Writecombination Social Media
by Andrew Knowles

A Twitter case study: @RegencyHistory

The Twitter account run by my wife and business partner, Rachel Knowles, is a great example of a social media success story.

Before I go any further, it’s important to define what’s meant by ‘success’. To use Twitter effectively means setting some goals, at least informally, by which you can measure progress. These might be to hit a certain number of followers, to generate a certain level of sales, or to achieve a certain level of influence. The first is easy to measure, the second more difficult and the third is harder yet.

The aim for @RegencyHistory was to generate traffic to the RegencyHistory.net blog and to create a network of contacts with a shared interest in the Georgian and Regency period. There was no commercial aspiration.

As my editor, Rachel read my ‘Twitter Action Plan’ in detail before she started tweeting. In January 2012, when she started using Twitter herself, she was a complete novice. (In the US, my book is titled 'Become really effective on Twitter in just 5 days').

Her approach has been simple. Almost every day she makes a point of spending twenty minutes, sometimes longer, on Twitter.

She tweets links to her latest blog posts, writing and re-writing a short introduction so that no two tweets are identical. Using Hootsuite, she schedules some for later in the day, when American readers are more likely to be online.

Rachel also tweets links to other relevant historical articles and retweets messages from others, where she considers them appropriate. On average she sends out 8 tweets per day.

Tweeting links is only part of Rachel’s approach. She tries to make a point of thanking everyone who retweets her, which can sometimes be time consuming. She also engages tweeters in conversation, making comments on messages they send out and sometimes enjoying banter with some of the ‘Regency’ characters who inhabit Twitter.

Measuring success on Twitter

The @RegencyHistory account has 1,275 followers as I write this. That’s not a huge number, so how can it be called a success?

Firstly, because of its growth rate. The account was opened in November 2011 but tweeting began in January 2012. The follower numbers have grown by an average of 26% per month since that first message.

Secondly, because of the traffic to her blog. Rachel uses Google analytics to track activity and is very pleased with the results. Links to new posts on her blog are retweeted several times (we haven’t counted them up) and feedback messages are positive. 

Thirdly, because in twelve months, Rachel has built up an impressive network of contacts that includes writers, editors, historians, researchers and others with an interest in her field. She interacts with many of them on a regular basis. 

Proving the power of niche tweeting

While regular tweeting and retweeting, along with engagement and a little courtesy, can help build almost any Twitter following, the @RegencyHistory example also demonstrates the importance of maintaining a clear message.

@RegencyHistory is a niche Twitter account. It appeals to people with a particular interest in one period of history. It seldom deviates from tweeting about its core message and things that Rachel knows will be of interest to other researchers and writers, such as advice on writing books, publishing or using social media.  If there’s anything that businesses can learn from @RegencyHistory, it’s that demonstrating expertise in your subject will attract attention. It’s not a process that allows easy shortcuts, and to be really effective requires integration with your blog and other social media channels. 

The @RegencyHistory account is about to hit a minor landmark. I set up my Twitter account, @andrew_writer, over four years ago. I tweet quite often but I’m not as focused on one subject as @RegencyHistory. Sometime soon, and probably by the time you read this, @RegencyHistory’s follower count will overtake mine.

One final point about @RegencyHistory. It has no commercial targets, as the only product it promotes is the RegencyHistory.net blog. But one day Rachel may well publish something of her own and when she does, she’ll already have an extensive network to market it to. I wonder what that would be worth?

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