4 Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Local TV News Reporters

This post was initially published on BostInnovation on July 28, 2011. To read the original post there, click here. Today – thanks to social media, smartphones and other new digital communications platforms and tools – what the savviest of consumers are asking of their favorite brands is almost as much as they’d expect from

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The Importance of LinkedIn Recommendations

Given my outgoing personality, my obsession with the latest news and the fact that I’ve always been an early adopter of new communications tools, it’s no surprise that I’ve been enamored with social media from the get-go. I can’t tell you how excited I was to launch my own blog in early 2004, where I’ve written nearly

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10 Ways to Succeed as a Copywriter, Parts 1-10

If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, you know I’ve been writing a series of posts on copywriting. Similar to the approach I took with my series on social media, I’ve looked at copywriting from a 30,000-foot level, focusing on the principles you need to be mindful of if you want to

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10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media, Parts 1-10

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know about the  “10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media” series of posts I started writing on January 13 of this year and recently concluded on April 5. But what you wouldn’t know is how much I’ve been looking forward to stringing these posts together into one

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The Importance of Character in Social Media

By now, most people involved in marketing, advertising and PR have put aside any skepticism they may have had about social media and are using such online communications vehicles as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach out to and engage with others. They’re finally realizing that – as I’ve said before here on this

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10 Ways to Build a Social Media Audience

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In direct marketing, it’s long been said that a bad offer to a good list will perform better than a good offer to a bad list. The point being that without a decent audience, you may as well forget about it. You may have a great product or service, but unless you have a long list of people who are at least prospective customers, even the best marketing efforts in the world probably won’t be able to sell it.

That’s how it is in social media, too. You can spend a ton of time and money in creating content that absolutely rocks, but if you aren’t reaching enough people, your efforts will be in vain and you won’t have a chance of going viral. You’ll be like the proverbial tree that falls in the middle of the woods with nobody around to hear it. The return on your investment won’t be anywhere near satisfactory. You’ll be left wondering why you’re hearing nothing but crickets while your competitors are hearing the sound of the cash register going “cha-ching.”

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to accumulate a large enough number of followers and fans to make all your activity on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like worth it. Here are 10 ways for brands to build a social media audience that is loyal, engaged, and responsive.

1. Point People in the Right Direction.
Unless you’re a celebrity or are lucky enough to have an iconic brand name, you can disregard the notion that if you build it, they will come. People won’t even know you exist on social media unless you point them in the right direction. Wherever possible – on the wall, in the lobby, on the counter – use signage offline to drive your constituents online.

Vineyard Vines
This sign in the window of the Vineyard Vines store at The Shops at the Prudential Center in Boston draws attention to their presence on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Shout It Out Loud.
Anyone in your organization who’s on the speaking circuit should be incorporating into their presentations the fact that your business has a social address. They should strike while the iron’s hot. Caught up in the moment, a live audience has an urge to connect with whomever is on stage. Tell them where your brand lives on social media and invite them to join you there.

3. Arm the Troops.
Divide and conquer. There’s strength in numbers. Identify those employees who have strong social followings themselves and encourage them to passively recruit on behalf of your organization. Provide them with talking points. Reward them for their thought leadership. The more employees you have spreading the word about your brand’s social activities among their own personal networks, the quicker you’ll grow your audience.

4. Drop Names.
Why would you even thinking about mentioning someone else in your own content stream? Well, for starters, it’s simply good form, especially when you’re citing the author of a third-party article that you’ve chosen to share. Tagging others is also a good way to pique curiosity, attract new followers, and trigger mutually beneficial engagement.

Boston Park Plaza
This tweet from the Boston Park Plaza hotel includes several Twitter handles and one hashtag.

5. Showcase Your Social Streams.
Get much more mileage out of your activity on social media by embedding this content elsewhere. There are numerous widgets available from either third parties or directly from channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Pinterest that make it possible for you to export your timelines and display them somewhere on your website. Not only does this put your content in front of a broader audience, it increases the likelihood of establishing more lasting social connections among your constituency as well.

Whole Foods Market
The homepage of the Whole Foods Market website includes some of the supermarket chain’s social media feeds.

6. Put Others First.
Don’t be a brand that only talks about itself. You know the ones. They spend far too much time being promotional as opposed to social. No one is saying you can’t toot your own horn on Twitter, Facebook, and the like. I am saying, though, that one of the best ways to attract new fans, followers, and business in general is to be known for helping others in as many ways as possible. Your turn will come.

Sullivan Tire
This tweet from Sullivan Tire provides followers with a good tip about checking their tires’ air pressure.

7. Make a Ridiculously Good First Impression.
Are your profile and cover images the right size? Have you written a clear and convincing description of your business that’s infused with keywords and hashtags? Did you link back to your website and other social properties? Is your logo featured prominently? Do you respond promptly to questions, comments, and mentions? Do you thank those who share your content with their own constituents? Are you the host with the most gratitude for his or her fans, followers, customers, and prospects?

8. Host a Chat.
Build a faithful community of like-minded followers and fans by interviewing popular guests on both Twitter and Facebook. Like a talk show or panel discussion, a chat is simply two or more people talking about a topic of broad appeal. Promote the event in advance. Use a strong hashtag. Take questions from your audience. Employ an experienced moderator. Become known for bringing people together for education and entertainment at your expense, not theirs. You’ll be the center of attention.

The Today Show
This post on The Today Show’s Facebook page promotes a live chat with co-anchor Savannah Guthrie.

9. Give Something Away.
People practically come out of the woodwork to participate in contests. But while offering something for nothing is almost a surefire way to attract a large following, the prizes you’re offering should be aligned with your brand attributes. This helps increase the likelihood that any new connections are qualified prospects, not those who are only in it for the swag.

Will Leather Goods
In this Instagram contest by Will Leather Goods, participants can win two bags of their choice from the brand’s website.

10. Pay to Play.
Last but certainly not least, there’s paid media. In fact, many brands find that allocating a good portion of their marketing dollars for advertising on social media is a necessity, not an option, if they want a bigger audience. With so much competition for eyeballs and engagement, promoting your content and accounts to prospective new followers and fans is a smart way to stand out among the clutter and win over the masses.

Coastal.com
This sponsored Facebook post by Coastal.com includes an offer to “get your first pair of glasses free” as well as an invitation to like their page.

Note: This post, “10 Ways to Build a Social Media Audience,” was originally published on ClickZ on June 17, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on June 25, 2014 here.

17 Vine Videos of 125 Places to Get a Bite to Eat in the Boston Area

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PicMonkey CollageAnyone who knows me knows how much I love to explore the nooks and crannies of Boston with my wife, Barbara. Walking around town is one of our favorite things to do together.

My friends and family also know how much I love social media. Using the Internet to connect and communicate with others has been a passion of mine long before it became a thing for practically everyone.

Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. You name it, I’m on it. And that includes Vine, an app which allows its 40 million users to easily record six-second looping videos and share them with the world.

How do I use Vine along the course of my travels? In a number of different ways, all of which you’ll be able to see if you take a look at my account here. This (below) is just one way I use Vine, taking a few seconds here and there to capture some footage of the countless restaurants and food spots that dot our city’s streets. Which place is your favorite? Take a look…

10 Types of Visuals to Boost Your Social Media Engagement

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As a writer by trade, it’s not easy for me to utter these words, but I’m not going to lie: On social media, a picture is worth a thousand words.

It’s true. Content may be king, but visuals rule. All the latest studies and statistics suggest that images on social media command more attention than text alone.

If you want more likes, comments, shares, retweets, and clicks, you want to include pictures with your social media posts. You want to be more visual.

As Carla Gates says here on her 3 to 5 Marketing Blog

“Images used in your social media (and by definition, your blog content) are far more attention-grabbing than text or plain old links, more likely to be shared, evoke emotional reactions in viewers (and emotion SELLS), and can portray a lot of information quickly and more efficiently than text.”

Not to mention the fact that both Facebook and Twitter have redesigned their platforms recently to place much more emphasis on images. So you really have no excuse whatsoever not to be going picture crazy on social media right about now.

Chalk it up to the Pinterest effect.

In the process of optimizing your social media presence with visuals, of course, you need to be mindful of choosing the right sizes and dimensions. Other than those specifications, though, you actually have a lot of great options. For example…

1. The Product Shot. Every business and brand has a product to display. Whether you’re selling ice cream or insurance, software or footwear, you have something tangible to exhibit in your social media stream. Don’t just talk about what it is you have to offer your audience. Show it off in pictures. The more, the better.

1. The Product Shot
Example: Best Buy on Facebook

2. The Team Picture. Did you play organized sports growing up? How many team pictures do you have from back in the day? That’s the idea here. Only, don’t feel you have to wait for a special occasion. Take pictures of your colleagues on a regular basis and share them with your audience. People do business with people, so do everything you can to humanize your brand.

2. The Team Picture
Example: American Idol on Twitter

3. The Spotlight on Your Fans. Everybody likes attention, especially from someone they look up to and admire. Shine the spotlight on your followers and fans. Give their photos a much bigger stage by repurposing them on your own social channels. Retweet them. Tag them. Make it all about them, not you. Give them their 15 minutes of fame and they’ll give you more loyalty in return.

3. The Spotlight on Your Fans
Example: Boston Red Sox on Twitter

4. The Peek Behind the Scenes. Provide your constituents with something they can’t get anywhere else, whether it’s exclusive photos, a big reveal, or something they wouldn’t see otherwise. Take them backstage. Invite them into your inner sanctum. Show them how your products are built. Give them a look at what goes on behind closed doors. You get the picture.

4. The Peek Behind the Scenes
Example: Downton Abbey on Pinterest

5. The Action Shot. While a team picture may be posed, your action shots are of you and your fellow team members actually doing what you do best. It’s doesn’t matter whether you’re speaking at a podium, swinging a baseball bat, or sitting in front of a computer writing the great American novel, it’s still a performance. Capture your people in the act of doing their jobs and share it with your audience.

5. The Action Shot
Example: U2 on Instagram

6. The Graphic. Creating your own visuals from scratch is a great way to add variety to your stream and call more attention to your posts. Use PowerPoint, Photoshop, PicMonkey, and other such tools to add special effects and text to the images you share. You could even go so far as to create your own infographics. A combination of data, words, and pictures is one of the best ways to increase your engagement and reach on social media.

6. The Graphic
Example: Nordstrom on Facebook

7. The Spontaneous Shot. One of the best benefits of using social media for marketing is the power it gives you to connect with your constituents in real time. Capitalize on the extemporaneous nature of these channels by sharing impromptu, candid shots of you and your team in the moment. What’s happening now is far more credible and commanding on social media than old news or posed pictures.

7. The Spontaneous Shot
Example: MTV on Facebook

8. The Moving Picture. No, I didn’t forget about video. In fact, most businesses and brands consider it a must-have ingredient in their content marketing mix. YouTube, Vine, Instagram – each of these channels presents an abundance of opportunities for creating original footage which can eventually be cross-promoted across the social landscape. Don’t worry about going viral. Worry about one watch at a time. If people like it, they will share it. And you’ll have a hit on your hands.

8. The Moving Picture
Example: Maxwell House on Twitter

9. The Collage. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a small handful of them is, well, perhaps priceless. Take advantage of Twitter’s new mobile feature and upload up to four photos in a single tweet. Or you can use one of many good photo-editing tools available – such as the aforementioned PicMonkey – to cobble together the quintessential collage.

9. The Collage
Example: General Electric on Twitter

10. The Selfie. Last, but certainly not least, there’s the type of visual made famous by Ellen DeGeneres at this year’s Oscars ceremony and most recently Boston Red Sox superstar David Ortiz at the White House. There’s the selfie. Thanks to these two celebrities, the ubiquity of the front-facing camera on smartphones, and people’s seemingly insatiable desire for attention, the selfie is an incredibly hot trend you don’t want to ignore.

10. The Selfie
Example: The Today Show on Instagram

Note: This post, “10 Types of Visuals to Boost Your Social Media Engagement,” was originally published on ClickZ on April 22, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 30, 2014 here.

Smile, You’re on Social Media

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EllenWhen Ellen DeGeneres pulled together some of Hollywood’s biggest superstars for a group shot at the Oscars this year, it may have been a moment of spontaneous fun, but the resultant tweet of this selfie will go down in social media history.

Having been retweeted over 3.4 million times at last count, this one epic tweet from @TheEllenShow easily surpassed a tweet of President Barack Obama’s as the most retweeted ever.

Statistics aside, this tweet served to underscore a point that social media practitioners like me have been preaching to businesses and brands for a long time. Lighten up.

You heard me. Take your work, not yourself, seriously. If the likes of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey can strike a pose for a rather silly selfie at their industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony, you can afford to let your hair down every once in a while, too.

In fact, if you really want to be a success on social media, you can’t afford not to be extemporaneous and extroverted, transparent and true to whom you are in real life, not just your corporate persona. Anything less and you’ll get lost in the clutter, overlooked and ignored for your self-promotional messages, business jargon and corporate speak.

It’s the importance of the social in social media that far too many marketers, especially those in the B2B sector, still underestimate. Like trying to force a square peg into a round hole, they’re trying to repurpose the same strategies and tactics that may be working just fine on other channels. They’re trying too hard.

Those who get social media know that it’s far easier to simply be themselves on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. It’s far more effective, too. They know enough to be more impromptu than contrived, more conversational than scripted. They know that anything they can do to reveal their authentic selves will pay off more often than not.

That’s not to say they don’t have a solid social media plan in place, a plan steeped in the best practices and strategies associated with marketing and social commerce. Before doing anything, they do everything they can to learn the makeup of their audience, assess their competition, create new content, brainstorm ideas and identify the channels on which they’ll be promoting their products and services.

But not only does this plan include a comprehensive editorial calendar for sharing news, information and offers, it includes plenty of opportunities for real-time marketing and constituent engagement. It includes a mandate to be as candid as possible and to put a big smile on the brand.

After all, like any good sales person knows, people want to do business with someone they like and trust, someone who’s down to earth and who has a good sense of humor. Don’t be the brand who hides behind a logo and pretends to be omnipotent. Be humble, open-minded and responsive to your audience’s needs.

Jet Blue
For instance, take a look at how much fun JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue) has on Twitter. Despite being at the beck and call of a demanding public, they couldn’t be any more chipper, convivial and conversational on this channel. Cracking jokes, singing people’s praises and extending warm wishes to one and all, they’re as warm and welcoming an account as you’ll find on Twitter.

Contant Contact
Then there’s Constant Contact on Facebook. Not only do they go out of their way to provide a wealth of educational resources to their audience, they do so with pleasure. So much of what they share is informational and inspirational. So much of what they say is helpful and cheerful.

Marketing Profs
Finally, there’s Marketing Profs on Instagram, a feed that “celebrates all things marketing.” Check it out. You’ll see a nice collection of photos from their many special events, conferences and activities, including a handful of great people shots, too. And they always look like they’re having fun.

What about you? Are you having a good time on social media? Are you smiling on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like? Are you ready for your prime-time selfie?

Note: This post, “Smile, You’re on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on March 25, 2014 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 3, 2014 here.

10 Ways Your Brand Can Stand Out on Twitter

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With over 241 million active users on Twitter, more and more brands are realizing that establishing a presence there is no longer an option. It’s a must.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to get up and running on this social media channel. Building a substantial audience that hangs on everything you’re saying in 140 characters or less? Not so much.

Success on Twitter takes time as well as a deep knowledge of the best practices that only comes with experience through trial and error. Keeping an eye on what others are doing on the channel is an excellent way to learn the latest strategies and tactics as well.

To monitor how brands are using Twitter to capture the attention of their constituents, I’ve compiled a list of more than 500 businesses and brands on the channel, which I regularly scan for ideas and inspiration. What I’ve learned from this list and from my own work with clients is what I’d like to share with you now.

1. Newsjack What’s Hot. Taking advantage of trending news by writing about it as it is breaking can be a very effective way to inject your brand into the conversation IF it is done in a clever, timely and tasteful manner. The Grammys. The Academy Awards. The Olympics. Special events like these are ripe for the picking. For instance, during this year’s Super Bowl, many brands were playing the newsjacking game, sharing their quips in real time.
DiGiorno Pizza
Example: DiGiorno Pizza

2. Ask Questions. Any networker worth his or her salt knows the best way to win over an audience is to show an interest in what others have to say rather than to talk about yourself. Ask them anything. The more you ask them questions, the more likely they’ll be trust that you’re genuinely interested in their needs, interests and opinions. The more likely they’ll be to do business with you when the time comes.
Regus USA
Example: Regus USA

3. Engage with Other Brands. Back in the day, it would have been highly unusual – and nearly impossible – for one brand to talk to another. What would be the point? And without the Internet, there wasn’t really a good forum for such conversation, anyway. Social media changes everything. And today, now that most brands have the basics of Twitter down, they’re going where no brands have gone before, reaching out to one another for not just casual banter, but strategically timed engagement.
Hyundai USA
Example: Hyundai USA

4. Embrace Your Fans. People follow brands on Twitter for a number of reasons, one of which is for a digital autograph, a change to connect with someone or something they adore. One-on-one interaction is ideal. A retweet or a reply goes a long way with your fans. But if you’re too big or too busy to reach out to others individually, you can still at least acknowledge those who follow you in one fell swoop and thank them every once in a while.
New England Patriots
Example: New England Patriots

5. Talk about the Weather. What’s the one thing people talk about when they have nothing else to say? The weather! Everyone is interested in the forecast, the temperature and whether it’s sunny, raining or snowing outside. The weather is the lowest common denominator of conversation. It’s an opportunity for brands to talk about something that has universal appeal.
Power Bar USA
Example: PowerBar USA

6. Be Responsive. Given the fact that over 70% of users expect brands to get back to them on Twitter in under an hour (according to a Lithium Technologies report, it only makes sense that the quicker you respond to those who tag you, the better. Monitor the channel for mentions and questions. Unless they’re trolls, spammers or ridiculously rude people, everyone deserves a timely response.
Target
Example: Target

7. Have a Sense of Humor. Far too many brands take themselves too seriously on Twitter. For them, every single tweet is watered down, devoid of any personality whatsoever, never mind a sense of humor. Yet one of the best ways to stand out on this channel is to lighten up every once in a while. Laugh at yourself. Poke fun at others – in a harmless, good-natured way. Don’t hesitate to put a smile on the face of your brand.
Taco Bell
Example: Taco Bell

8. Give something away. Perhaps the easiest way to stand among the competition for attention on Twitter is to host a contest or sweepstakes. You don’t have to feature a big prize, either. Anything you have to offer is sure to draw interest. Make sure you abide by Twitter’s guidelines, though. There are probably more details involved than you realize. But if you play by the rules and your prize is desirable, you’ll likely be deluged with replies and entries.
AMC Theatres
Example: AMC Theatres

9. Be inspirational. Whether you’re marketing to businesses or consumers, don’t forget that you’re talking to other humans on Twitter. Sure, your ultimate objective may be to increase lead and sales, but that doesn’t happen overnight on Twitter. It happens over time. Start by helping your followers achieve both their personal and professional dreams. A little emotion goes a long way toward moving people to action and helping them separate the good tweets from those not worth their time.
Nike
Example: Nike

10. Share your knowledge. Speaking of being helpful, some of the most popular accounts on Twitter are those that provide insight and information to their followers. Like the most successful thought leaders, they share tips, tricks, facts and figures about the space in which their brands and followers live, work and play.
Moz
Example: Moz

Note: This post, “10 Ways Your Brand Can Stand Out on Twitter,” was originally published on ClickZ on February 25, 2014 here.

Twitter Guide to Newspapers, Magazines, TV and Radio Stations in the Boston Area

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Twitter Guide to Newspapers, Magazines, TV and Radio Stations in the Boston Area
Okay, native Bostonians — and those of you, like me, who are truly, madly, deeply in love with this wicked cool city — step right up. This guide’s for you.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that there are countless ways to stay enlightened, educated and entertained via traditional media around this town. You know the drill. You know which newspapers and magazines to read. You know which TV and radio stations to tune into when you want to catch up or chill out.

But do you know where those very same publishers and disseminators of content live on Twitter? Do you know their handles? Do you know what they’re saying and sharing in 140 characters or less?

That’s why I put together this guide. It’s designed to help you find, follow and engage with some of the most popular Boston-area media outlets on Twitter.

You can follow any of the individual accounts below. Just click the buttons. You can read their latest tweets in the embedded stream beneath the buttons. Or you can subscribe to the entire list — yes, the whole kit and caboodle in one fell swoop — on Twitter here.

Newspapers

 

Magazines

 

TV Stations

 

Radio Stations

 

Note: This post, “Twitter Guide to Newspapers, Magazines, TV and Radio Stations in the Boston Area,” was originally published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on May 30, 2014. To read the post there, click here.

The Buzz on Twitter about the 2014 Boston Marathon

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20140412_163310-680x240It’s not only the oldest annual marathon in the world, held on the third Monday of April, it’s one of the most popular road races of any distance among runners and spectators alike. It’s the legendary Boston Marathon, a 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston that began in 1897.

This year, of course, there is likely more attention being given to the Boston Marathon than any other year in its storied history. Understandably so. The 2013 Boston Marathon was tragically marred by two bomb explosions near the finish line that killed three spectators and injured over 200 others. This year, there will be 36,000 official entrants in the marathon and more emotions wrapped up in the event than ever.

What’s being said about the 2014 Boston Marathon on Twitter? Plenty. From the sponsors to the media, the runners to the fans, it seems everyone is weighing in on the marathon this year and counting down the days until April 21.

Here (below) are just some of the tweets I have seen about the event recently…

P.S. By the way, I’ll be updating this custom timeline frequently between now and sometime after the completion of the marathon, so don’t hesitate to check back often for the latest buzz.


Note: This post, “The Buzz on Twitter about the 2014 Boston Marathon,” was originally published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 13, 2014. To read the post there, click here.

Three Good Reasons to Tag Others in Tweets

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TAG
Years ago, before I was to deliver a farewell address at my last meeting as president of an industry trade group, a friend gave me some advice I remember to this day.

Mention lots of people in your speech, he told me. Name names. The more people, the better.

I couldn’t have agreed more. I took his advice to heart and rattled off as many names as possible. I thanked people for their help. I acknowledged them for their contributions. It felt good to be singing their praises.

20130404_132843Dale Carnegie certainly would have approved. After all, one of his “Six Ways to Make People Like You” in his classic book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” is to “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

I think of my friend’s advice – and Dale Carnegie’s book – when I write tweets, too. People like to both hear and see their names. In person. In print. And on Twitter.

Here are three good reasons to tag others – that is, to include their Twitter handles – in your own tweets.

1. It’s good form. You don’t want to talk too much about yourself on Twitter. You want to be a good conversationalist and pay attention to others. Ask people about their backgrounds and interests. Praise them for their accomplishments. Thank them for their feedback. Share third-party content more than your own, giving credit where credit’s due by tagging the author and source whenever possible.

2. It’s more credible. Some people are hesitant to click on a link if they don’t know its origin. Adding “via,” “from,” or “by” and a Twitter handle when you’re promoting other people’s content builds both trust and respect among your followers as well as those whom you tag.

3. It’s often reciprocated. One good deed leads to another. It’s the golden rule. Mention someone’s name on Twitter and chances are you’ll receive a reply. Tagging others in your tweets is not only the right thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. It leads to more engagement, more followers and more influence over time.

Note: This post, “Three Good Reasons to Tag Others on Twitter,” was originally published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on February 11, 2014. To read the post there, click here.