Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WotW: Boosting Your Blog's Reach Through Social Media, Pt 2

Last week I explained how to use Facebook to increase your blog's reach. This week, I want to focus on another social media platform, one that has potential to be your greatest ally, if you use it correctly. I'm talking about Twitter.

Twitter is huge. It's popular. And yet, it can be very overwhelming. I know I was overwhelmed by it at first. After all, it has its own language of sorts (all the @ and # signs every other word). Everything has to fit into essentially one sentence, and a seemingly cryptic one at that. And yet, Twitter keeps on growing. And there's a reason for that.

We've all heard the saying, "Content is King." And it's true. Twitter is where the content comes to life and the word gets out.

The first thing to know about Twitter, is it's not Facebook. Such an obvious statement, but if you don't understand this, you'll never be successful on Twitter. Facebook works like this: you post once a day to your friends, or fan base. As people read through their feed, they'll likely come across your post. If they like it, they may interact be liking, commenting or sharing. This is so regular, you can almost count on your posts being seen and read by people.

Twitter is a different world. On Twitter, if you post once a day, and expect your followers to see it, chances are pretty slim they will unless they are Twitter junkies. That's because unlike the one post a day on Facebook, people are tweeting multiple times a day. The big tweeters are sending out content multiple times an hour. Your Twitter feed quickly becomes overwhelmed by all the content.

So what do you do? Just not bother with posting? No. The key is to know how to maximize Twitter.


  • Customize your Twitter page. You can customize your background, header image, profile image and header text. There's not an insanely high probability people will visit your Twitter page after they follow you, but you want it to be easy for people to identify your Twitter page as being associated with your blog.
  • Practice reading Twitter. This sounds funny, but it does take practice. Twitter is all about seeing an insane amount of content, sifting through it to find what really interests you and then read more. Think of Twitter like reading only the headlines in a newspaper. If you only read headlines, you could scan through a newspaper in a matter of minutes. When you were done, you would have some semblance of an idea of what's going on in the world, and hopefully at least a couple headlines would interest you enough to read more. Twitter works the same way. Each Tweet is kind of like a headline. Those that don't interest you, you skip over. Those that do, often have a link you can click on to read more. In fact, I've found Twitter more useful than any news network when major events happen. During the manhunt for the Boston bombing suspect, I followed Twitter while I watched the news coverage, and I found more accurate information, faster on Twitter. Of course, I also found a lot of garbage. Twitter is the very essence of the Internet: everyone throws their ideas out there and you sift through it and find the best parts.
  • Use tools to help you synthesize Twitter content. Reading a straight feed from Twitter can be overwhelming for the beginner, but there are other apps out there that can help you make better sense of it. My favorite is Flipboard, a free magazine-style app for iOS and Android. You can slurp your Twitter feed into the app and Flipboard will convert all those short, confusing tweets into readable headlines, often with the first couple paragraphs of the story. This makes reading through your content easier and faster.
  • Follow people. Lots of people. Your Twitter feed will be most fun when you're following interesting people, and there are plenty of them out there. Who should you follow? Well, Twitter makes that easy for you. They suggest lots of interesting people to follow. That's a good start. But in terms of maximizing your blog, you should also follow fellow bloggers, competitors, industry leaders (if you are a recipe blogger, you probably want to follow big chefs and popular recipe sites), and other content leaders. 
  • One of the things you will notice about Twitter is the most successful tweeters focus on one or two topics. That's all they tweet about. It's not necessarily because they have a one-track mind. It's because the more they talk about a topic, the more they come to be known as an authority. And that's exactly what you want to be with your blog: the authority on the things you blog about. So watch how the pros do it. Study their tweets. Take notes. Get ideas.
  • Use Twitter's sharing functions. One of the ways Twitter is different from Facebook is in how you interact with tweets. The main currency on Facebook is likes. On Twitter, it's the retweet. You can retweet any tweet. This is done by hovering your mouse over the tweet (in the browser) and pressing the retweet link. On a mobile device, you usually have to either click on the tweet or swipe, and select retweet. A straight retweet will simply send the original tweet to your followers. Retweeting someone is a compliment. It says you liked what they posted enough to share it with your audience, and hopefully the word gets spread. Get in the habit of retweeting content. Don't retweet everything, but retweet things you find interesting and think your followers could benefit from.
  • Favorite, well, your favorite tweets. A favorite is somewhat similar to a like on Facebook, but with an exclamation point. This is something you really like, so much so that Twitter keeps track of all your favorited Tweets so you can revisit them later. This is a great way to remember good ideas and potential ideas later.
  • Reply to tweets. Oftentimes, people will tweet out questions, or tweet something that just begs for a response. Give them one. Let them know what you think. You can reply using the reply button. This is a great way to get involved with other Twitter users who may not know or follow you, but as you reply (not in an obnoxious or creepy way), you can start to build a relationship and maybe get them interested in following you too.
So far, you've probably noticed most of this post has been about how to really use Twitter. And that's because until you really get how to use Twitter, you will struggle to use it well to maximize your blog content. Now on to the good stuff...
  • Build your Twitter following. As you can imagine, this is no easy task, but it's not impossible. If you don't have a Twitter button on your blog, get one. Also, make sure you make it easy for people to tweet your content by using Twitter plug-ins at the end or beginning of your post. That's just a start. Some other ways to build your following include:
    • Import your contacts. Invite them to follow you.
    • Follow others. Oftentimes people will follow you back. Don't expect celebrities to follow you back though. They have thousands of followers.
    • Run contests on your blog that give an option of an entry for following you on Twitter. This is a quick way to get lots of followers.
    • Be interactive with other bloggers on Twitter. Others who see their content may see your interactions as well, and be likely to follow you.
  • Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. One tweet isn't going to cut it. Not if you want to get big. Remember, your tweet will quickly get buried in someone's feed because of the vast amount of tweets being fired off. So you will need to tweet multiple times a day. That may seem overwhelming, but there's an easy way to do this that will satisfy the getting the tweet seen requirement, as well as getting your blog posts seen.
  • The secret is to dissect every blog post you write. No, don't literally cut up your computer monitor. What I mean is this: after you write your post, read through it again and see if you can summarize the gist of your post in 5-7 sentences. Maybe you have 5-7 great sentences in your blog already. These 5-7 sentences suddenly become 5-7 tweets. Write these tweets down in a table. I make an Excel file for this with columns for tweet message, blog post link, date/time posted. This way, with one blog post, you have content for throughout the day. If someone doesn't see your first tweet, or your second, or your third, no big deal. Maybe they'll see your fifth, and that's OK, because it still contains a link to your post and hopefully people will read it.
  • Space out your tweets. If you have 5-7 tweets ready made from your blog, you can space them out every hour or every couple hours. You can do this manually, or you can use any number of services to schedule your tweets. I highly recommend HootSuite. It's definitely worth the minimal cost for their pro version too.
  • Realize your goal with Twitter is not just to get a following, it's to get your content out. Every tweet should contain some sort of actionable item. That could be a link or a question or a request to retweet. If people don't see something for them to do, they'll probably skip over your tweet. And when it comes to your blog, you REALLY want to have a link there because it drives traffic to your blog.
  • Supplement your scheduled tweets with other tweets not specifically related to your blog content and/or retweets. Remember, you are not only promoting your blog on Twitter, you're also trying to establish yourself as an industry leader. So, if you blog about books, write some tweets about the book you're currently reading, or just finished. Consider a tweet a mini blog post.
  • Monitor your mentions. People will likely mention you at some point (@yourhandle). When this happens, you will get a notification. It's good practice to reply and/or retweet when this happens. If they mention you, it's because they want to engage with you. So engage back. The flipside is true. Try mentioning fellow bloggers on Twitter in your tweets.
  • Use hashtags wisely. If you've read the Wednesdays on the Web series for awhile, you probably know I hate it when people use too many hashtags. Fortunately, Twitter kind of limits this with the character limit. My advise is to only use hashtags if they really serve a purpose, and to rarely use more than one or two in a tweet. How do you know if the hashtag is useful or not? Search for it. Twitter has a great search feature. Type in the hashtag you're thinking of using and see what conversation is happening around it. This will help you decide if you really want to throw your tweet into that stream of conversations.
  • Build alliances. I made this same point with Facebook, but it's perhaps more true here. Find 5-10 bloggers you know and get along well with. Get in the practice of retweeting their content. Mention them in original tweets. As you help each other spread the word, you have a higher chance of getting more new follows and people to actually read your blog content by clicking on the link in the tweet.
  • Join in on trending topics. Twitter shows you which topics and hashtags are trending. See if any of them are interesting to you or would be a good fit for your blog's image and then join in. Some are funny. Some are serious. But by throwing your tweets into the mix, you can find other interesting people to follow and maybe they'll find you interesting and want to follow you.
I know this is a lot to process for a site focused on just a handful of characters, but it makes a big difference. If I were to sum up the Twitter process in just a few tips, it would be:
  1. Follow lots of people
  2. Quickly sift through your Twitter feed at least a few times a day
  3. Dissect your blog posts into 5-7 tweets and share them throughout the day
  4. Retweet interesting content from others
By following these simple steps, you can see a definite increase in your Twitter success in a short amount of time. It's a big time commitment, but you'll soon find Twitter becomes natural and easy to do.
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