raising awareness about the value we can bring to the user. But just like vanity metrics, we don’t rely purely on ads for growth.

Every three weeks or so, I study our ad performance. Then I revisit promoted tweets that achieved an engagement rate of 20% or higher.

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Table showing engagement rates

Doing this has helped me develop a better understanding of what our audience wants.

Of course, this method may change in the near future—but for now, it’s what we’re rolling with.

Frequency

We also promote each of our blog posts and YouTube videos at least once, regardless of how well the original tweet performed organically. Each ad typically runs for at least three weekdays.

If something performs astronomically poorly (e.g., 10 likes or fewer after multiple RTs from our account), I rewrite it in a new format and track its performance before running an ad for it.

We’ve also got a slightly higher budget for running ads for product updates and feature releases. Unlike our content, I try to promote each announcement at least twice (once with a static image and another time with a screencast video).

Tracking the future

I’ve also begun looking into:

  • Studying marketers’ top tweets. 
  • Brand mentions (via Sprout Social).
  • Responding more actively to users’ tweets, including technical questions and negative feedback. (This is a team effort! Some questions continue to baffle me, which is where Tim and the marketing team help to fill the gaps.)

Bonus: Our Twitter toolkit 

If you’re curious, these are some of the tools to make my workflow a little bit easier.

Hypefury 

Hypefury is great for writing and scheduling tweets and threads. Also includes an auto-RT function.

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Writing and scheduling tweets on Hypefury
Hypefury lets me craft and preview tweets and threads easily, as well as view my publishing schedule at a glance.

Typefully 

This lets you create, preview, and share draft tweets and threads. Typefully is especially useful if you’re looking to get internal feedback.

Drafting tweet thread on Typefully

Loom 

Loom is useful for screencast recordings (with or without audio). You can also trim your clips. I use these mainly to create simple product tip videos and to highlight product features.

Others 

I’m tinkering with Sprout Social and Napoleon Cat to track brand mentions (especially when we aren’t tagged directly on Twitter).

Recommended reading: 13 Top Digital Marketing Tools (Incl. Tips on Using Them)

Closing thoughts

By the time this blog post is published, our strategy will likely have shapeshifted in some way. No Twitter marketing strategy is foolproof after all.

Once you’ve found a formula that seems to resonate with your audience, you need to keep experimenting to find more formulas that work. Iteration will yield results.

If you show that you value your followers—and can offer them value and solutions through your content and product—you’ll have a far better chance at success.

Have questions or thoughts? Ping me on Twitter.



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