For those looking to grow a more focused following then targeting a country or language may be a logical place to start. There are ways to achieve this, but before you embark on this path there are a few things to keep in mind.
For the purpose of this guide I will refer to country and language targeting interchangeably as the same thing, or as targeting by geography. This is because they are both very broad in nature, and are achieved using similar methods of promotion.
Twitter is inherently open
Twitter was not built with country and language in mind. It is inherently open to allow anybody to follow anyone else. There is an option to make your account private, but to be honest that is counter-productive when you are trying to grow an audience. If you are looking to build a closed network of friends or acquaintances then Facebook and LinkedIn are probably better suited to the job. If you put your name up on a billboard then you will attract attention, potentially from people all over the world.
It may be unnecessary admin
Although you can focus your effort on certain geographies, it’s very hard to actually stop people from following you if they fall outside of them. You can block them if you want, but you may spend unnecessary hours doing this for very little gain. At the end of the day, unless you follow someone back they will not have any impact on your twitter profile or timeline.
Secondary benefits from ‘other’ followers
If you pick up some followers outside of your target geography then they may still provide some secondary benefits to you. They will increase your follower count, providing some small boost to your social proof, and they may retweet or like your tweets (an increase in engagement may improve the ranking of your tweets as twitter evolves it’s timeline algorithms). If they are connected to people in your target geography then they may end up passing your message on to them.
It makes sense if money is being spent
If you are using paid promotion such as twitter ads or twiends featured display, then it might make sense to use country targeting if your brand has this requirement. If you only sell your product or service into a certain market then you may want to make your promotion dollars go further by focusing on your target market.
The ‘spill over’ may be small
If you use the right type of promotion to target a geography then you should only collect a small number of ‘outside’ followers along the way – what I like to call ‘spill over’. My advice would be not to fret too much about this, unless the spill over becomes very large or time-consuming from an admin perspective.
How to target countries
Whether you are doing broad or targeted promotion, there are ways to focus on a country. The first two methods are probably the most effective due to the fact that they create a firm technical filter for that country. The other techniques will also work, but may have a slightly higher ‘spill over’ into non-desired countries.
- Twitter ads allow you to choose countries when creating your ads, so regardless of any detailed targeting you select, your ads will only be shown to users in those countries.
- Twiends allows you to choose up to 50 countries when you list yourself. Whether you use paid featured display or participate freely, your profile will only be shown to users in those countries.
- Contests can be focused by giving away prizes that can only be used in a certain country, and by announcing that only entrants from the target countries will be eligible.
- Outreach can be done using the location field that users provide, or the geo-location of their tweets. When searching for people to connect with use your target keyword and the ‘near:location’ operator. It’s not exact, but it will give you some quick easy wins, and you can move onto other 3rd party tools afterwards.
- Material can be focused in-country. If you are creating content to attract followers you can craft it so that it only has local appeal.
- Guest blogging can be focused towards publications that have a local audience.
- Following back those that have followed you can be restricted to those that fall within your required area.
A note on accuracy
Platforms like twiends and twitter ads use IP geolocation data to place users. Although this is very accurate it is not without error occasionally. IP ranges are traded between internet service providers which can cause some users to be miss-classified periodically. But these cases are rare.
The location field used by users is also notoriously inaccurate and not standardized. Some people may say NYC, others New York City, and others Big Apple. You may need to use 3rd party tools when searching using this field. If you use the ‘near:location’ and ‘within:..mi’ search operators then these may only return results for user who are geo-tagging their tweets.
How to target languages
Unfortunately this is where it gets tricky. Language detection is a much harder mechanism for platforms to implement and they do have a higher margin of error. Systems may be able to detect a language accurately, but not be able to tell if it is someone’s first or second language. You can absolutely achieve good results here, but there will be some spill over to other language followers for some of these methods.
Outreach: Search filtering
When using outreach as a growth method you can use the twitter language operator to filter your searches for potential targets. As an example, if you were looking for french speaking people who used the word ‘blogging’ you would search for ‘blogging lang:fr’. Again, this is not a perfect system, but it will give you some good initial results. Move onto 3rd party tools when you need to do this at a larger scale.
Twitter ads allow you to choose languages when targeting ad campaigns.
Country as proxy
A long established trick is to use country filtering as a proxy for language filtering. By carefully selecting a list of countries you can be reasonably certain that the majority of people will speak a certain language as either their first or second language.
For instance, if you wanted to target english you could choose the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ, South Africa, etc. You could even extend that to parts of Europe and Africa, and be fairly confident that your new followers speak english. The same is easily done with spanish, german, french, arabic, etc. It’s all a matter of how much ‘spill over’ is acceptable to you.
Language filtering usually only becomes an issue when you are doing broad promotion, such as on twiends. This is where you may be exposed to large numbers of new potential users in a short space of time. In this instance country filtering can be an effective solution.
When relying on other forms of promotion, such as contests, content and outreach, you will find that your efforts naturally attract same language followers, because the content you create will not be understood or of interest to foreign language speakers.
Putting it all together
If your brand or business is only relevant to certain countries and languages then by all means focus your efforts. Use the country and language filters available to you when using twiends and twitter ads, and focus your content and creatives on your target area.
Don’t lose too much sleep about spill over. If someone sends you a message in a foreign language then they have probably not looked at your profile and seen that you speak another language. That means they are probably relying on automation or may be spamming. Just block them and move on. For all the rest, they won’t do your account any harm…