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What You Need to Know about Twitter

What You Need to Know about Twitter

By Pat Flynn on

I’m headed back home from Boston today (I was there for the premiere of Crooked Arrows, which was awesome! Pictures of the red carpet event to come soon!), but in the meantime I’m really happy to share a wonderful guest post by my good friend Tom from Leaving Work Behind.

It’s funny because I actually haven’t talked about Twitter very much here on the SPI blog – I talk about Facebook and YouTube much more – but I do use it to successfully drive a lot of traffic to the blog and engage even further with the SPI community

Everything I would want to say about Twitter is covered perfectly in this post, including some of the tools that I use to go along with it, so please enjoy and take it away Tom!

Do you ever feel like you’re wasting time on social media? Like your considerable efforts are not suitably rewarded?

Are you spending hours and hours on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter every week in an effort to promote your blog, and only getting a trickle of traffic in return?

If any of this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone. I have wasted more hours than I would care to mention on social media. However, I recently learned something extremely valuable – that investing a small amount of quality time is by far the best way to get results.

And when it comes to getting a huge return on your time investment with Twitter, I have developed a highly effective strategy that takes just 10 minutes a day to maintain.

But What About [Insert Traffic Source Here]?

Let me make something clear up front – I am not claiming that Twitter is the undisputed champion of referral traffic. You only have to go back through Pat’s archives to see that he gets a lot more traffic from the likes of Facebook and YouTube than Twitter. Having said that, there are two things that I love about Twitter:

  1. You can start to gain real traction from day one
  2. Referral traffic from Twitter is extremely low maintenance

Pat is a huge exponent of both Facebook and YouTube as sources of traffic for your blog. But I’m sure he would agree that driving traffic from those sources is no piece of cake. Pat created a huge YouTube following by taking a great deal of time preparing quality videos, and his Facebook page is testament to the amount of work he puts into that particular social media network.

In my humble opinion, Twitter is the king of referral traffic for startup and intermediate bloggers, because you don’t need an established base, and you can automate a huge part of the process (without being spammy).

Why Should I Pay Any Attention To You?

I am no A-list blogger – far from it. I started my blog last June, and it has been a huge learning curve (I had no prior experience with blogging). Many blogs started at the same time (or after) are far bigger than mine, but I am still pretty happy with how my traffic and readership has increased:

Leaving Work Behind Analytics

I opened my Twitter account in June 2011 and spent the year scraping around for followers. By December I had painfully amassed a grand total of 552 followers. In the New Year I started testing all sorts of different strategies in an effort to boost my number of followers. I reached 1,000 followers on 16th February 2012, and 2,000 followers on 23rd April. My account is currently growing at an average rate of around 20 followers per day.

The jump in traffic to my blog from February onwards has been down in no small part to Twitter. In March 2012, referral traffic from Twitter accounted for over 10% of my traffic (1,208 visitors):

Twitter Analytics

I am analytical by nature. I’ll always look to assess whether or not the time or money I invest in particular endeavor is giving me a suitable return. On average, I only spend about 10 minutes per day on Twitter. So approximately 5 hours invested on Twitter in March returned me 1,208 visitors. That’s about 15 seconds to get each visitor. And don’t forget – this is for a pretty low traffic blog with a pretty modest Twitter account. The returns should increase exponentially with better-established blogs.

By now you should be sold on the concept that Twitter can be an excellent source of traffic for your blog. Now it is time for me to show you how you can increase your follower base and drive more traffic to your site by investing just a few minutes a day.

Your Profile

I apologize for starting with something so prosaic, but the quality of your Twitter profile has a direct impact on the number of visitors you will attract, and extension, the amount of traffic that Twitter can drive to your site. Your profile is what most people check out when they choose whether or not to follow you, so it should be optimized to maximize your conversion from following to follower.

Work on the 140 characters you are allowed to describe yourself. It should set out your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in a concise and compelling manner. It is also important to include your website’s URL in the bio itself.

If you have time, do something with your profile’s background. It doesn’t have to be anything particularly spectacular – just something that shows you are a person of substance. It took me about 15 minutes to make mine, but it makes more of an impact than any of Twitter’s default backgrounds.

Finally, and this should go without saying, but you must have a profile photo. Nothing screams “spammer” more than that little egg:

Twitter Egg

This is not your friend!

If it is a personal Twitter account (or one for your personal brand), it should be a photo of you. If it is an account for your blog, it should of course be your blog’s logo.

Tweeting for Engagement

There is just one more thing to cover before we delve into the process of increasing your followers.

Just like your profile, the quality of your tweeting has a direct impact on the percentage of people who will follow you. If you follow someone, they may well check out your most recent tweets to see if you are worth following back. If your tweets are sporadic, of a low quality, or even both, you may well lose a potential follower.

Engaging with your followers is where the vast majority of your time spent on Twitter will go. Optimizing your profile and setting up the automated process is an upfront time investment – interaction is an ongoing process.

As I alluded to above, if you want to maximize the success of your Twitter account, you need to have a USP. There needs to be a reason as to why people would want to follow you. It could be because you provide links to high quality articles, or you could tweet out entertaining rants. The what isn’t particularly important, but the effect is. Give people a compelling reason to follow you, and your conversion rate from following to follower will increase.

By its very nature, engaging with your followers will require some imagination, but here are some basic fundamentals and ideas to get you started:

  • If someone reaches out to you, respond
  • Ask questions – provoke conversation
  • Reach out to new followers
  • Be interesting!
  • Use images
  • Showcase milestone followers (e.g. “@tweeter just became my 2,000th follower! You rock!”)

Just treat the above ideas as starting points – don’t be afraid to try your own thing.

Increasing Your Followers

Alright – let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

When it comes to increasing your followers, you have two options – manual or automatic. The pros and cons of each are pretty self-explanatory – manual is free but time-intensive, whilst automated will set you back a few bucks but requires barely any time investment. It is ultimately up to you to decide how to proceed.

The key is to find likeminded people to follow. A certain percentage will follow you back – in my experience, between 10-30% (depending upon a variety of factors). When I first started doing this, I was surprised by the amount of messages and emails I received with something along the lines of “I found you because you followed me on Twitter”. Traffic numbers only tell you so much – if someone takes the time to email you as a result of finding you on Twitter, you know you’re onto something.

TweetAdderFinding likeminded people is simple – just find other Tweeters in your niche. Logic dictates that if you cover similar topics to John Doe, his followers will potentially be interested in following you too. You can of course do this manually, but if you want to save yourself some time, purchase TweetAdder.

Once you have TweetAdder up and running, the following process is almost entirely automated – you only need to “top up” people to follow whenever the well is running dry.

There are two other strategies I recommend. Firstly, you can search for potential followers by keyword, again by using TweetAdder, or Twitter’s Advanced Search feature. You need to be careful about the context of keyword you use – try to be specific, so that you do not follow people who would have no interest in your account. Secondly, if your Twitter account is geographically relevant, you might try targeting people in a certain area. This can also be done with TweetAdder, and also via Twitter’s Advanced Search feature.

Filter Your Following

In my opinion, you need to be very careful about your following/follower ratio. If someone notices that you have followed them, and subsequently see that you have 100 followers but are following 1,000 people, the chances of them following you back are remote. Not only that, you risk being reported as a spammer. Furthermore, once you are following around 2,000 people, your ability to follow more people will be restricted by the number of followers you have.

So in short – don’t push it. I personally always make sure that I am following less people than the number of followers that I have – I think it looks far less spammy. It may not be the most aggressive or perhaps the most efficient way of building your follower base, but I am keen to keep things “natural”.

The key to keeping your following count under control, so that you can continue to follow new people, is to separate the wheat from the chaff. There are three types of Tweeter that you should look to unfollow:

  1. Someone who hasn’t followed you after a certain period of time
  2. Someone who hasn’t tweeted for a certain period of time (i.e. a dormant account)
  3. Someone who has no profile picture (and is therefore highly unlikely to be a real person)

If you are doing this process manually, the first type is the most difficult to handle. With TweetAdder, you can simply set the software to automatically unfollow anyone who hasn’t followed you within a certain number of days (I have it set to 3 days). But I don’t believe that there is a free tool that calculates how long ago you followed someone.

Therefore, you have a choice – you can shorten your cycle to one day and unfollow anyone who hasn’t followed you from the previous day, or you can add people once every few days, and unfollow those who haven’t followed you at the end of every cycle.

The best free tool you can use to unfollow people manually that I have found is ManageFlitter. Just sign in and hit the “Not Following Back” tab:


On the resultant screen, hit “Quick Edit”, and you can then select all those that are not following you, one hundred at a time:


You can repeat the same process for accounts without profile pictures by selecting the “No Profile Image” tab.

I tend to carry out this process twice a week – it takes about 3 minutes in total, and ensures that the path is clear for you to follow people who will be more likely to follow you back.

How Many?

At this point you may be wondering about volume – namely how many people you should follow/unfollow per day. My @tomewer account follows 200 people and unfollows 200 people every single day and I have never encountered a problem – in fact, I could probably push it further if I felt the need to. However, I believe that there are various factors that control Twitter’s lenience in such matters.

For instance, I was developing a Twitter account for a small business and was following people at a rate of 100 per day. After a few weeks of this I received a warning from Twitter that was not to be taken lightly. The message was loud and clear – stop what you are doing, or we will delete your account.

I believe that there were two reasons for this particular account getting warned:

  1. The account was young and didn’t have many followers
  2. The account may not have been relevant to many of the people I was following

My theory is that growing a Twitter account is much like SEO. A well-established website is likely to be far more stable in its ability to handle large volumes of links than a brand new site.

So tread carefully – especially if your account is relatively new and/or small. Although you are likely to get a warning first rather than an outright ban, it is probably better not to attract Twitter’s attention at all.

Driving Traffic

Everything I have discussed above leads to one thing – how to use your Twitter account to drive traffic to your blog. That is of course the ultimate aim (although there are certainly other benefits to using Twitter). And doing so involves yet more easy automation.

I use the appropriately named Tweet Old Post WordPress plugin, which as you might expect, automatically tweets out your old posts at set intervals. However, I don’t want you to simply fire it up and get on with your day – in order to preserve the quality of your Twitter account and maximize referral traffic to your site, there are a few key changes you should make to the settings.

Firstly, I recommend that you tweet out your post title only. You shouldn’t include any additional text within the tweet – just the title of the post itself. “A post from the archives” or words to that effect will probably decrease your click through rate (people don’t like old content).

You also need to consider how often these tweets are sent out. It really depends on how often you are tweeting out manually – if all your followers are seeing are links to old posts on your blog, they won’t hang around for long. It isn’t an exact science – I would just go with what makes you comfortable. My settings are a minimum interval of six hours, and a random interval of eight. I also set a minimum post age of 28 days.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you want to make sure that you are only tweeting out your evergreen content. There is little point in tweeting out a link to a blog post that is no longer relevant. The easiest way to do this is to add a post category called “Tweetable” (or something similar), then exclude all other categories in the Tweet Old Post settings screen:

Exclude Categories

The alternative option is to exclude specific posts from being tweeted out, but I find the above option to be easier (you simply add a worthy post to the “Tweetable” category when you publish it).

As for new posts, I think it is sensible to tweet them out to your audience 2-3 times within the space of 24 hours or so. The key is to tweet out the post at different times, so that you (a) maximize the people you reach and (b) don’t irritate people by linking to the same post in quick succession. I would recommend that you tweet out something different every time. You can use the original post headline, an alternative headline, ask people a question, or something else altogether. Just keep it fresh.

Tweet Old Post truly is a set and forget plugin that will bring in consistent traffic for as long as you use it.


By now you should be well on your way to setting up a largely automated system that will not only send highly targeted traffic to your site, but also increase in effectiveness over time.

But there is one more thing you should consider before you move on – the subject of optimizing your tweets to achieve the highest Click Through Rate (CTR), in addition to maximizing re-tweets and mentions.

It is good “twittiquette” to leave 25 characters spare in your tweets. People like to add their own thoughts and mentions, so give them space with which to do so. Beyond that, anything is fair game, but try to treat your tweets like any other key piece of text that you hope to convert people with. It is not the purpose of this article to explain how to write engaging copy, but the same kind of headline writing advice you can find over at Copyblogger applies perfectly to tweets.

Now to move onto timing. This is something that Pat has spoken about before, with his post on Tweriod and Buffer. If you haven’t already read that post, I recommend that you do so, and follow his advice. The key takeaways are as follows:

  1. Find out when most of your followers are online with Tweriod
  2. Use Buffer to to schedule your tweets to be sent at optimum times

But now there’s more. Buffer gives you analytics information on every single tweet you send out:

Buffer Analytics

You can see how many times the link was clicked, how many Twitter accounts the tweet was sent out to (including re-tweets), in addition to the number of retweets, mentions and favorites. With this kind of information, it doesn’t take long to figure out what kind of tweets work in terms of attracting more clicks.

Improving your conversion rate in any scenario is a matter of trial and error, and Twitter is no exception. Over time you will gain a better understanding of what kind of tweets resonate best with your own unique group of followers. Keep any eye on the analytics provided by Buffer, and learn from it.

Wrapping Up

There is a lot of information to digest above, and you would probably be best served by bookmarking this post and coming back to it at regular intervals, whilst you are working on your Twitter strategy.

However, if you break the process down into its constituent parts, there is nothing to be intimidated by. The key is getting your systems in place. Once your following procedure is automated, you just need to spend time engaging with your followers – and to be honest with you, I find that a whole lot of fun!

I would like to finish by asking you a question – do you agree with my methods? If so, please share your success stories! If not, I would love to get your feedback and constructive criticism. Just let me know in the comments section!

You can find Tom Ewer over at Leaving Work Behind, where he blogs about quitting your job and living a fulfilling and successful life. He recently discovered a method you can use to boost blog post tweets by 27% or more – click here to check it out!

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