During this week’s SMX West conference, attendees got some insights on the best ways to build organic followers. ThinkGeek’s community management director, Carrie Gouldin shared some insights on what makes her company’s Twitter marketing campaign such a success. Here are the highlights.

1. Remember: Twitter is for storytelling, not spamming. Social marketing is really content marketing, and users want quality information. Although it’s hard to get across a thoughtful branded message in 140 characters or fewer, marketers might consider the tips from Google and Bing experts in a separate session – create great, timely website content and use Twitter as a place to share headlines and generate intrigue. Gouldin shared the insight that 81 percent of users follow fewer than 100 accounts; a brand’s social content has to be good to make the cut.

2. Consider a separate account for purely promotional Tweets. ThinkGeek as a specific account with the tongue-in-cheek handle @ThinkGeekSpam (which has significantly fewer followers) that it uses to share product pages. This enables them to build links and spread the word about their offerings, but people who don’t want a ton of product information won’t be turned off by the company’s overly promotional Tweets. In general, she’s found that non-company-specific content yields more retweets. A „fun geek fact“ got 100 times more retweets than an employee update.

3. Identify your peak inbound Tweet times. If businesses can determine when users are most likely to @mention them throughout the day, they’ll identify when their engaged audiences are most active. These are the times when companies should be sure to be tweeting heavily – both in the form of useful content and in @replies (which Brafton reports many marketers forget about).

4. Tweet the same content at different times of the day to find ideal sharing schedules. In the same vein as monitoring for peak inbound Tweets, Gouldin recommended that marketers should be looking for the times of day when their Tweets are most likely to be retweeted. She generally tries to avoid posting the same content in a given day (though Brafton has reported that second-chance Tweets are a good way to overcome content’s half life on the microblogging site), but she’s found that by sharing a piece of content at different times, she has been able to identify patterns in Retweet behaviors of her followers and posts accordingly.

5. Try tweeting photos with Twitpic and attribution rather than a link. A study from Web Liquid found that visual content on social sites garners more engagement for brands, and Gouldin suggests that fans respond better to @ThinkGeek visuals when they don’t have to navigate away from their feeds to see the images.

6. Use a variety of content for Twitter marketing. With more than 500 million users on Twitter, there are bound to be a wide array of users who could be interested in your products or services… and who will be interested in different types of information. Gouldin said she strives to share a mix of content for @ThinkGeek on a regular basis. Brands might consider adding blog marketing, infographics, curated content, video marketing, direct questions and more to their Twitter mix.

7. Get to the meat of shared content. If you’re sharing video content, upload the specific clip you think followers will find relevant rather instead of the whole video. Or, for article or blog marketing, lead in with the stat or quote that will most appeal to users rather than using the whole headline. (This is also a good way to repurpose a link to the same content page without posting a totally redundant Tweet.)

These strategies work well for ThinkGeek, which was nominated for a Shorty Award for its top Twitter campaign.

While these SMX tips are great for marketers looking to build their organic Twitter following, more news about the microblogging site may be useful for those hoping to put a little paid promotion behind their Tweets. As Brafton reported, the company announced this week that it will bring Promoted Tweets to mobile audiences.