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Building Your Twitter Presence Part 2 – Pre-Prepared Tweets

Pre-Prepared-TwitterYesterday I wrote 5 tips to help increase your follower numbers on Twitter. Thanks to everyone for your comments and suggestions on the topic.

As I read over the comments I realized that there were a few more things that I’d been learning on how to use Twitter that might be worth sharing. So over the coming few days I’ll pick up a few threads of thought that your comments sparked for me on the topic of growing your Twitter Presence. Today I want to talk about a tactic that I’ve used a little lately that might help those of you who don’t live in parts of the world where the majority of your followers live.

Pre-Prepare Your Tweets

This one is going to probably rub some Twitter users up the wrong way because it is a medium which is very spontaneous and immediate – but I pre-prepare and plan a portion of my tweets.

This is something that I do with a minority of the things I do on Twitter but for two main reasons I find that it is helpful to have some Tweets that ‘I prepared earlier’.

1. My Time Zone – As mentioned in my earlier post, living in a time zone which is almost completely opposite to that of my followers can be frustrating. When I was in the US earlier in the year I realized just what I was missing out on when I suddenly was about to use Twitter in the same time zone.

For me the times that I am awake when my followers are awake are either when I first wake up (7am-9am) and just as I’m heading for bed (10pm onwards). The problem is that in these times I’m not really at my best. I tend to have more insightful things to say, better questions to ask and more value to add to conversations at mid morning here in Australia.

As a result if I think of something to Tweet during the day that is timeless (ie it’s not related to the here and now) then I sometimes save it to Tweet late at night or first thing in the morning.

2. Timing is Everything – Twitter is a medium where timing is very important. As already mentioned, if you Tweet something when your followers are asleep and it’ll go largely unread. However even in peak times if you tweet something profound just after you’ve tweeted 10 other things and it could go unnoticed – lost in the crowd of your own tweets. As a result I find that sometimes the best time to Tweet is after a pause in the conversation.

For example sometimes I might think of something new to Tweet in the middle of another Twitter Conversation but wait until everyone has had their say on the last topic before starting a new one. I find that if I do I have a lot better response rate than if I’m talking to three people about three things at once.

Tools for Pre-Tweeting - My Twitter followers will know that a month or two back I went on the hunt for tools that would allow me to ‘Pre-Tweet’ or schedule my Tweets to go off at particular times – just like most blog platforms allow you to set a post to go off at scheduled times. There are a couple of services that allow this – they are TweetLater and TweetAhead. I should point out that I’ve had mixed results with them – particularly TweetAhead which lost tweets and mistimed others. As they say on their site – they need more servers. TweetLater looks promising though, I’ve used it 5 times so far and it’s been perfect so far.

While these tools are useful – I tend to take a simpler approach. I have a text file open on my desktop where I keep my prepared tweets. It currently has a few questions to ask, a quote or two to share and a few links that I want to share also.

As mentioned above – I only pre-prepare a minority of my Tweets. I do like the medium for it’s spontenaity and fast flowing interaction and if all of your tweets were dryly pre-tweeted I think it’d reflect on your follower’s experience.

How I Increased Page Views on My Forum by 66.7% in a Month

Last month at Digital Photography School I ran the biggest competition that I’ve ever run (on that blog). I put a $729 Nikon DSLR up for grabs for one lucky active member in my the forum attached to the blog.

The competition was successful in my mind but today while I was doing a little analysis on it I thought it might make an interesting case study for ProBlogger. I hope you find it useful as you consider the option of running competitions to promote your blogs. Note: I’ve previously written on How to run a successful competition on your blog – and much of my strategy for this one was based upon that.

The Goal - the aim of the exercise was simple. To sign up new members to my forum and increase page views. My hope was to have a bumper month but also get new members signed up to have an ongoing impact on overall activity going forward.

The Competition – The idea was simple. Every post made by a forum member put them in the running to win the DSLR. Every time they made a post it was another entry. I’d run these types of competitions before so I knew the principle worked.

My Concern and The Risk – What did worry me a little was that in putting up a prize to that value I could actually be spending more than I was going to make out of the increased traffic. I figured if I could increase ad sales by $24.30 per day over the month I’d break even (although any ongoing increase would mean profit).

I did try to find a sponsor for the camera so as not to have to shoulder the load alone but while DPS has good traffic (it currently does 1 millions visits a month) it’s still seen as a small fish by the camera manufacturers and retailers (if anyone knows anyone at Nikon or Canon etc – please shoot us an introductory email as I’d love to find someone in those companies who is interested in interacting with blogs).

Results: Traffic

The easiest way to measure the performance of the competition is to look at the Raw Traffic data. The following graph is for Pages Viewed on the forum for 2008 so far.

Picture 4.jpg

You can see that the forum was kicking along at a steady pace before 3 April when I announced the forum but that on the first day page views almost doubled. They then tapered off a bit during the month but stayed higher for the full month of the competition than they had been previously.

Here is the page views of the forum for the month of the competition) compared with the page views of the forum for the previous month (green). Over the full month traffic was increased 66.7%.

Picture 5.png

Interestingly the last 7 days since the competition finished we’ve seen a drop off in page views but it’s still 35% higher than for the 7 days before the competition so the longer term impact of the competition seems to have been to increase overall traffic beyond the competition itself.

Results: New Members

Recruiting new members to the forum was another goal of the competition. We’d had an influx in January of 1803 new sign ups as a result of a previous smaller competition but since had been around the 1200 per month. April however saw a boost in numbers by an extra 2823 members.

new members.png

Now not all of them will convert to ongoing active members but they are all signed up and most have opted in to receive updates from the forums which means there’s a higher chance of drawing them back next time we do a promotion.

Results: Activity

Another bonus related to increased traffic is the increases in user activity on the forum. Here’s the increase in new ‘threads’ to the forum (up from the 1500′s to just over 4000 for the month)

new-threads.png

And here is the increase in new posts (up from 1400 per month to over 43000 for the month).

new-posts.png

This increase in activity is good in my mind for a couple of reasons. Firstly it’s about reader engagement. Every time someone made a post they had DPS further enmeshed in their minds. When you post regularly to a forum for a month you’re more likely for that to become a habit, you’re more likely to remember the brand of DPS when they next need information on photography etc.

The other thing about new posts and threads is that it’s new pages of content on your site. Every time a new post and thread goes up on the forum you have another page of user generated content for the search engines to find, index and rank you for. Every new page is a potential new doorway into your site.

Results: Earnings

So did I make my money back? While seeing an increase in profits for the month wasn’t my main priority I did want to make at least enough back from the competition to pay for the camera that I was giving away.

While I’m not going to go into details of exact earnings of the site I can reveal that the increased activity on the forum did see it’s earnings go up by over the required $24.30 a day needed to pay for the camera. It wasn’t a great deal more but considering it is still up the impact of the competition will make it a profitable event into the future.

The Downside

So far it’s sounding fairly rosy isn’t it. Increases in traffic, members, activity and even earning are all good. However there was two downsides.

1. Moderation Workload – I have an amazing team of moderators to DPS but the month of April was the hardest that they’ve ever worked. I totally underestimated the extra load upon them in setting up this competition. It has made me reconsider how I run future competitions.

2. Impact upon Quality of Reader Interaction – over all the increased activity of the site brought in some wonderful new members who are interacting on the site with genuine interaction. However a small number of new members were just there for the competition – even though I made it clear that spammy entries wouldn’t win. This impacted moderators workloads but also the overall morale on the site a little. I think we managed to contain it but again – next time I run a competition it’ll not be based upon post numbers but rather some sort of quality level of interaction.

Overall I think the competition was well worthwhile. Yes, I made a few mistakes but I’ve learned a lot from it and am looking forward to the next one I will run.

Would You Read Your Blog? – A Guest Post by…. Me

Over the coming weeks and months I will be joining a team of bloggers to blog on the new ScribeFire blog. ScribeFire is a Firefox extension that allows you to blog from within your browser. They’ve just announced the release of version 2.1.

I’m going to be covering some similar topics to what I’m doing here at ProBlogger and will start off by looking at the topic of growing your blog’s readership.

You can see my first guest post which just went up at Would You Read Your Blog? The Secret to Building Traffic.

Following Paths vs Leaving Trails

“Do not follow where the path leads, Rather go where there is no path, and leave a trail.” – David Perkins

I’ve not been able to get this quote out of my head since hearing it over the weekend. I shared it last night on Twitter and half a dozen people replied quickly that it’d impacted them quite a lot so I thought I’d share it again here on ProBlogger.

There’s a lot that could be said about it and how it applies to blogging successfully – but I think I’ll just let it sit with you and see what it says to you).

update Mark from Creativitity asks – “Name 10 blogs that leave trails. They don’t have to even be successful. They just have to be taking risks.”

I think that’d be a great exercise. What blogs do you think are living out the quote?

5 Tips to Grow Your Twitter Presence in 2012

Twitter has a stronghold on the blogosphere, yet sometimes, it’s hard to be heard. If you’re struggling to grow your Twitter following, you’re not alone.

I have more than 160,000 followers now, and quite a few readers have asked how I’ve grown my following. Here are my tips.

1. Leverage your other “engagement media” profiles

Do you have an existing online profile somewhere outside of Twitter (big or small)? Use it to springboard into Twitter. If it’s a blog, mention that you’re using Twitter in a post, add Twitter sharing buttons to your home page and individual posts, and link to it from your profile and contact pages.

Tweet button

My posts all display a Tweet button

If you’re on Facebook, use one of the numerous tools or apps available to republish your tweets to Facebook. If you promote your blog on Google+, share your Tweets there. Using Pinterest? Cross-pollinate between those followers and your Twitter followers to maximize the return on the time you’re investing in social media.

It goes without saying that you should add Twitter, along with your other social media account details, to your email signature, business card, and so on. The same applies with any online (or even offline) presence that you have—link to your Twitter page and link to it often.

2. Tweet often—but leave space for engagement

The more active you are on Twitter, the more likely you are to have others find and follow you. However, tweet too frequently and you run the risk of losing followers. I try to stick to one topic at a time and create pauses between them to let others interact.

Striking the right balance takes time and experimentation. Watch who retweets your updates—and which updates they’re sharing—to get a sense of your strongest advocates.

And be sure to engage with those who share your updates and those who respond to you. Thank them, answer their questions, and ask them why they likes that tweet or this post. Consider this engagement part of your ongoing market research for your blog, and your social media strategy.

3. Get talking

The secret to building your follower list is interaction. I get most new followers on those days when I interact with other Twitter users_and over time, that’s grown to a massive number of people.

We call them @ replies but you can, of course, also use the @_name functionality to engage with people you don’t know or follow—and who don’t know or follow you.

Asking questions is perhaps the best way to get conversational on Twitter. Get ten people to answer a question you’ve tweeted and if even just one person retweets one of those ten replies (or your original question), you’ll have gained exposure to whole new rafts of potential followers.

Just as important is to participate in other people’s conversations. Reply to their questions and ideas as much as possible.

The key with Twitter really is shared interests. people will share your tweets with their followers if they think you share a common interest with them, and your tweet is relevant. So, be conversational about topics that will interest others. Be conversational in a way that encourages your followers to reach out to their own networks.

Sharable tweets

Make your tweets resonate with a broad audience

Finally, you might find your first few engagements on Twitter easiest if you’re not talking about yourself—I find I do better when I’m not talking about me! No one likes to hang around with people who just talk about themselves, so get the balance right between talking about yourself and talking about others and other topics of interest.

4. Provide optimal value

Tweeting on a personal level is fun and for many that’s as far as it goes, but if you’re interested in growing your Twitter influence, you need to provide your followers, and potential followers, with value.

It’s the same principle as growing a blog—if you help enhance people’s lives in some way they are more likely to want to track with you, read more of what you have to say, and share your ideas with others.

Make your conversations matter on some level. Sure you can throw in personal tweets and have some fun, but unless you’re providing something useful to people (information, entertainment, news, education, etc.) they probably won’t follow you for long, or share your content with their own networks.

5. Tweet in peak times

Last week I tracked when I had new Twitter followers add me, and found (as I expected) that the frequency of follows where made during business hours in the USA.

Tweeting at the times when your followers are online only increases the chances of their finding and adding you to their lists, and sharing your tweets—timing certainly affects sharing on Facebook, and if you look at your retweet stats, you’ll find it does on this network, too.

My being situated in Australia can have some positives and negatives, but one of the things I don’t enjoy about it is that I miss out on a lot of interaction with my followers who are on the other side of the world. While many social media management apps will let you schedule status updates and tweets, there’s no substitute for in-person, real-time interaction on Twitter.

Bonus tip: tweet from the heart

Don’t worry too much about how you “come across” on Twitter. Just be yourself and tweet form the heart. Don’t stress too much about the numbers—instead, use the platform to connect genuinely with the Twitter followers you already have, and let the rest take care of itself!

Top Twitter Blog Marketing Tips has more Twitter tips.

Oh, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the burden of social networks, read my post on how to beat the social media beast!

AdSense Problems? – Check out the Known Issues Page

If you’re an AdSense publisher and are noticing problems with your account (like today when most publishers reports are showing stats that are much lower than normal) then you might want to bookmark the AdSense Known Issues page which is being used by AdSense to update publishers on the issues and problems that they are aware of and what they are doing about them.

How Do I Get a Professionally Designed Blog?

In this post Daniel Scocco answers a question from Reader Mar Joseph who asks:

I would like to have my site professionally designed as my lack of code knowledge is really holding me back. What are the best avenues to find designers?

First of all let’s identify the goal behind this question: to have a professional looking design. The reader is specifically asking about avenues to find designers, but that is not a necessary step to achieve the goal.

There are several ways to obtain a professional looking design for your blog. Some of them will cost you nothing, some will cost you a couple hundred bucks, and some may even cost thousands of dollars.

How much you should spend and when you should do it are question that you will need to answer by yourself. If you are just starting a blog, for example, a free solution could work well for the first months. After this initial period you will be in a better position to evaluate the potential of the blog (in terms of audience and revenues), and to decide how much you should spend in the design.

If you have a clear business plan for your blog and know where you are going to take it, on the other hand, you could invest $100 into a premium theme right from the start.

Part time bloggers might also want to wait the blog to generate some revenues, and then to reinvest that money into the design. This method would not touch one’s personal finances.

Once your blog is established and healthy, you could consider hiring a professional web designer to create a unique look for it. This solution will cost a significant amount of money, but it should be worth it in the long run.

Obviously the more you spend, the higher the quality of the final product, but the idea is that there are solutions for all pocket sizes. Below we will cover each of them.

Free solutions

Provided you are using WordPress, you will have literally thousands of freely available themes to choose from. You might need to spend some time looking for a professional looking one, but I am sure you will be able to find a theme that looks clean and professional, and that matches the content or niche of your blog. Here are some places to get started:

Even after finding a professional looking theme, however, you might want to learn the basics of HTML and CSS. In a matter of hours you should have enough knowledge to customize and tweak the selected theme a bit, as to make it different from other blogs that might be using it as well. Here are some resources that will help you with that goal:

Low cost solutions

If you have some money to invest into the design of your blog, you could start by purchasing a logo. A logo can be easily integrated into any theme or design, and it will give a unique look to your header and more strength to your brand. If you don’t want to spend a lot, head to the contest section of online forums like Digital Point or Sitepoint (now called 99Designs) and create a contest. You should already get some entries for a prize as low as $50.

If you have more money to spend you could consider hiring a professional logo designer or a company. Prices will be higher, but most of them offer several mock logos where you can choose from, and they will revise the work until you are 100% happy with it. Here are some places where you can get a quote.

An alternative low cost solution is to purchase a premium WordPress theme (which could also be used combined with a custom logo). Those themes are created by professional designers, and they sell anywhere from $30 up to $100 in some cases. Other people might purchase the same theme that you will be using, but this number should be significantly smaller than with a free theme. Secondly, most premium themes are high quality, bug free, and they come with some support from the designer. Here are companies and designers that sell premium WordPress themes:

High end solution

If your blog is already running strong, or if you have a clear business plan for it, you might want to get a professional designer to create a custom theme. Tailor made designs tend to cost at least $1,000, and this figure can jump to $5,000 and more in some special cases.

If you have the budget, however, it should be worth it. First and foremost because you will be able to make your design work around your goals and priorities, improving greatly the user experience in your blog. Secondly, a custom design will also fit your monetization strategy, probably improving your revenue streams (sometimes even creating new ones).

Here are is a list of renowned blog designers that you can consult with:

AdSense for Search now Powered by Custom Search

AdSense today announced that their search feature is now featured by Google’s Custom Search.

This means that those using AdSense for Search get access to a few new features including:

  • Site Search
  • Improved indexing of your pages
  • Vertical search
  • Tuning search results and ads with keywords
  • Selecting ad location
  • Quick and easy updates

You can see a full explanation of each one at the announcement on the AdSense blog.

Duncan Riley talks about His Experience with TechCrunch and Future Directions

Good interview over at BlogHerald with Duncan Riley who today finishes up as a blogger at TechCrunch.

The ground covered in the interview is great listening – from how he landed the TechCrunch job, to what it’s like to dealing with the email on such a position, to dealing with trolls in the TC comments, to work/life balance, to working with video, to what he’s doing next (starting a new website at The Inquisitir)… and more.

All in all I found it to be a really interesting interview. I found the first half better than the 2nd – but it was all good.

Listen to the interview with Duncan here.