The first annual Financial Blogger Conference happened last year, and as part of the conference I agreed to participate in what was being called the “Ask The Experts” session. There were several tables set up in one of the main conference halls where conference attendees could come to ask questions of bloggers about their areas of expertise. I agreed to be at the “Twitter Expert” table to answer any questions that people might have. While I'm not sure I'd consider myself an expert in Twitter, I do use Twitter as a part of my overall blog strategy, and I have over 10,400 followers currently. So I guess I do know more than some.
Before the conference started I thought I would put together a post with some tips and tricks to using Twitter, some tips on setting up your Twitter page, as well as giving links to some helpful tools that people can use to make the most out of Twitter. So let's get started.
Setting Up Your Twitter Account
When you're first setting up your new blog and domain, I'd highly recommend also grabbing usernames for all the popular social media that go along with your blog name. For me that meant grabbing social media accounts for Twitter, Facebook, and other lesser social media with the username of “MoneyMatters” or “BibleMoneyMatters”. Some people also think you should grab the username that goes along with your real name if it is still available. Mine was already taken on Twitter, but I've grabbed it on other sites like Google Plus (where you are required currently to use your real name).
Choosing A Username: Twitter Name Character Limit
On Twitter I originally tried to grab the name BibleMoneyMatters, but it turns out there is a 15 character limit on Twitter usernames. If you've got a longer site name like I do, you may need to shorten it, or use something creative. I ended up taking the name “MoneyMatters” instead. I'm glad I did as I tend to think shorter names are usually better since they're easier to remember. If you choose a name that you end up not liking, don't panic! You can change your username at any time.
Note: I once had someone offer to pay me several thousand dollars for my Twitter username. Be careful, however, it's against the Twitter terms of service to sell your username. “Attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are [ToS] violations and may result in permanent account suspension”.
When you setup your account you can choose who can see you tweets. You can choose to protect your tweets and only allow approved users to view them, or to allow anyone to see your tweets, even if they don't have your permission. I want as many people as possible to see the tweets, so I leave mine unprotected. I suggest you do as well.
Customizing Your Twitter Account
Once you've done the basic setup on your account you'll want to setup your profile by adding your name, url of your site and a bio.
Once you've setup the profile another thing I'd recommend doing is customizing your Twitter account with an avatar image and custom background. I put together a tutorial on how to customize your twitter presence previously which will walk you through how to do that, but basically your custom background is a great place to connect with your readers, give urls for other social media profiles, and maybe even give a sentence or two about you or your site. Think of it as a mini business card.
Tips For Using Twitter
So once you've signed up for Twitter and customized your account, what's next? It's time to start following other users that have interests in common with you.
Start Following other like users: For me that meant following a bunch of other personal finance related Twitter users. Since you can create lists of users on Twitter I also set up a list of 430+ personal finance Twitter users you can follow as well. You can find that list here:
One question I always get is how I got so many followers: I've found that there really isn't a secret formula, except to tweet consistently, add value, tweet interesting things, and engage with other users on a regular basis. Try to add more to the Twitter stream than what you had for lunch and that you're going to the dentist. (Check here for things that will get you unfollowed)
And of course, one thing that will almost always get someone to follow you is to follow them first. I've followed thousands of interesting people over the years, and most of them have followed me back. Over time I have un-followed some that I end up not having much in common with, or accounts that go inactive. In general, however, I follow a pretty large number of people as well. I currently follow over 1700 other users. Here are some places to find like users:
When Should You Tweet?
There are certain times of day and days of the week that work best for sending out your tweets. You should think about scheduling Tweets with TweetDeck or BufferApp to go out during those times. Some Twitter stats from one study:
- Nearly 80% of the general US population is in the Central and Eastern time zone.
- The highest percentage of retweets occur around 5PM EST, while the highest CTR (click through rate) occurs between noon and 6PM EST.
- You will achieve a higher CTR by only tweeting 1 – 4 times per hour, especially midweek and on weekends.
How To Use Twitter
There are a lot of reasons to use Twitter as a part of your blog strategy. Here are a few that I use:
- Use Twitter for traffic: Twitter can be a decent source of referral traffic once you build up a decent number of followers. While it has never blown me out of the water, Twitter is consistently one of my top referrers. Set up your blog RSS feed to be sent out when you publish new posts. It will be a steady source of referral traffic.
- Use it to increase site income: You can use Twitter to promote your best income producing content. While you should be extremely careful not to go overboard because it can seem spammy, tweeting your best affiliate and ad related content can help to increase your income. Find the best times for click through ratio, and schedule during those times (around 5pm est).
- Twitter is great for networking: Twitter is a great tool for networking with other bloggers in your niche. I've followed and engaged with a ton of people in my niche, as well as chatting with people on what they call “Tweet Chats”. Basically people will tweet on a certain topic, and then include hash tag (like #FINCON12) for that topic in their tweet. They can then follow all of the twitter action on that topic via a site like TweetChat.com or via a twitter client.
- Twitter is great for reaching out to big names: Twitter can also be a great way to reach out to bigger names that you may not have had access to in the past. For example, through Twitter I was able to do a private chat with Dave Ramsey, someone who I probably wouldn't have had access to without Twitter. Be sure to search out and follow influential folks in your niche, and then engage with them. It may lead to some great opportunities!
- Twitter can help fuel creative juices: Once you've started following a lot of like minded users you'll find that when you're on Twitter watching the stream it can help to fuel new ideas for posts just through the other posts people are writing and linking to, the things they are talking about, as well as the trending topics you will see on Twitter. It can also be a great place to do research for posts by asking your followers questions, doing polls and so forth.
- Use it as an extension to your blog: I also use Twitter as an extension of my blog in a way. Sometimes I may have quick thoughts I want to share, but don't want to write a whole post. Or I'll want to share a money quote, or a bible verse about money. Some things are better suited to Twitter's short format than to an entire blog post.
- Promote others, build good will: Using Twitter to promote other bloggers also has the great side effect of building good will in your niche, and helping to build blogging partnerships with like minded bloggers.
There are a lot of tools that you can use to get the most out of Twitter. I won't list them all, but here are the ones that I've found most helpful.
- TweetDeck: Tweetdeck is by far the best Twitter client that I've found. Tweetdeck comes in a variety of platforms, everything from an Iphone and Android app to a desktop version and Chrome browser extension. It is the best and most comprehensive program I've found and it allows you to update other social media as well including Facebook. Even Twitter seemed to think it was great as they ended up acquiring TweetDeck earlier this year. Another feature that I love about TweetDeck – scheduled tweets! You can send out tweets at scheduled times to maximize the impact of your Tweets (see best times to tweet above).
- BufferApp: BufferApp is another great new tool that I discovered that allows you to schedule tweets to get sent out at ideal times. TweetDeck can also do that, but BufferApp also includes some minimal analytics tools that are helpful. There is a free version and a paid version with more features and number of scheduled tweets allowed. Check it out here.
- HootSuite: Another great suite of social media tools that has been recommended to me by a bunch of people.
- Echofon: I'm adding this one as I've used it regularly on Ipod Touch and as a Firefox extension for several years. While I mainly use TweetDeck now, I still use this one on occasion.
- TwitPic: TwitPic is only one of multiple services to add images to Twitter. Others work fine as well
- TwitVid: Allows you to upload and add video to your stream. You can also just upload to your Youtube account and link to your videos, which I do more often.
- TwitterFeed: Send out your blog RSS feed to Twitter automatically using TwitterFeed, although some RSS services like feedburner now allow you to do that automatically through them as well.
- TwitterCounter: Twitter analytics, as well as follower count widgets for your blog. (Be careful of too many widgets, they can slow your site down.)
- Tweetstats: Another Twitter stats site that will give you all sorts of statistics about your tweeting behavior.
There are literally hundreds of Twitter apps, programs, suites and analytics software out there, but the ones above are a few that I've used and liked. Just try doing a google search and you'll find more Twitter tools than you could ever use.
Twitter can be a great tool for bloggers to add to their tool belt. While it isn't going to be your biggest source of traffic, it can bring in a regular stream of users. It's also a great way to engage with your readers, network with other bloggers, and engage with influential people you might otherwise not had access to. It can be an extension of your blog, but stands fine on it's own as well. It can help you to increase your site's income, but needs to be carefully managed.
In short, Twitter is a great tool that all bloggers should be using to help take their blogs to the next level. If you find the right tools and follow and engage with the right people, it can take what some people see as a waste of time and turn it into something that gives you a great return on your investment.
Download a “Twitter Tips For Bloggers” quick tips .pdf document that you can print out through the link below.