Updated in 2013 with my latest strategies!
Although Facebook is the daddy when it comes to social referrals Twitter is certainly not something to turn your nose up at. Quite the opposite in fact — I have found that it is far easier to grow a substantial following in Twitter, and by extension, you can actually drive more traffic to your blog from it than Facebook. Not only that but I have developed far more valuable relationships with people through Twitter than Facebook.
In this post I’m going to cover what I consider to be the basic principles that you should follow in order to grow your Twitter profile, and by extension, your blog. I applied these exact principles to my Twitter profile as I grew it from around 500 to nearly 10,000 followers in 2012.
Table Of Contents
Before we get into the bulk of the article I understand that some of you may be rather intimidated by its size (I know I would be!). So if you would like to take it on in bite size chunks please feel free to use the links below.
- Twitter For The Uninitiated
- How Valuable Is Twitter For Bloggers?
- Getting The Basics Right
- The Importance And Power Of Quality Tweeting
- Tweeting Your Own Content
- Tweeting Other People’s Content
- Bringing Your Focus To Bear
- Going Viral
- Don’t Be Overwhelmed
And whilst you will definitely get the most benefit out of this resource by reading it all, I would also recommend that you bookmark it so that you can reference it in the future.
Before you start reading, you can share this article with your fellow Twitterers by clicking here. Thank you!
Twitter For The Uninitiated [back to top]
This article is written on the basis that you have a solid understanding of Twitter. If you are not familiar with Twitter, Wikipedia’s definition should be enough to put you on the right track:
Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as “tweets.”
That is all you need to know to get started. It may seem rather underwhelming but it is one of the most powerful tools you can use for generating interest in your blog.
How Valuable Is Twitter For Bloggers? [back to top]
In short — very.
I have been pondering the best way to describe how Twitter can be of massive value to you in promoting your blog and the simplest explanation I came up with struck me as the most powerful:
With Twitter, you can meet, engage with, and expose your content to the most powerful bloggers in your niche in addition to a huge percentage of your potential audience.
It’s All About Exposure
Any blog with great exposure is usually considered successful, and Twitter is a tool you can use to increase your blog’s exposure. It is a viable and un-invasive way of establishing and building relationships with people you really should know if you are keen to become a known quantity in your niche.
Let me put it to you in more practical terms: would you consider it useful to have 60,000 people who want to read what you have to say? Because that is what Pat Flynn has via Twitter. And before you start moaning that Pat is huge and of course he has loads of followers, yes — you are absolutely correct. But he started with zero followers just like everyone else. I’m now up to 10,000 followers but I had zero just 18 months ago (and that was without the benefit of reading posts like this).
A Solid Brand Leads To Great Exposure
Blogging is all about brand – about setting yourself apart from the crowd. In order to establish a brand, you need to have a ‘hook’. For instance, my hook is providing a window into my online business by publishing stories of both my successes and failures. This in turn can help people to emulate my success (and avoid my failures) in quitting their jobs and building their own online businesses. Twitter gives you an opportunity to both solidify and further promote your hook, and therefore your brand, in an alternative medium.
There are a lot of things you can do wrong with Twitter, and a lot of things you can do right. Moreover, there is an enormous amount of advice and misinformation out there, ready to trip you up. I do not pretend to be an expert at using Twitter, and make no claims to this article being the ultimate resource. It does however represent what I consider to be the best strategy for promoting your blog via Twitter. I hope it is of use to you!
Getting The Basics Right [back to top]
Before you get too involved in Twitter there are some basics that you should make sure you are getting right. They will be obvious to most but there is no harm in quickly going over them.
First of all, make sure that you spend some time on your profile! Both your photo and your mini-bio. The photo should reflect your brand. So, if your brand is you, the photo should be a mug shot. If your blog is your brand then your photo should be your logo.
Although plenty of your tweets will aim to draw people to your blog, make sure that your bio does that too. You only have 140 characters to catch people’s attention so focus on your hook. What makes you different? What sets you apart from the crowd? Why do you warrant people’s precious attention?
Having a good mug shot/logo and a unique bio can make a big difference to your reach.
The Importance And Power Of Quality Tweeting [back to top]
Setting an effective strategy out as to what and when you will tweet is extremely important. Your Twitter presence is only as useful as your tweets. If you have an established brand elsewhere but tweet rubbish, then you might attract users simply because of your brand, but that is all.
In fact, if you tweet rubbish, you may well begin to deconstruct the brand that you have worked so hard to establish. Consider every tweet you publish as a brick in the building of your brand. Make sure that you lay each brick carefully, or before long, the whole building might just fall down.
So, what defines quality tweeting?
Engagement [back to top]
Many people on Twitter do not even engage with others. Some simply see it as another platform for promoting their own content. You should not think in such a way.
Twitterers are generally a savvy lot — if all you are doing is tweeting your own content, most will ignore you. At that point the service is doing you no good at all.
So make sure that you engage with people.
A great way of engaging with your followers is to ask questions. In fact, Twitter can be extremely useful for sourcing the talents of others. And it gets even better. Not only can you tap into the available talent, doing so can have a positive impact on your brand!
How? The great thing about Twitter is that it is a totally casual and non-committal form of communication. Say I want to know how to do a specific CSS trick for my blog’s design. I put the question out there on Twitter. No one feels obliged to answer the question, as I have not asked it to anyone directly. So if someone does answer the question (and more often than not, someone does), they are doing it because they want to. Not only are you getting help from someone, you have made that person feel good by helping you.
…and Answer Them Too!
This works both ways – if someone has a question and you can answer it, make sure that you do. They will remember that you helped them and may reciprocate in the future.
Tweeting Your Own Content [back to top]
Promoting your own content via Twitter is definitely something you should do. However, it should always be done in the right fashion.
The Power Of Headlines
Let’s talk about headlines first. You have probably read about how important headlines are and this is no different for the Twitter crowd. Hopefully you are already spending time making sure that your headlines are crafted to stand out so that when you tweet your new posts they catch the attention of your followers.
Breathing New Life Into Old Posts
But let’s talk about old posts. As some of you may know, I am a big exponent of ‘evergreen’ content – i.e. articles that age well. With that in mind, you can go back to your archives and pick out old articles to promote on Twitter. Because they are evergreen, they still provide value to your followers regardless of their age. You might take the opportunity at this stage to change the way you tweet out your old post, in order to give it a bit of flavor.
Say you wrote an article in the past entitled “The 5 Best Social Media WordPress Plugins”. It’s had plenty of exposure but it is a great article and it certainly won’t hurt to give it some more airtime. So re-tweet it, but this time around accompany the link with a question like, “Have you found the perfect social media plugin for WordPress yet?” In this way, you can potentially tap into a different crowd with an alternative means of promoting the post.
Changing up the headline in your tweets can also be a great way of breathing life into old posts that did not fare so well first time around. Perhaps you wrote a great article but the headline didn’t do the content justice. Have a go at writing a better headline, tweet the post, and watch it take on a new lease of life!
Although I suggest that you re-tweet your old posts, please do it sparingly. Not only do you want to keep your tweets pretty fresh overall, you also want to make sure that you are not concentrating solely on your own content. People will switch off quickly if you are only using Twitter to further your own ends.
Capitalizing On The Success Of Fresh Posts
Finally, tweeting more recent posts that are doing well can be a great way of encouraging your content to go viral.
Let’s say that a post on your blog is attracting a lot of comments. You could seek to capitalize on that by tweeting a link to the post accompanied by “Getting loads of comments on this article! Have you checked it out yet?”, or “I’m getting some really insightful comments on this article. I would love your feedback too!” This is a way of using social proof to further boost your article’s exposure. People always feel naturally inclined to follow in the path of others, so if you are getting a plethora of comments, capitalize on it.
Tweeting Other People’s Content [back to top]
This is something that you should be focusing on heavily, but just like with tweeting your own content, it should be done in the right fashion.
“I Like What You Do”
Tweeting someone else’s content is the best way to say to that person, “I like what you do.” It may not always be noticed, but if you do it often enough you will benefit from it. People are instinctively reciprocal, so if they see you re-tweeting their content they will be inclined to explore what you have to offer. This can indirectly lead to great benefits.
What Kind Of Benefits?
It doesn’t just have to be them re-tweeting your content in turn. For instance, they might introduce you to an A-list blogger in your niche or they might suggest that you enter into a joint venture. The possibilities are endless. The only way that you will open yourself up to the possibilities is by making yourself known and providing a service to others, which you can do by re-tweeting their content.
There is also another benefit to re-tweeting other people’s content. If you re-tweet quality content, it will be of value to your followers and will strengthen your brand and by extension your reach. You want to build up a reputation as someone who only tweets quality content. If you can do that you will find that some followers will click on your links out of habit because they trust you as a valuable resource.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Selective
In order to build such a reputation you have to be disciplined. Do not re-tweet something just because it is from someone whose eye you want to catch or if it is from a good friend. Only re-tweet when it is earned. Focus on quality. Be ruthless.
Bringing Your Focus To Bear [back to top]
When first starting out in blogging, I believe that you should focus your efforts on just one or two social media outlets. I would much rather master one or two tools than be a ‘jack of all trades’.
For instance, Leaving Work Behind didn’t have a Facebook page until October 2011 (five months after the blog first launched). In retrospect I should have created a Facebook page earlier but at the time I was focused on Twitter.
However, concentrating on one social media front does not mean that you will fail on others. Exposure through Twitter can lead to exposure through other forms of social media, without you being directly involved in them at all.
For instance, an article of mine, Do You Make These 13 Common Keyword Research Mistakes?, was re-tweeted by someone with over 15,000 followers (thank you @FamousBloggers!). That tweet attracted around 140 unique visitors to my blog, directly and indirectly. Here’s the interesting part though – around 70% of those visits came via Facebook – without my blog having any involvement in Facebook whatsoever.
Following [back to top]
There are generally two camps when it comes to following — those that follow indiscriminately and those that are more selective. I am definitely in the second camp.
Keep It Real
If you are familiar with my blog, then you will know that I major on cultivating ‘real’ online relationships of substance. So if I add you on Twitter, you know that I value something about you and am interested in what you have to say. In keeping my following count so low, I allow myself to keep tabs on what is happening in the worlds of people that I want to establish relationships with. If I were following 1,000 people, how on earth would I be able to keep tabs on anyone?
In my opinion, establishing valuable relationships with a select few people is far better than having one-off exchanges with everyone and their mother.
Update 15/05/12: I would now argue that you can have the best of both worlds by utilizing lists to stay in touch with particular people and automating targeted follower growth with software such as TweetAdder. I wrote a full guide on doing just that here.
The Age Old Traffic Argument
You probably know what I am talking about – what is more important – the quantity of traffic, or the quality? The same question can be asked of Twitter followers.
If I follow 10,000 people and get 5,000 followers back, my tweets will be exposed to many more people. But I am willing to bet that the bounce rate would climb and average actions per person would plummet if I started to get a decent flow of traffic from Twitter. Not only that, I would stake my mortgage on the percentage of re-tweets per follower declining dramatically. I would also struggle to keep tabs on the ‘important’ people with so much clutter.
As far as I am concerned, quality always beats quantity. Using weapons as an analogy, I believe that Twitter should be thought of as a small but sharp dagger rather than a huge blunt axe.
Twetiquette [back to top]
I know people who could write books about Twitter etiquette but I am going to keep it pretty simple and rely on your common sense for the rest (I’ve got faith in you :)).
Go Easy On The Replies
Make sure that you don’t go reply crazy. Although @replies won’t show up in your follower’s feed unless you include text before the Twitter handle, it still makes a bit of a mess of your timeline (which is something that potential followers are likely to look at). If you have something private to say to someone, or something that is of no value to others, just pop them a DM. Of course, this will not be possible if they are not following you. In that case, I wouldn’t worry too much — there isn’t a culture of “you must always reply” on Twitter.
Say No To Auto-DM
Don’t you dare use an auto-DM service! There is nothing that is more of a turn off then receiving an automated message when you have started following someone. It’s just so depersonalized, and quite frankly is enough to tempt me to unfollow them.
Avoid Sounding Desperate
Asking for re-tweets — when done sparingly — is absolutely fine. But asking for people to follow you just smacks of desperation and that kind of reputation is not one that you want to build. Of course, you should be asking visitors to your blog to follow you, as you are catering to a ‘warm’ audience, but avoid it on Twitter.
Never Neglect The ‘Little Guy’
Try to value all followers equally. Tweets should be considered in an unbiased fashion and on merit alone. You never know when today’s startup Twitterer is going to be next year’s 10,000 followers powerhouse.
Tweet For Others, Not Yourself
Always be mindful of become too self-serving in your tweets. Always remember that people are far more interested in themselves than you. Cater for their wants and needs, not your own.
Going Viral [back to top]
This is the Holy Grail and it is probably why you signed up to Twitter in the first place. There are plenty of urban legends (and genuine stories) of how once modest bloggers found their relative obscurity being blown away by an article going viral on Twitter.
Aim To Go ‘Semi-Viral’
The reality is that you will have to get a lot of things right to go viral. Yes, you might get lucky and strike the jackpot but it would be stupid to rely on that. What is more likely is that you will have content that will go what I like to call ‘semi-viral’.
I consider semi-viral to be any social media exposure that causes a modest (as opposed to wild) spike in traffic. When your content starts going semi-viral, you will get a better taste for what true viral content requires. You will then be better equipped in the future to increase the possibility of your next article going big time.
The Key To Viral Content
First of all, it is obvious that you need great content to go viral. That is really the only essential piece of the puzzle that must be in place. But it is not the aim of this article to go into detail on that front. We are here to discuss Twitter, so I will be running through what you can do on that front to best your chances of going viral.
Make It Easier To Go Viral
Make it easy for people to re-tweet your content. I personally use Digg Digg, which certainly seems very popular, as does CommentLuv. Regardless of whichever plugin you choose, just make sure it is easy for your visitors to use.
Utilize Calls To Action
It is something that is known to almost everyone and yet is often neglected — the Call To Action (CTA). If you are not familiar with this term, it is quite simple — you need to ask your visitor to do something. When it comes to going viral on Twitter, you want to ask you reader to re-tweet your article. The key is to make it clear what you want and make it easy for the visitor to do you want whilst preventing it from seeming overbearing.
There is an awful lot of psychology involved in crafting successful CTAs, which I am not going to go into at this point. I just have one piece of advice on that front – put yourself in your visitor’s shoes, and try to imagine what would compel you to re-tweet the post.
CTAs should be sprinkled selectively across your blog — make sure that you don’t overdo it. Having said that, you should definitely try and be imaginative with your CTA strategy. Try to break the mould. For instance, it is typical of most bloggers to ask for a tweet at the start or end of an article. Why not ask right in the middle?
Are you enjoying this post? Then I’d love it if you’d tweet it to your followers for me. Thanks!
I’m not gaming you here – it should be totally reciprocal. I am providing you with useful content (at least, I hope I am, if you have made it this far :)), and as such you might be inclined to return the favour by re-tweeting it to your followers. Everybody’s happy.
It’s All In The Timing
Try to get the timing right. Hats off to Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income for recommending the killer app combo that makes this simple. You can check out Pat’s article for the lowdown, but in short, you can use Tweriod to find out the optimum times to Tweet and Buffer to queue your messages to be tweeted at those optimum times.
As Always, Persistence Is Key
The key to going viral is to persist. You might spend hours crafting what you think is viral gold, only to see it flop. Never mind. Try to learn a lesson from it, and move on to the next article.
If you produce quality content consistently and over an extended period of time, your viral explosion may only be just around the corner.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed [back to top]
I’ve gone into a lot of detail here (even for me :)). But as with anything else, getting Twitter ‘right’ is a process. I hope that you take my advice on board, but what is even more important is that you get out there and try things. It’s okay to make mistakes. After all, you tend to learn a lot more from mistakes than when everything goes swimmingly.
If you have any tips and tricks for getting things done on Twitter then I would love to read them in the comment section below. Despite this article being well over 3,000 words long, I know that there is much more out there. Not only that, you may disagree with how I approach things, and if so, I’d love to hear your point of view.