Monday, June 18, 2012
The Great Twitter Experiment: What Does "More Tweets" Really Get You?
Back in mid-March I decided to do an experiment. I wanted to utilize Twitter better, and since I'm known online as a writing tips blogger, I decided to follow in the footsteps of the savvy Elizabeth Craig and tweet the great writing posts and articles I see every day. (And if you're not following Elizabeth yet, go do so. She also does a roundup of her links and tweets on Sundays on her blog if you're not on Twitter but still want to see the posts)
My goals were to do more of what I'm known for (improving your writing), give back to the bloggers who have been supportive of me, and explore the benefits of frequent tweets. It was a networking opportunity, and a way to meet some new folks.
One of the things I was curious about, was what, if anything, I'd get from tweeting more. Would it really drive traffic to the blog or just gain me Twitter followers?
I know folks are curious about what works and what doesn't, so I figured I'd share for those thinking about what to do with their own feeds.
(If you're still trying to figure Twitter out, Tiffany Reisz did a fantastic guest post for me on how to use Twitter.)
The Plan: Tweet a great writing-related post every hour.
I have a staple of daily bloggers I tweet (and read) every day, plus extras each day for those who post less regularly. I wanted to maintain post variety so it wasn't the same 24 people all the time. New blogs get added as I find them. Recently, I added book review sites and author interviews to my tweets for variety. (and to help differentiate me from Elizabeth, since I really don't want to copy her, even though she inspired me. No need for both of us to tweet the same links, though we do have some overlap)
At first, I added my own blog posts every six hours to that roundup. Tweets drop off the feed, so anyone who checked Twitter in the afternoon probably wouldn't see my morning blog tweet. That quickly got hard to keep up with so I stopped. (I also didn't notice an increase in traffic)
I did "all me all day" on Sunday, tweeting posts from the archives. I felt compelled to update every post, so that really took a lot of time. Two weeks of those and I gave that up. (one week for me, one week for my guest posters)
After one month, this is what I found:
I started out with 1385 Twitter followers. At that time, I typically grew by three to five followers a week. I didn't tweet that often, just my blog post in the morning, replies to those who tweeted me, and some tweets to friends and folks who caught my eye when I checked my feeds. (I don't spend a ton of time on Twitter, and the time I do have to spare is usually when fewer people are on)
At the end of the month, I had 1453 followers.
A pretty big jump over five per week. Granted, many of these were folks I'd been tweeting (who followed me as a result), so there's a bit of a false positive here. But still a large gain.
Blog traffic wise, there was a big spike that first Sunday, then it leveled out to usual levels. That spike did not appear the second Sunday.
I've kept this up for a few months now, and my followers are up to 1970 (as of writing this post on Saturday). Blog traffic has increased slightly, but not significantly.
The biggest thing I've come away with after doing this, is that tweeting more pretty much just gets you more Twitter followers. The benefits of that are hard to quantify. I'm connecting with new people, which was a goal, so it's a win for me. I've had some great conversations with people I wouldn't have met if I hadn't tweeted their blog. From a networking perspective it's working.
The big question many writers want to know: Is this going to help me sell books?
Who knows. All the social media gurus insist that a solid online following and those personal connections are valuable and will indeed help you in the long run. I believe that word of mouth sells books, and the hardest part of selling a book is letting folks know it's out there. Kevin Kelly wrote (and has been quoted and referenced all over the place since) that all an artist needs is 1000 True Fans. These folks will help spread the word about your books/music/art, etc.
Will more tweets help me earn those True Fans? Time will tell and I guess I'll find out with my next book release. If it does, great, if not, I don't feel I've wasted my time. Helping writers is my goal, not trying to sneakily convert folks to my side.
I do know that whenever I see someone I've chatted with online in some fashion and made that connection, and they're blogging/announcing a new book/doing something they want folks to know about, I usually tweet or blog or do something to help promote them. I want to help those I like and who I think are nice and helpful to others. If I see someone spamming all the time or doing nothing to help others, I'm less likely to pass along the info. Those who make a connection with me will be more likely to get whatever "benefit" I can offer. Invite them to the blog, tweet their blogs, tweet reviews of their books when I see them, donate to their auctions, buy their books, go see them at an event, answer questions if they ask, etc. The social media stuff works on me, so I imagine it must work on others as well.
If you're thinking about ways to better use Twitter as a marketing tool (as opposed to a fun tool as Tiffany discussed above), here are some things to think about:
1. How much time do you want to spend?
I've got my reading and scheduling blog links down to a sustainable time frame (30 minutes most days), but checking, reading, and scheduling 24 posts a day is a commitment. Fridays take the longest, as I need to have tweets to last all weekend and into Monday. Most folks don't blog on the weekends, so I have triple the amount of blogs to look at on Fridays. And I stay offline on Sundays, so no blogs then. If I find a lot of great posts to read, it takes longer.
2. What's your goal for tweeting?
Gaining followers is all well and good, but what's the plan once you have them? Is it just to grow your numbers? I wanted to increase my community of writers, because networking with fellow writers is a solid long-term investment. (it's also fun and personally rewarding, but we're talking marketing goals here) You never know where a connection will lead. The larger a writer's network, the more opportunities they might hear about. (which works both ways, helping yourself and helping your fellow writers)
3. What are you known for or want to be known for?
You can be chatty and fun, or offer information, or a start conversations and debates. When people see your photo and handle, what do you want them to associate you with?
4. How much do you want to tweet?
Scheduling tweets is wonderful if you don't want to flood the feed. Maybe you want to tweet every hour, maybe every four hours, maybe just during peak traffic times or when you have time to spend online engaged with other tweeters. If your goal is to encourage conversations, it doesn't make sense to tweet a few times and then vanish. You'd want to stay online for a while to participate in those conversations. (hashtags (#) are great for this)
5. Don't expect more tweets to change things.
Tweeting more isn't going to magically translate into book sales or huge blog traffic increases. Growing your networking base is a good thing, but it's not likely to affect anything beyond your number of Twitter followers. It might benefit you at some point in ways you can't even imagine, but you can't count on it. That's just how marketing and networking work. It's about building and developing relationships, not getting a quick fix.
All in all, I think the experiment was a success and I'll keep at it. I'm enjoying it and it's something that fits into my day easily enough. Social media I can do and keep up with.
Encouraging Me to Tweet You More
Over this experiment, I did notice some things that made me more prone to tweet or add a blog to my roster. I read a lot of the posts I tweet, but not all. Some I scan to see if they look like interesting or valuable posts. (For example, a post on basic POV is a great post, but I personally don't need it so I don't read every word. But I know new writers will find it helpful)
1. A clear link to the Twitter handle. Those with the actual handle I can copy right off the blog are my favorites. Makes giving them credit for the post so much easier. Twitter buttons in clear areas are next.
2. Headlines that clearly show the point and value of the post. Most of the time I use the title, but once in a while I tweak it so folks can see what it's about.
3. An easy to read blog. White text on a black background? I'll never tweet you. Nothing personal, but my eyes wig out when I try to read white on black on a monitor.
4. Don't use graphics as your title instead of text I can cut and paste. One or two blogs I tweet I can't copy, but I make an exception for them because they usually have good information. It's worth the extra time to type it out.
5. Dates on your posts, or a blogging schedule listed. I'll find a blog and add it to my roster, then I discover week after week they have the same old post up. Dates lets me quickly see how often you post and when so I can schedule you appropriately.
If you're not following me yet and you'd like to, I'm @Janice_Hardy. You'll get writing links all day, plus several book reviews (random genres) and author interviews. Right now it's about 80% writing tips and 20% review/author related.
If you have a writing or book-related blog I'm not tweeting, feel free to leave your site in the comments (or email me if you prefer). If it fits with my tweeting philosophy I'll be happy to add it to my roster.
For those who do follow me, how are you liking the tweeting format?What's your Twitter or online strategy?
Labels: social media