If Twitter is micro-blogging, does that mean that all us old-school bloggers are macro-bloggers?
In this thoughtful post, veteran and multiple blogger Caitlin Fitzsimmons argues that, these days, we have to be both:
Wendy Perrin, the dynamo behind Conde Nast Traveler’s popular consumer travel blog The Perrin Post, summed it up at the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in the San Francisco Bay Area in August:
– “If you have a blog, you can’t not be on Twitter.”
Hyperbole? I don’t think so. I agree with Wendy – Twitter really has become that important. No doubt other micro-blogging platforms will arise but for now, Twitter rules the roost.
A successful blog needs readers but, more than that, it needs engaged readers who will comment on blog posts, subscribe and share the links with their own networks of friends. Twitter helps connect your blog with potential readers and it is also a powerful tool to build community. This is essential if you want to take your blog to the next level – read Darren Rowse of Problogger’s case study on a ‘secret blogging alliance’ for more inspiration.
Cultivate your community
How do you do this? I believe it starts, not with what you tweet, but in finding the right people to follow. It is not like Facebook where you mostly friend people you already know – Twitter is also about reaching out to people you want to know.
One of the common criticisms of Twitter – (usually made by people who don’t actually use the service…) – is that it is full of people tweeting about what they had for lunch. This IS true but – it is not as banal as it may sound. There is a whole community of people who tweet about their lunch every day and tag it with #lunchtweet so you can easily find the lunch tweets on a Twitter search. If you are a food blogger, or are interested in food, then it is likely you will find the subject of food and what people eat endlessly fascinating. (I know I do!) Many other people find this inane – but fortunately, there are thousands of other people on Twitter who don’t tweet about what they had for lunch.
Follow people who have interesting tweets and are interested in the topics you write about on your blog. They may follow you back promptly – or, they may not. Either way, you still want to receive their tweets. If you share common interests, you will find their tweets interesting anyway. Following them also gives you the opportunity to engage with them by responding to their tweets.
There are tools which let you auto-follow everyone who follows you. I am not a fan as there are a growing number of spam bots on Twitter, but also because sometimes the interest is one-way. Maybe someone who tweets about football happens to be really interested in my tweets about travel. They are welcome to follow me and, if they engage me in conversation I will reply, but I am unlikely to follow them back because I do not want my stream filled with football tweets! Unlike Facebook which is based on friendship, the Twitter decision to follow or not follow someone is not personal.
Promote your blog
Twitter is great for promoting your main blog URL through your profile and individual blog posts through your tweets. I firmly believe that if you do not do this, you are missing out on a large source of potential traffic. On my travel and food blog Roaming Tales Twitter is the third biggest referrer of traffic, behind Google and StumbleUpon but ahead of Facebook. Google Analytics also tells me that the ‘bounce rate’ is lower – meaning people who find my blog via Twitter are more likely to explore the rest of my site.
Many Twitter users no longer subscribe to RSS feeds – they feel that the right content will find them. For those who do use RSS, they probably want to sample a blog first and Twitter is ideal for that. I know from experience that it is far easier to gain a new follower on Twitter than to attract a new RSS subscriber.
You can automate the blog post tweets using tools such as Twitterfeed or various Twitter plug-ins for WordPress, or you can do it manually. For now you will likely need to use a URL shortener such as tinyurl or bit.ly so the link doesn’t max out your allocated 140 characters. This could very easily change, as a recent article in Slate notes.
Conventional Twitter etiquette says you should not repeat yourself. U.S. web guru Guy Kawasaki argues otherwise. He makes a convincing case but do tread carefully, as you may risk alienating your followers if you are repetitive or overly self-promotional. Until you feel comfortable with Twitter and have already built a community, flagging your blog posts once should be enough. You really need to know the rules and understand why they are there, before you can break them!
Caitlin returns to “Twitter for Bloggers” in her next post: with more valuable tips about context and the bloggers’ holy grail of “building your community”.