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How to Use Twitter – Tips for Bloggers

Posted By Darren Rowse 25th of January 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

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 and LinkedIn.
  1. Yes, be active! I cannot remind my self enough to be active in Twitter.

  2. What a fantastic list of tips. I’ll get to work on my homework after lunch. Thanks, Darren!

  3. Great tips. Thanks :)
    Another way to keep track of items in twitter is by tracking specific keywords eg “Track Problogger”
    This way you can find people interested in the same niche as you. Works wonders and I have found and followed many new people from doing this

  4. Twitter has been invaluable in terms of social networking, promoting my blogs and brand extension!

  5. Darren,

    You make a great case for Twitter with these 2 posts (today and yesterday).

    It does sound like it would be a good tool to use.

    One thing though. You have the added advantage that you are blogging ‘full time’ and so you will have access to twitter 24/7 (if you wanted).

    Do you think it would still be useful for those of us that are only able to blog in our ‘spare time’?

    Thanks again for some great blogging inspiration

  6. Darren,

    The thing I struggle to decide (with regard to all social networking sites) is when to get involved. My blog is fairly new. I’ve bee working for the past two months to build an archive of content and a variety of subjects within my Niche (Porsche Products, Culture & Lifestyle). While I’m starting to get some traffic from search along with a little from some of the “niche” forums I participate in, it’s not much (maybe 50 unique visitors a day).

    Here’s my concern. Can you start your social networking too soon? In otherwords, if I begin using site like Twitter, before my blog is 100%, do I risk turning off potential readers if they find my blog and it is not up to their expectations?

  7. fantastic darren…

  8. I still feel that Twitter is something that I could easily get obsessed about and waste a lot of time reading random things about other peoples lives.

    When I first heard about the service I didn’t like it but I now understand why and how it could be used to promote a blog, especially with big readership like this one.

    However on a smaller blog (under 100 subscribers) like mine it can’t justify how it would enhance the service I am providing.

  9. One thing I kind of disdagree on is your point that all tweets need to be original and useful. Sure you don’t want to be too ‘noisy’ but at the same time, people don’t read Twitter like they read email – they *scan*, and certain tweets will catch the eye. Its quite rare that somebody will carefully read every tweet in their timeline. Because of this Twitter is a throwaway medium (kind of, your timeline is indexed by Google!) so it allows you to perhaps tweet more casually.

    For example, people will often email me to ask me to check out some new website, promote an article and wotnot and often I do have a quick look and realise that its not something I want to blog about but it doesn’t hurt to do a quick tweet. It may not be terribly useful to all my followers but it allows me to help people out in a minor way.

    A tip that I would like to add to this thread is to integrate Twitter into your other social applications such as Facebook. Doing this can make your tweets go VIRAL. I explain this in detail in my Twitter guide. I’m not usually one to self-promote but this is a 7 part guide to Twitter that has been well received, so I hope your readers enjoy it:


  10. Great post -Oh, Bloggy Grasshopper,

    My rule of twitter is to post thoughtfully.

    I have been forced to stop following some people when I get 15 tweets a day about the contents of breakfast, when people go to the bathroom, etc…

    A balance between providing interesting links and showing your personal side is a must.

  11. Thanks for more awesome twitter tips. I am still getting the hang of twitter and these are some great tips.


  12. I’m also not interested in what someone else has for breakfast, but I’m going to study this post and get started twittering to promote my blog. Thanks for your help.

  13. @Ed O’Keefe,

    I am very much a newbie blogger like you, but I am getting a lot of mileage from using Twitter – Like Darren recommends, I am using it exclusively to network with other bloggers and raise the profile of my Blog.

    I am able to ask questions of my followers, of which I have currently a small few… but I’ve had direct replies from people such as Chris Garrett (a blogging guru of mine), which helps me no end, and from the rest of my blogging friends.

    I find by engaging in a community of people such as bloggers, especially when you’re being useful and unique, you’re not necessarily getting traffic to your blog but you’re raising your profile, and getting “on their radar”.

    I’ve replied to a few of Darrens Tweets, and if I were to become noticed by blogging mavens like Darren and Chris, that can only be a good thing for my brand and blog.

    Just my 2p…

  14. I’m not surprised you have so many followers on Twitter – my question is how do you manage to follow them all? I noticed you are following me on Twitter and while I do have a blog I don’t generally write about blogging or photography, your two main areas. My focus is on Generation Y and twentysomethings.

    Is following all those people time consuming, or do you have certain tweets you pay more attention to than others?

    Just curious.

  15. I’ve recently signed up for Twitter (allicat275), and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure how to use it yet lol. Thanks for your articles on it – they’re really helping me figure it out!

  16. My experience with Twitter (and many other social networking sites and services) has been bad. Use of these sites appears to be time consuming and wasteful. I do not have access to my computer all day (about two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening), so tweeting and approving friend requests and facebook this and stumble that and digg the other is just not something I have the time or patience to do.

    One would hope that quality content and word of mouth would be enough to drive visitors without resorting to spewing minutia trivia…

    I’m writing this while wearing a robe… did you care?

    On the other hand, I’m not trying to make a living with my blog. I might change my tune if I were. I do hope I wouldn’t obsess with it, though…

  17. Darren, thanks for the tips. Do you have advice for twittering from multiple user names? Is there a client solution that makes it easy to do this easily without constantly signing in/out? Tks.

  18. I’m starting to promote my twitter (or what ever it’c called) but how do I search for other people who tweet about the same things I do (beer and wine)? @Marc suggested that you can track keywords, but I can’t figure out how to do that.

    How are others here finding people that they want to follow?

  19. *Sigh* I am still pretty new to Twitter. Your two articles were very timely for me and useful. I added my podcast to my profile and just altered my profile background. I’ll let you know if I have some big brainstorm…but that will probably be a while.


  20. I’ve been doing some of the things you’ve mentioned as homework over the past few weeks… with great success. I cannot emphasize the “is this original or unique” question enough. I ask myself “does this add value to my relationship?” That is particularly important when sending direct messages and using Twitter for developing business relationships.

  21. WOW! that’s all I can say, this post is really informative especially for new bloggers like me.


  22. Darren, just a suggestion: please break up so long posts of yours into multiple ones…

  23. Very helpful tips, thanks for sharing this very useful hints on how to use twitter effectively.


  24. i’m very hesitant to even try twitter. i suspect it’d be too addicting for me and detract from more productive work (blog-related and otherwise). i’m goofy enough about facebook already!

  25. We are testing out Twitter by posting healthy food recipes:
    It ain’t that easy, either!

  26. i guess i have to try this. i still don’t understand what twitter is even after reading so much about it.

  27. got to try it out and see what Twitter Bird can do , hopefully is a userfriendly website ….I hate web site with too many holes to fill in …..

  28. Well, this is a really long post. Actually, you could make a short eBook :-) Thank you! Very useful advice about Twitter.

  29. I really never thought of twitter as being a marketing tool until reading your post yesterday,and with your follow up here today I will be using my twitter more now.

    Great tips
    Steven Wilson

  30. Great post, Darren!
    These are wonderful tips. Especially for people new to Twitter.

    By the way, I use Twhirl too, it’s one of the best out there! (For Windows, at least)

  31. After these 2 posts, I’ve decided to sign up for Twitter. At the very least, it should be enjoyable. And the 140 character limit should force me not to spend too long on replies, which is great. :)

  32. Very cool article – I just revived my Twitter account … I’m a Worship Leader @ church, and I tweeted yesterday “working on songlist for Sunday – any suggestions”, and I have my Twitter account setup to automatically update my FaceBook profile as well …

    Well, within a few minutes, someone in our church sent me a FaceBook message suggesting a couple of her favorite tunes!


  33. Hi.

    I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too about the @ replies. Most of my tweets are in the form of @ replies — but a large fraction of those are addressing issues that I think and hope are of general interest.


  34. I use Twitter – But I have always used it more for personal…Thank you for the tips!

  35. For me one of the best things about Twitter is you can do it from your mobile phone. This means that you can stay in touch even when you’re not at a computer. You can also be selective about which of the people that you’re following that you can get mobile phone updates from, so that you won’t be overwhelmed by Tweets.

  36. the e-book is a good idea:

    all you have to know about twitter

    such long posts are not too easy to follow

  37. If you’re a blogger, when you comment, you can get a two for one by linking to your twitter stream, as opposed to your blog. As above, I linked to my twitter stream, and the twitter page linked to above has a link to my blog. It’s a two for one, if people like your niche.

  38. Darren, thanks for sharing your reflections and learning points – I love the way you take your own experience and turn it into a valuable resource for readers… without telling us what to do!

    I’ve been enjoying following you on Twitter, and I like the way you interact with people – that in itself shows us your human (friendly) side.

    BTW what happened to the post on how to stuff up previewing a post…? :-)


  39. Love the idea of having multiple profiles. I have one profile, and have added so many people that it lacks any sense of community. Having a profile that is more focused would seem to be able to generate a better network. I know when I first started out, and I was following fewer people, the connections seemed to come very easy.

  40. Good advice. I use feedburner and feedblitz to also help publicize my blog: http://myindocquent.blogspot.com.

  41. Great overview of the best practices for Twittering. I’ll be bookmarking this page and referring to it regularly.

  42. Hoek Soegirang says: 01/27/2008 at 10:53 pm

    Uhh…I think it will be more difficult to stay update with twitter and manage blog…

  43. Great post Darren, I’ve been toying with the idea of joining Twitter for a while but your excellent and thorough post has finally convinced me :)

  44. I’ve tried using Twitter and I really find it useful, efficient and fun at the same time. At first, I wasn’t comfortable with 140 letters limit but now I’m getting used to it. I realized you can in fact make yourself heard by 140 letters.

    By the way, these are great tips. Hope you’ll post more of this..^^

  45. I too justs tarted using twitter, one of things I have found is that there are several instances of people giving negative feedback regarding getting every single blog post in thier twitter.
    I think this is something I will keep track of and question my followers(I love having followers) regarding their preferances

  46. I guess the only thing I’m thinkin, after skimming the above, is “Gee, it was never that strategic for me.” There’s a lot to be said for going with the flow on Twitter, being yourself and just seeing what happens.

    I never set out with a strategy, or objectives, or tactics. But Twitter has totally exploded my personal brand, network and opportunities. Just, out of the water. In a big way.

    I think the most important thing anyone can do is be authentic. I think that’s refreshing to people. Be nice, be helpful, be interested in people.

    I dunno. I am getting asked – a lot – what it’s about and what I did and how it works… and I really don’t know. Tomorrow I guess it might stop. It sure is fun (and yeah, paying a LOT of dividends) so far tho! :-)

  47. I did not think I can learn so much from a blog entry

  48. I’m brand new to Twitter. I’m following you, of course.

    I wonder if you might have a moment to tell me how to make groups, so that I can send some tweets to only family members, others to clients, and others to co-workers, for example?

    If anyone knows how to do this, I would really appreciate the help. I find the Twitter website difficult when it comes to finding answers like this.

  49. Thank you for the great info on Twitter. I am just starting to explore Twitter and your article has been very helpful. Time to follow you on Twitter myself!

  50. I think that subject for Twitter is most important. I pick one category and I try to connect to people from same subject.

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