To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

In this week’s Community Pool, we noticed lots of you asking about how to grow traffic to your blogs. Participating…

In this week’s Community Pool, we noticed lots of you asking about how to grow traffic to your blogs. Participating in the Community Pool is a great first step, along with commenting on others’ blogs. Another way is letting your social networks know what you’re writing about, which lets you do easily with Publicize.

Elizabeth is going to be taking a wide-angle look at promoting your blog on social networks tomorrow, so today we thought we’d focus on one platform that seems to confound many people: Twitter. To tweet or not to tweet?

I often talk to bloggers who are reluctant to join the Twitterverse:

“I don’t have time to keep up with another thing.”

“I don’t care what people are having for lunch.”

“It seems like a giant waste of time.”

On one hand, these are legitimate complaints. It is yet another password to remember, there are lots of people talking about their lunches, and you can get sucked in and end up wondering where those three hours of your life went.

(Hint: you were probably following the #famousmoviesrenamedforcandy hashtag.)

(Like “Zero Dark Chocolate Thirty.”)

On the other, it can be a really effective and efficient way to make connections that you wouldn’t otherwise make. You can follow — and converse — with bigwigs in your field, along with lots of other folks dedicated to the same things you are. You’ll read posts and find links to information that will inform and inspire, and can stay on the pulse of your issues.

Here are some considerations for helping you decide whether to join the fray:

Twitter Bird

  • It’s a medium for conversation, not just broadcasting. Yes, you can and should let people know about new posts on your blog via Twitter. But if that’s all you’re doing, you’re not going to get very far. Twitter is a place to extend the conversation, not just ply people with “Hey, Read Me!” links. If you’re not tweeting original content and engaging with others (through dialogue or by re-tweeting them), don’t bother.
  • It takes time. It can be a worthwhile investment, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it does require some. You’ll need to figure out who to follow, and then make sure to interact. This doesn’t mean you need to keep your Twitter feed open on your computer all day long, but it does mean you’ll want to check in periodically to see what’s going on. No one bothers following a person who posts once every two months.
  • It’s not the same as Facebook. Or Tumblr, or LinkedIn. Elizabeth will fill you in tomorrow on how these sites differ and how they’re most useful; suffice it to say that your Twitter content should be unique. If all you’re doing is auto-tweeting your Facebook status updates, you’re not really being an engaged twitizen.

The bottom line is that Twitter can be (1) a lot of fun, (2) a great place to connect with people in your areas of interest, and (3) a way to sow your blogular seeds among a larger audience. But if you’re not prepared to invest a little time, you might be better off letting it go.

Are you on Twitter? Has it been useful for growing your blog, in your career, or in another way entirely?

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  1. I am a huge fan of Twitter (@andreabadgley) – I’m so glad to see this post. I love Twitter for reading other writers, following editors and journals, and even connecting with authors I love. I wrote a post about Eleanor Brown’s “The Weird Sisters,” tweeted the link to her, and she wrote back, “This is among the loveliest things I’ve ever read about my book – thank you!” I felt like I had just gotten a celebrity’s autograph. I floated high on that Tweet for at least a week!

  2. Twitter has been good for me bringing sales and book bloggers to my book and blog. However, I’ve put little effort in and keep meaning to engage more but i remain a little baffled with the difference between mentions, favourites, lists etc … am i alone?

    1. No, you’re not alone. It’s a bit confusing to me too. But I’m rarely on it. I have my Facebook connected to it, but I rarely post content on it. I guess I need to get to checking it out.

  3. I’m on and so far, it’s in the way; I go days without remembering even to check it.
    However, I’ll be reading tomorrow. I’d love to learn how to make something that big worthwhile. There’s gotta be a way!

  4. It may not be useful for anything, but I (@DNGSITSPKaren) I find it lots of fun. It’s really good for firing off one liners, and it can keep you up on moment by moment topics/trends that are so ephemeral they never make it outside the Twitterverse, but still provide great fodder. And man oh man does it make you precise with your language (140 characters, people!)

  5. I really love Twitter and have gradually filtered out those comments about lunch, etc. It’s an incredibly useful tool for promoting one’s blog, if done in the right way. What I find also helps is that I do a lot of retweeting of articles and other blog posts if they are well written. And favoriting. I support my “tweeps” this way and in turn they tend to support me more. Getting lots of retweets is so important!!

    1. This is the way I’m using Twitter, I feel if you’re able to tweet or re-tweet something you found special, you not only have a reference to it (for future reference) but you’ve also given kudos to the writer.

  6. I could not agree more. I have made many far-reaching professional connections via Twitter and am now using it to reach a broader audience for my personal/professional hybrid blog. It’s daunting at first but technology is designed to make our lives easier.

  7. I am fairly new to Twitter as I am to writing. I am just completing my first book which is a memoire of my life dealing with alcohol and drugs. I hope to publish within the next 30 days. The writing of this book, although very emotional, has awakened in me a passion for writing until now unrealized. I know that promoting my book is key. Exactly how does Twitter work in this endeavour.

  8. I have had some of my customers tweet about my product when they receive it. From this I have received others following my blog who didn’t even know about me. Love it

  9. @moxadox sez: I’m a new tweeter, and I’m mystified as to how to engage others in Twitterization, er, conversation. Looking forward to hearing about that tomorrow.

  10. I love twitter and was at first extremely reluctant to join. I’ve used it mainly to spread social good awareness on current topics but have also used it for photos of my travels and blog posts. The readership is completely different than my blog but it is a great tool if used correctly.

  11. Your timing couldn’t be better! I just signed up on Twitter two days ago and I’m embarassed to say I have no idea what I’m doing. I was going to buy a book, however I’m sure I’ll get much more insight from the blogging community and real-life examples on self-promotion and promoting others. Looking forward to delving in…..

    1. It took me a couple of months to really get the hang of it. I didn’t spend a ton of time on it, so it took me longer to catch on. It’s well-worth messing around with.

  12. I love twitter – I’m (@debrabroughton) — it’s a really good way to keep up with new posts by other bloggers. I use Tweetdeck to organise the people I follow so I can keep an eye on my fave writers and photographers, as well as getting updates on everything from the weather to tech news.

  13. It took me a while to work twitter out. I followed a bunch of people that had similar interests, normally through their blogs. Then I logged on and read the tweets and tried to have conversations with people. It took me ages to work out that most people aren’t really there on twitter and just launch ‘buy my book’ – ‘read my blog’ tweets though an app.

    Then I discovered a couple of hash tags where there are actually people talking about things. I joined in the conversation but found it difficult as you can either watch the hash tag or the replies to your monika but not both. Again a period of confusion until someone suggested Tweetdeck – one of many apps that allows you to look at a number of things at the same time.

    I think I now have it sorted. I log on engage in conversations, reply to people who tweeted me and any direct messages and retweet my friends. I can schedule tweets – and re tweets – so that I am not bombarding twitter and to cover times when I am not awake. I like it because I can follow tags such as #Charente (where I live) #Jazz #MYWANA and other places where people I have things in common with hang out. I also have the feed from my blog to twitter that tweets my latest blog post. Sometimes I feel I spend too long on twitter but I do like to chat.

    I am looking forward to hearing more about it to see if there are things I am missing or indeed if I do things that put other people off.

  14. I’m on Twitter (@alex_brovn) and I find it *very* useful for driving traffic to my blog. If you ask someone with a lot of followers for a “re-tweet” (ie they share it with their followers), that can produce a lot of hits. Be selective about who you pick, though – your post should be relevant to their (followers’) interests, and you have to ask nicely. Give them a reason why they should share your post.

    You have to know when to tweet as well – ie, when your followers are online; in my case that’s typically the start of the work day, lunch time and especially the early evening “prime time”.

    Getting on “lists” is also very useful as that increases the number of people seeing your tweets – that’s something you can ask people for, too.

    Twitter is also quite good for starting conversations about your blog – comment sections can be clunky if someone just wants to say “that’s good”.

      1. Watch and learn. Make an account, follow a few people – either from the suggestions list, or by searching for a key term, or even by recommendations from online articles.

        Then it’s good ol’-fashioned trial and error.

        (oh btw I had a typo in my handle, it’s actually @alex_brovvn)

  15. I think Twitter has huge potential – and on the whole, I have found twitizens tend to follow a pretty etiquette of following back, responding etc. There are also those who fail to interact, who require permission for you to follow back (even though they followed you first!) and whose reasons for joining Twitter in the first place remain a mystery !
    There are an increasing number of ways too in which Twitter can be used, whether for interacting or promoting – without appearing spammy; (no doubt these will be covered in tomorrow’s post); I also hear news faster on Twitter than elsewhere.and when enough Twitter ‘chums’ are online together it can be both stimulating and hilarious ….


  16. I have been everywhere in the Internet world, just to try it out. I did Twitter and few years ago. I even let my cats have their own Twitter site and they were twitting with other cats. Looking back on it all, I do not bother any more. Don’t get me wrong. I find WordPress one of the best sites for bloggers, but Internet is a dangerous world and I am careful where my blogs are placed. some of the Daily Prompts are a bit personal sometimes. I just avoid that by writing a fiction story, or let my cats get on with it in their feline way. I used to cross post to my Facebook account, but do not any more. I am very happy with the public I have now on WorldPress and for this reason do not want to branch out in other social networking sites. Not everyone is as honest as they should be.

    1. For some time, I used to do the cross posting to FB too. That was sort of a double-edged sword, as I got lots of comments, but they never went to my blog!

  17. I’m thinking about going on twitter, but can’t think of a username! (Yes, possibly the worst excuse ever). My wordpress username is ihaveumpalumpaonmyhead, but that’s too long for twitter! Anyone got any ideas?

  18. I love Twitter. It can be an effective tool to sharpen writing skills, too. Making a point in 140 characters or less is not easy.

    I do agree that it’s about conversation. I never follow folks who JUST use it to share their blog because I like to see at a glance what they are about, and that isn’t possible through just blog links.

    I tell people to add the Twitter widget to their blog ASAP if they haven’t already. I subscribe to a LOT of blogs. While I may not have time to add one more subscription to my feed, I’ll add someone I like to Twitter in a skinny minute. If I see a blog post in my Twitter feed, I am pretty likely to click it. And maybe even share!

    1. If a limit to 140 characters “sharpens your writing skills”, then why not limit it to 120 characters?
      Your comment is much longer than 140 characters by the way.

  19. Just found this discussion while searching for possible blog platforms. I’ve been tweeting for a former employer for the past year. Love it! It took a year of tweeting and some reading to figure out the dynamics and etiquette of Twitter. I have a personal Twitter handle where I only have conversations about media and politics. The other one is about to be established with my favorite hobby in mind. Is it, um, legal to have more than one Twitter handle?

    1. I even have two passports, so I don’t see a problem with two or three Twitter accounts,
      If you want to see if Twitter allows it, you have to check their terms and conditions. But even if you violate those, the worst thing that will happen is that your account will be closed.

  20. I am on Twitter (@SuzanMcEvoy) but am never sure if I’m using it effectively – but suddenly I’ll get a retweet or reply and think ‘wow’. And this weekend somebody thanked me for retweeting their post so I guess it’s getting noticed. Definitely need to get tweeting daily – working on it! – Suzan -

  21. I am very reluctant to try Twitter, even though an instructor at a class I took about how to promote your writing said it’s a very good way to make contacts. I am having enough trouble keeping up with what I have. As a person with ADHD it is just another distraction, I fear.

    1. I also have been very reluctant to start on the Twitter. However I really want to build my platform. I thought if I am a full time writer then it is a job and I should use all the tools available to me. So I am starting today!

  22. Thanks for the tips. Twitter is a good platform to publicize, but like you said, it requires some time investment. Keeping up with conversations and following the people that share similar interests is a good way to grow ones twitter community.
    Links to blog posts shouldn’t be the only tweets. I so much agree with that.
    Being creative with writing is not all that there is to blogging, being efficient with connecting makes a whole lot of difference! :)

  23. I’m on twitter, but not very savy. There are a few people I interact with but most I am just following to see what THEY’RE doing. Any way to learn the ins and outs of twitter without coming off as a total doof?

    1. I think of it kind of like being at a really big party at which there are a handful of people you really want to meet. You spend some time scoping out the scene and talking to lots of people, and as you learn more about them, you narrow it down. After that, it’s just about having conversations and sharing relevant info — just like real life.

  24. It’s true that it takes some time to take care of your twitter account but I found it really usefull not only to promote my blog but also to learn about what other bloggers and writers are doing as well as keeping up to date with the news from the publishers, bookstores, libraries and universities.

  25. I have a twitter account @Bisan_smiley feel free to follow and I usually follow back. I’ve know many people who have the same interest whether bloggers or photographers, photography is one of my hobbies and learn much from other photographers… I’ll follow the post tomorrow to know how to be more effective through twitter.
    thank you for your all interesting posts :)

  26. I was a huge fan of twitter until my tweets were hijacked. It wasn’t my account, but someone very kindly kept quoting what I hadn’t said. The result was frightening. Now I only use the automatic WordPress tweet. I don’t join in any conversations. Once bitten, twice shy. Be warned.

  27. I’ve been on twitter a couple of years now @portugalpiglet
    Started to use Tweetdeck which enables me to set up different streams for tweets using cerain hashtags. For example #NaNoWriMo #Writing #Postaday2013 #Portugal #Photography #Travel etc

    Everyone who uses any of these # hash tags will appear in my twitter stream. IT’s a great way of connecting with people of similar interests.

    Don’t forget to use hashtags when tweeting :) Problem is it can become addictive. 5mins a day is all I allow myself :) Great way to connect with other bloggers

    1. 5 minutes! You deserve an award PiP! I used to be a total Twitter fiend with dual accounts, Tweetdeck, Twitpic, my Follow Friday and hashtag homies, you name it, I did it all plus thousands and thousands of endless tweets and conversations with Tweeps and it was fun… I use it sooooooooooooooooooo differently now. TY God! :-)

      1. Hi Eliz, yep 5 minutes! I found it so easy to get sucked down the proverbial rabbit hole and lose and hour of my life. Now mainly use tweetdeck and select a few tweets to respond to or retweet. I create lists so I can follower people easeier as well. I could never see the point of Follow Friday :) However, it’s amazing the people who don’t use hastags, which is a great shame

        PiP :)

  28. I’ve just started to link-dump on Twitter, Facebook, and G+. WordPress does the Twitter and Facebook bits for me automatically but for Google I have to find where I last dumped my links and then batch up any new blog posts. It’s not very elegant. As for the conversations on Twitter, there really aren’t any. Twitter, at least for me has morphed into less of a discussion and more of just a loose collection of strangers and their monologues. It’s on Facebook where the engagement is happening, I’m getting comments and likes on Facebook and next to nothing on Twitter. The only thing my WordPress blog gets are spam comments, so that’s extra-worthless. I miss the community of LIveJournal back in the early 2000’s, just don’t get that with WordPress and I don’t know why. My guess for the answer is that Facebook is just too pervasive and people are just too lazy. Might as well just comment on Facebook and be done with it. So the blogs just sit there, comment-free.

    1. I have the opposite. I post into my Facebook group and get a lot of people clicking but little comments on the FB page, and a lot more on my blog. As for Twitter, I don’t think of it primarily as a space for people to comment on what I’ve done, but I like to join in conversations using hashtags that interest me. I get followers this way and then when I post a blog post to Twitter I get hits from there too

  29. I really don’t enjoy twitter that much. It’s seems much too complicated and you have to spend too much time on it trying to follow threads. My posts go to twitter but I’m not sure if people really look at them. When I do go on twitter it’s because someone has invited me to a discussion or I go to look at #FridayReads every Friday which I love. Maybe I4ll go on more eventually if I have the time.

  30. Twitter has helped me gain followers. But lots of followers don’t automatically equate to lots of hits or readers… well, at least, not in my case. The most hits ever on my blog in a day was a little over 100. But my blog promoting skills could use some work, so yeah… it’s not as simple as just blaming or using Twitter.

  31. Though most of my tweets relate to walking – the subject of my blog – I write and follow about books, publishing, baseball, comedy, politics. My alter-ego feels freer on Twitter and I’ve met a lot of new people. I follow who’s entertaining or informative – not just selling their thing.
    I agree sometimes I don’t know what people are talking about – always in the middle of some thought wave, but I don’t worry about it.

  32. Personally I don’t tweet much and I haven’t that much people I follow. But I send out the information of a new blogpost out to my followers via twitter every time I post a new one.
    The reason to use twitter for me is twofold: First, there are many people here in Germany, who don’t like to follow a blog via daily email. That’s to much inflow for their inbox. To follow a blog via twitter, keeps you informed and your inbox clean. If the title of a new blogpost sounds interesting, you “click and see”. If you like, what you read, ist’s easy to share that post, you just have to retweet it to your friends. No email to write, no adresses to search, just one click on the retweetbutten and the information is out. Following a blog via RSS or another reader is not everybodys thing, especially for (older) people who are not so used to the net. But there are many people who find it easy to set up a twitterline and follow the blog via twitter. The second reason I use twitter is, that I often get information or ideas via the tweets of bloggers or friends, that I than share on my blog also, especially in my weekly post on mondays (“Interesting things in the blogosphere”).. It’s an easy and effective way to share information, without having all the stuff in your inbox. Most people I follow use twitter that way. There are nearly no one, who tweet about their meals or so. Most of them share information I value or inform about a new post on their blog. To get theese informations, I don’t have to change to another side or medium. I worked with twitter via echofon, a firefox addon thru wich you could follow the twitterline on the same page you were working on. Sadly. echofon has put down it’s service last year. I now follow my twitterline via thwirl, wich is not that good like echofon, but until now the best (new) way for me.
    In essence I would say, that 10 % of my readers come via twitter and up to 30 % of my informations/ideas I use I get via twitter.

  33. Nice to know that I’m not the only one who is confused about how to use Twitter effectively! I just started a Twitter account, haven’t tweeted a lot yet, so I’m looking forward to the next post.

    I’m finding it hard to change gears, from the blogging mindset of having a blank canvas to write and post whatever I want, to the Twitter requirement of staying within 140 characters!

    oh yeah… @peters154

  34. I have two twitter account. I post my blog to @musicnfilm. And i have my own personal twitter just to “litter”. Haha! Or just to kill the time while on traffic jam or in the middle of boring meeting. But twitter is not the only option to gain traffic to your blog. It doesn’t help much. But it works.

  35. I love Twitter. I used to think it was a bit useless, and had that “hasn’t been updated in three months” account. Then I began learning to actually interact with people, and now have gotten to a modest number of followers, engage in weekly Twitter chats, and am getting more readers from Twitter as well. (Still not many, but the number is getting higher). Even if I never got views from Twitter, I’d still enjoy it. There are so many people in your field and beyond to interact with and discuss topics/engage with. I highly recommend it. People who feel like they know you are probably more likely to support your endeavors, especially if they are good ones.

  36. I too am on Twitter an have loads of fun there! I use it both professionally as a doctor and personally. It is though, hard to explain at times especially to my colleagues! A couple of weekends ago I had so much fun with my Twitter friends over our morning cups of coffee that I wrote a post about it. “Of Babies and Donuts” was in part an attempt to explain the fun and power of Twitter.

  37. I’m a twitter fan, but it took awhile to grasp how much it can be a useful tool for searching content, reading what experts in your chosen field are saying, etc. For example, let’s say you want to follow content about #Leadership. (the # just acts as a searching tool). You can discover, within seconds,highly useful information that it would take so much longer to uncover on Google, for example. It’s like having a personalized research tool….I love it and encourage everyone to ‘just try it’ , and you don’t even have to tweet to gain the benefit of twitter.

  38. I am on Twitter, as Countingducks if anyone is interesting. Yes I am one of those people who is guilty of just saying they’ve published a new post. This happens automatically when I publish, and I don’t really know how that happens. This may sound laughable, but I’ve looked at my Twitter account, and I can’t see the place where you input fresh tweets. I will look again. As for Elizabeth, if it’s the Elizabeth I think it is. she is a remarkable, knowledgeable person on this subject, as well as being extraordinarily helpful. One last thing. I wish there was a spell check on the comment section as my spelling is rubbish. I might have proved that here.

    1. Hi Peter,
      They have another wonderful Elizabeth on board who will address the value of social media to blogging… Thanks for the kind words and yes, while I don’t write about it much these days, I am quite knowledgeable on the subject. TY! :-)

  39. Thanks for the tips. Truly gave me a clearer perspective of tweeter. One I realized is that it is also about giving and sharing others. There are times that I am more thrilled to share the amazing work of my blogger friends than about me. And 2013 is a year of giving, even in social media.