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How to Use Twitter – Tips for Bloggers

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Yesterday I wrote about some of the benefits of using Twitter as a tool to improve your blog. I’ve seen tangible benefits of getting into Twitter over the last month – but it hasn’t been as simple as signing up for a Twitter account and then documenting every area of my life.

update: Check out my new Blog TwiTip for more Twitter Tips.

What follows is a compilation of the lessons I’m learning about how to use Twitter – some Twitter Tips for Bloggers if you like. Keep in mind that I’m very new to the medium and have made as many mistakes as anyone so far.

As mentioned yesterday – I’m a newbie to this medium so any of your own tips that you can add to these will be greatly appreciated.

Tips for Bloggers on How to Use Twitter

Define the Outcomes that You Want to Achieve

When I first started Twittering I gave little thought to my reasons for doing so. My Tweeting was unfocused and scattered – and so was the impact that it had. Before you write another ‘Tweet’ to your Twitter account ask yourself what you want to achieve from Twitter?

  • Do you want to build your profile and perceived expertise in a niche or industry?
  • Do you want to drive traffic to your blogs?
  • Do you want to use it to network with others in your niche?
  • Is it a branding exercise?
  • Do you want to show your readers a more personal side of yourself?
  • Is it more of a social exercise?

There are many things that Twitter can offer a blogger (check out my last post for more) – but one lesson I’ve already learned is that Twitter is a more effective tool if you know why you’re using it and focus in on just one (or a few) objectives rather than all of the above).

Suggestion: if your Twitter goals are wide – why not start multiple Twitter accounts – one for each objective. For example you could have a social one for your friends, one for each blog that you have to drive traffic and another to build profile.

Homework – grab a pen and paper or open up a text document and come up with your top 2-3 goals and objectives for Twitter.

Stay Disciplined with Your Objectives

Once you have your Twitter objectives set you need to work towards them. It’s like any goal or resolution that you make – you’ll only achieve what you set out to achieve if your actions match your objectives. This doesn’t mean that you can’t occassionally Tweet things in a way that is outside of your objectives (I mix mine up a bit) but it does mean that the majority of your tweets probably need to stay on track.

Homework – take the list of objectives that you’ve come up with and put them somewhere that you’ll see them regularly. Each time you twitter ask yourself – ‘is this Tweet getting me closer to these objectives?’

Be Original and Useful

This tip will sound familiar to those who’ve been reading ProBlogger for a while because it’s ProBlogger’s rule #1 when it comes to building a successful blog – build a blog that is unique and useful. If you build a blog like this people will keep coming back for more. The same is true for Twitter (in fact most of these tips can be applied to Twitter or blogging).

There are many thousands of people using Twitter – and there’s a lot of conversation buzzing around the Twittersphere. The problem is that it’s hard to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. Providing your followers with something original and useful is one way to do this. The benefits of doing so is that you’ll get people ‘replying’ to you – which catches the attention of those who follow them and can find you new followers.

Ultimately it’s about adding value to the conversations that are happening on Twitter. When you become someone who goes beyond adding to the noise of the Twittersphere you’ll become someone that people seek out and want to interact with.

Homework: Ask yourself a second question before you Tweet – ‘is this original and useful to my followers?’ If the answer is yes – publish it. If it’s not – either take a few extra moments to improve your Tweet or consider dropping it.

Learn that Every Tweet Counts

This is another thing that I speak about when it comes to blogging that also applies to Twitter. Every time you publish something on your Twitter account (or Blog) you can potentially improve or hurt your reputation, brand and profile. This is an important lesson to learn – particularly for Twitter where it’s so easy to post something out of anger, in a drunken moment or that could hurt your reputation in some way. Sure posting in this way can add ‘spice’ to your Twittering – but it can also hurt your reputation.

Monitor your Reply Ratio

There are two types of public ‘Tweets’ or posts that you can make on Twitter. The first is a normal Tweet (where you publish something that you’ve been thinking, post a link to a good post you’ve seen, share an idea, ask a question etc). The second is a ‘reply’ to something that someone else has said (an answer to a question, a question of your own, a suggestion etc).

Both types of Tweets are very important to building a successful Twitter experience. Publishing normal Tweets shares something of yourself and adds to the ‘orginal’ factor that I mentioned above. Replies take Twittering to a more personal and conversational level. They are also one way that can spread your profile wider (the more people reply to you the more chance of others seeing, joining the conversation and following you).

The challenge is to keep the ratio of normal Tweets to reply Tweets in balance. I don’t know that there is any one perfect ratio – but I do know that some Twitterers frustrate me by going to the extreme in one way or the other. There are dangers in the extremes:

If you reply too much you run the risk of just blending in to the noise of the Twittersphere. Your tweets can become less useful to your wider community of followers and can end up being confusing. Remember that most of your followers can only see half of the conversations that you’re having.

If you don’t reply enough you could be missing one of the real benefits of Twitter – that of the interaction and conversation that is possible. You can also end up coming across as unapproachable and allusive.

My own approach is to attempt to keep my replies down to a level where my ‘normal’ Tweets are appearing every few Tweets. If I find myself replying too much I attempt to throw in some non reply tweets or take things to direct messaging (see my next point).

Homework – do a little analysis of your ‘reply ratio’. How many replies do you send for every normal Tweet? Is this something that you’re comfortable with? You might even like to ask your followers directly if you reply too much or not enough? Another quick exercise is to look at some of your favorite Twitter users and see what their reply ratio is. I’d be interested to see someone do some analysis on this from top Twitter users.

Learn to Use Direct Messages

If your reply tweet ratio is out of balance in that you ‘reply’ too much a good way to combat the problem is to consider using direct messages. My own approach to this is that I almost always publicly ‘reply’ to something that someone has Tweeted the first time – but if the conversation continues I’ll take the conversation to ‘direct messages’ after the second or third reply unless I think the conversation has something of value to my wider following community.

Ask Questions

One of the most effective types of Tweets that I’ve done is to ask my followers questions.

I highlighted the power of asking questions in yesterday’s post when I asked followers about their RSS subscribing habits (there are now over 50 or so replies).

  • Asking a relevant question will draw many followers out of lurk mode and into an active engagement with you.
  • Asking questions will draw people to ‘reply’ which (as I’ve already mentioned) will have a viral impact as those answering will show their own followers that they follow you
  • Asking questions is great for helping you to learn which can be very useful if you’re researching a blog post
  • Asking questions can lead to fruitful discoveries and real relationships with followers

I don’t ask questions with every Tweet – but try to throw one in most days.

Example a quick example of using a question was my recent Twitter Poll on how people use Twitter on the weekend. The question got around 40 responses, started some interesting discussion and over the 30 minutes that it ran for I had an extra 30 followers join up.

Bonus tip: once people have stopped replying to your question report back to your followers what the results were. This keeps the conversation going and gives followers a sense of how their response fits into the overall response.

Don’t be a self centered Twitterer

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been twittering from my feed reader and Tweeting the best links and posts that I find on other people’s blogs.

The tool I use for this is this Firefox add-on (and alternative is this one). In a sense what I’m doing is ‘speedlinking’ to posts about blogging.

What I’ve found in doing this is that I get a lot of replies and direct messages from followers thanking me for these links and asking me questions about them. It seems to be helping my own profile and perceived expertise to be seen to be across what’s going on in my niche.

I think it also helps to balance the Tweets that I’m doing that are more self serving (pointing links to my own posts). My Twittering becomes more about the niche of blogging about blogging and less about me – I think that this is more useful to my followers.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re using Twitter to promote yourself or your blog (and this is fine) then it might be worth considering how you can add some variety to your Twittering by also promoting the quality work of others (note: don’t just link to others for the sake of it – keep the quality high and links relevant).

Question: what is your ‘self linking’ to ‘linking to others’ ratio? Could you mix it up a little more?

Be Active

I was asked yesterday how I’ve manged to grow my Twitter followers up to the 1000 mark in just a few weeks. There are numerous reasons (including that I’ve promoted my Twitter account on my blog) – but I do think that the number one reason is that I’ve been quite active and using the medium more and more.

The more you Twitter the more chance you’ll get others find you through others replying to you. I’ve noticed the days that I Tweet more than others are the days I get most followers.

Forgetting to Tweet? – one of my biggest problems in the early days was forgetting to Tweet. It wasn’t a natural part of my daily rhythm. So I decided to remind myself by setting aside a few minutes in the mornings and a few minutes in the evenings to specifically use Twitter. I even set alarms in my calendar to remind me. Since moving to a tool like Twhirl (see below) I find that I’m reminded more regularly and see new Tweets from others come in – this has helped me be more regular on Twitter myself.

Promote Your Twitter Feed

The other reason that I’ve been able to grow my followership is that I’ve actively promoted my Twitter profile in numerous places. I’ve added a link to it in the footer of this blog, on my contact page and have posted about it here on ProBlogger numerous times over the last month. I’ve also added it to my facebook profile and have mentioned it to others that I know use Twitter.

It’s like promoting a blog – you want to leverage the profile that you might already had when launching a new project. Don’t spam people with it or force it down their throat but don’t be afraid to promote that you’re Twittering.

Homework – if your Twittering is relevant to your blog – think about where you could add a link to your Twitter profile.

Connect with Others in Your Niche

I want to connect with as many Twitter users as possible – however there are some that I’ve attempted to connect with more than others – simply because they are people who are active in niches that I interact in.

Really this comes back to your objectives – if you want to become known in your niche and build your own profile in it then you need to be interacting with others who are also in that niche. Add yourself as a follower to other key Twitterer users, add value to these people’s conversations, interact with them via direct messaging etc.

Homework – go Twitter Surfing. The best way that I’ve found to add find people who are Twittering in my niches is to simply go surfing. Start with those that follow you and see who else they are following and what they Twitter about. You’ll find that these followers will lead you to others (and so on).

Pick an Avatar and Profile Page that Reinforces Your Brand

Twitter doesn’t allow a lot of customization – but the subtle things that it does allow you to change can have an impact.

Your Avatar is one important factor – it appears next to every Tweet you make as well as on your profile page. If you just allow the default brown avatar to represent you you’re missing a great marketing opportunity. I would recommend using an avatar that reinforces your brand. If you’re brand is YOU then a picture of you would be worth adding. If your brand is your blog – then use a logo of some kind.

Similarly your profile page can be tweaks with an image and colors. I’ve not really done a lot with colors but added a ProBlogger Logo to mine to reinforce that in the mind of those who follow ProBlogger. I’m not completely satisifed with this yet and have it on my to-do list to think through a better way to do this.

Question – what does your avatar and profile page say about you? Does it add to your brand?

Consider Your Personal Tweet Strategy

This is one that I’ve grappled with a bit. In the earlier days of my Twittering I posted more personal Tweets than I currently do. Some followers seemed to like this but others were quite vocal about not liking them. I realized that my objectives for using Twitter were not for it to be a personal space – so I cut back the personal Tweets.

Having said this – I do include some more personal tweets from time to time as I think it can show a different side of you to your followers and add interest. However for me it’s about keeping things in balance.

Find Your Voice

I think it’s important to think about the voice that you Tweet in. One thing that I’ve found followers responding to is by Twittering in a more humorous voice. Telling a funny story or posting the occasional funny link can show a more personal side of you. Other Twitter users seem to get good responses from people when they Tweet in a more gruff and blunt tone. I guess it’s about finding what works for you.

Try Different Twitter Tools

There are a good variety of twitter tools available to help you manage your twittering. One of the things that stopped me getting into Twitter in the early days was that I only used it when I thought to go to my actual Twitter page. On discovering desktop twitter clients my Twittering changed completely. They are like instant messaging tools that notify you of when people make updates and more importantly when replies and direct messages come in. They also make adding a Tweet as easy as typing an instant message.

I use Twhirl as my Twitter client of choice at the moment – but there are many other methods. I’ve also tried and liked:

  • Twitterific – another desktop Twitter client (mac)
  • Tweetbar – twitter from the sideb ar of Firefox

Another useful tool if you want to promote your Blog’s posts to Twitter is Twitterfeed.

There are many other tools to try and experiment with. Frantic Industries has a good list as does Mashable.

I think the key is to try different tools and find the one that fits with your own rhythm.

Work With the Rhythm of Your Followers

I linked above (in the ‘question’ section) to a poll I did of my followers asking whether they used Twitter more or less on weekends. The results were:

  • More: 3
  • Less: 21
  • Same: 8

This is useful information to know and on many levels makes sense. With this in mind you can time your Tweets to get maximum impact. Obviously the time of day has an impact also. As someone in Australia I notice this quite a bit with a real lull during my afternoons when the US is asleep.

This doesn’t mean that ‘dead’ times are a waste of time – in fact I find Twittering in these times can be good because it’s easier to cut through the noise of busier times.

Take home lesson: experiment with different times and days to see what impact they have.

What Twitter Tips Would You Add?

Like I said in my introduction to this post. I’m early on in my journey with Twitter and still have a lot to learn. I’d love to hear from other bloggers who use Twitter – particularly to hear how you’ve used it to improve your blog in any way.

Update – for more Twitter Tips visit TwiTip.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Casey says:

    Thanks for the information, I have been trying to learn to use twitter for a while and I believe I am finally starting to get it.

    This post was helpful to me so I shared this link with my users in this post http://www.yolablogger.com/index/why-use-twitter-benefits-of-twitter

  2. Ebony says:

    Great insight! I am new to the twitter world and have been going about rather aimlessly to promote my brand. Will definitely heed your advice.