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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. I just started using Twitter after reading your article. I was hoping to find out how to grow the number of followers in Twitter as I think that’s where the traffic to your blog will come from but didn’t see it here. Neverthless good information for starters like me.

    Legitimate Home Internet Business

  2. This is an excellent post on the reality of Twitter and it’s application in online marketing and super, duper recommendations…

    A permanent in my “must reads” for all new clients!

    Thanks!
    Maria :-)

  3. Gillian says:

    Very very useful – thanks so much for being generous and sharing this with bloggers. I shall now start twittering !

  4. MeoMee says:

    i just apply for twitter yesterday from someone to talk about this in his blog

    And today i know useful from your problogger so excite ! because you post on January.

    You are so update !

    Thank

  5. wijit says:

    Thank a lot.
    I’ll try to follow you on twitter.

  6. Thanks Darren,

    Just what I needed to make sense of using Twitter.

    John McLaughlin, Stock Day Trader’s – Consultant / Coach

  7. TeasasTips says:

    I have to remind myself to be more active…I just started a couple of weeks ago

  8. Dan says:

    Wow, I just started to look into this Twitter stuff. Looks like something that will makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the good ideas for being new to Twitter.

  9. Bryan says:

    I never paid attention at all to the whole Twitter thing until reading your post on the potential benefits for bloggers – thanks for the great article!

  10. Titus says:

    Thanks Darren for the great tips on Twitter.

    After reading a Willie Crawford article on the
    benefits of using Twitter from a marketing perspective,
    I finally decided to check it out… your helpful blog post
    was my first stop. Must get cracking!

    Thanks Again…

  11. Chris says:

    Great post as always. One tool I like to use is http://www.TweetLater.com This tool will help you tweet when you are away because it lets you set up post dated tweets. It also has a feature that will automatically follow those that follow you which is a great way to increase interaction on Twitter.

    if anyone would like to follow me on Twitter here is my profile: http://www.twitter.com/stirls

    cheers
    Chris

  12. kidkiller says:

    add me too ya ~
    http://www.twitter.com/myblog2day

    thanks for Darren for giving this tips on twitter..i wan traffic i wan traffic !!

  13. I have been trying to understand the value of twitter for some time now. This posting has definitely cleared up some questions. Thanks Darren.

  14. Tracy says:

    I’ve been thinking about how authors can effectively use twitter in addition to their blog. So far, I’ve come up with this – http://www.tracymarchini.com/2008/09/tweet-me-story.html – tweeting independent stories that are 160 words or less. Not sure if it’ll catch on, but would love to hear some feedback.

    cheers!

  15. SEOGuy says:

    I haven’t yet started using Twitter very much. But I have looked at several other URL’s talking about Twitter just today. One was an obvious promotional article for a piece of software.

    And then you arrive delivering top of the line information. Perhaps the article was a bit long, but informative it sure was. Thanks for writing an article that people will want to visit time and time again.

    SEOGuy
    http://ViralMarketing4U.com

    PS: I’m looking for Expert Authorities within the Internet Marketing community. If you would be interested in being my Twitter Expert I’d like to hear from you.

    After only 4 months…
    Google PR2
    Alexa low 2 mill, started at 7mill

    Please let me know if I can add you as a valuable contributor to my website.

  16. TeasasTips says:

    I use Twitter to connect to members of my niche audience. The beauty of Twitter for me, is that my niche is newbies who are looking for someone to connect with who has a “perceived” expertise about the subject. This is working fine for me as I join forums where my audience is, and pose the simple question, “do you Twitter?” This usually leads to what is that, or yes or a no. In any event, it sparks curiosity, people follow me, because it makes them feel like they are onto something new in marketing (which they are) and that it can help their own brand virally, and quickly.

  17. Gloson says:

    Wonderful tips. That should improve me as a twitterer. The part that inspired me was the ‘be unique and original and creative’ part. I never wrote a long informative helpful post before. You’re great, Darren. Oh, and by the way, my account is http://twitter.com/gloson

  18. I want to learn more about
    Twitter, and l would like to
    follow you.
    I am having keyboard problems.
    Joe
    lajollartist858

  19. D3Marketers says:

    Valuable tips to improve my twittering. Have already followed you on twitter recently when I found your site.

    Thanks and keep on sharing sir!

  20. Madhu says:

    My blog
    http://gangetic.blogspot.com is nearly 2 months old. Since past week I have been wondering that why google has not given pagerank to my blog yet. But after reading this article I have realised that my last blog post was 1 week back and i have not also added any tweet to my twitter page

    http://twitter.com/mtata23

    If I have to bring traffic to my blog. I should be more regular. Thanx problogger. Once again one of your blog post has inspired me.

  21. Gary Neame says:

    What I found useful to get great captions twits. Is I go to google news and put in the niche I tweet about, and then look for the best headline. Get’s good results:

    Thanx for a great blog:

  22. Chris says:

    Your post offers some good insight and some direction for a question I’ve had regarding using Twitter to drive business and how to use tweets, how much personal tweeting should you do. Thinking about goals and my profile, I agree with your thought of a second Twitter profile to accomplish a different set of goals. Thanks for posting!

  23. This is an eye opening article for the webmaster who wants to familiarize web site

  24. Please add this add on with the previous comment. my twitter presence id http://twitter.com/viswaminfotech

  25. Scott Smith says:

    Great advice here – I just wanted to add one more resource that I cannot live without.

    I use TwitterLater at http://www.twitterlater.com to pre-sechedule tweets along with my real time tweets.

    It make is much easier to stay active keep my folks at http://www.motivationtomomove.com that follow me active and happy. Just my two cents.

  26. Crudie says:

    I have really been missing the boat on the “reply” aspect of Twitter. Off I go now.

    Timeless post Darren, I could also learn from that. Keeping some post useful for months, maybe years to come.

  27. When are you coming out with the book, Tweeting for Dummies?

    By Marion TD Lewis, Blogger
    http://www.divorcesaloon.com

  28. Karl Rohde says:

    This is quite an old post, but still relevant.

    I took a look at Twitter when it first came out and basically put it in the virtual round filing cabinet.

    Months and months later, I have revisited it, and see it’s relevance in the modern world on “boot-strap” marketing.

    Very excited about leveraging it’s benefits in 2009; a couple of year late. Not to worry, it’s never to late to start.

  29. Jai Cole says:

    Great info, thank you. Can you tell me how the # works, I can’t find info anywhere

  30. jane says:

    I have just signed up for twitter today.

    Not very sure how to use it correctly though so google it and it shows your blog.

    Really insightful tips you have here dude.

    Thanks for sharing such valuable information on using twitter. :)

    Cheers !

    Jane
    http://www.fapturboofficial.info

  31. Floyd Hayes says:

    Very hand tippage, thanks.

    Any thoughts on non-profit and cause-related twittering?

    Thanks.

    Floyd.

  32. diyan says:

    I realize that using twitter will impact my brand and traffic to my site, so thanks for the tips

  33. seo says:

    Very hand tippage, thanks.

    Any thoughts on non-profit and cause-related twittering?

    Thanks.

  34. Pat says:

    Just a little thing which I’m surprised no one else seems to have noticed. You may want to correct the paragraph in which you wrote that one wouldn’t want to appear “unapproachable and allusive.” Surely the word that you were struggling to remember was elusive. An allusion is an implied reference or hint.
    Words are wonderful and powerful, but only when correctly used.

  35. lynn oakes says:

    Nice notes spread the moo moo love and twitterMoi:
    @MilkyMooMoo

    Happy moo-ing —-I mean twittering

  36. Nick says:

    I now have a twitter account because of this article. Im gonna try it out and see if it helps.

  37. Hi darren

    Excellent article…I think I would also like to add my tip- don’t try to be something your not…it the best way to destroy confidence. be yourself and enjoy.

    Cheers Craig

  38. izzy rocks says:

    Yeah …. tweeting can be fun but i have lots to learn about this and this post is kinda a good starter.
    Thanks for sharing….
    http://www.myboxpro.com

    Cheers,
    Izzy

  39. Twitter_nut says:

    Darren – great article. Although I would like to add the benefits of the so called ‘help engines’ – namely Twitter. Many people are using Twitter to solve their questions – something they may previously of done through a SE. Poor man’s e-mail? No way!

  40. Great tips. Twitter has been invaluable way in promoting our coupons, deals and cash back site.

    Anyone Twitter, follow me at http://twitter.com/allshoppingdeal

    Thanks for sharing….

    Before you buy online, always check http://www.dollarise.com
    to find your merchant to earn cash back on your online shopping.

  41. Pisco says:

    Thank you for the info
    Here in SouthAmerica, twitter is just starting off

  42. twitter says:

    Great tips on using Twitter.

    I think it may be time for me to get my own Twitter page.

    What do you think?

  43. golddust7 says:

    Great advice. Thought this might be useful to your readers. I am new to twitter and found this extremely useful. Easy to setup, Step by step, automated system to get 16,000 followers or more in 90 days, and make money while you do so.
    http://bit.ly/HM2oZ

  44. Yanak says:

    Hey Darren i am new to twitter, you have posted great tips. hope these will help

  45. fabien says:

    Excellent post! Thank you.

    10 twitter tips for professionals http://betterdot.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/10-twitter-tips-for-professionals/

  46. well good detailed info about twitter there.
    well after extensive research twitter can be a huge money maker if you want!!
    but first you have to tweet frequently and have more followers.
    inform me if you have any help with you twitter!
    i will be glad to help if possible
    check the latest manga and anime here!
    http://www.kedaimanga.com

  47. For us the best use of twitter would be to use and become an expert in some niche field or industry. Ofcourse, for the general public who wants to socialize, the idea of creating a twitter social circle makes sense too. Twitter has recently injected a lot of capital into it’s operations. Keep an eye on this, we expect some drastic changes/improvements in the whole twitter operation.

  48. I like this tips and homework, all the questions direct me to think more about what i have done so far.

    Thanks Darren, i am following your tweets,

    Follow me on Twitter at
    http://twitter.com/successrev

  49. music says:

    I just know about twitter and want to know more about this.
    Thanks for this good information.

  50. Insights says:

    how does a twitter feed works? I have the twitter icon in my blog but I think it doesnt help much. thanks.