Monday, June 18, 2012

The Great Twitter Experiment: What Does "More Tweets" Really Get You?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

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.

(ETA: As of April 2014, these numbers are now 5400+ )

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?


  1. Janice I've been following you for a month or more, and I find your tweets on writing really useful. I've bookmarked lots of them for future reference. Thanks for taking the time to do this, so much easier than reading through tonnes of blogs to find to good ones. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your observations. Have a great week!

  3. I've yet to make tweeting a habit. But I do go on once or twice a week to see what's going on with the few people I follow (you're one of them). Thanks for all good stuff you've shared! :)

  4. Thorough job and thanks for posting your observations!

  5. Great experiment, and kind of validates what I've suspected about Twitter - it's kind of its own universe. Doesn't necessarily create blog readers but that doesn't mean the connections aren't valuable - just useful in a different way.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Stacey, thanks for the feedback. I'm happy to know they're helpful.

    Buffy, most welcome, and you too ;)

    Amelia, it's an odd thing, but I've had fun with it.

    J.A. Paul, you're welcome!

    Julie, that's been my observation, though I think different genres and markets will have different experiences. I've read articles by authors who've had a lot of success with it. But it could be helping and you wouldn't even know.

    Stasia, most welcome!

  7. I always appreciate your links to informative writing articles. I enjoy Twitter when I'm able to make connections and interact with people rather than just increasing my number of followers. I recognize the difference between followers who follow me because they just want to increase their numbers and those who follow me because they're interested in what I have to share. BTW, I'll be linking to your post this Friday on my blog:

  8. Thanks Janice for sharing your Twitter experiences. I've held off joining Twitter because I already spend so much time reading blogs. I'm debating whether to take the plunge and add more social media. I appreciate you giving me some ideas of what to do with it.

  9. I'm not going down the tweet road myself, but I'll be happy to pass this post along to others who are!

  10. Thanks for posting these tips on using Twitter. Actually, it was your rss feed that led me to this post which, in turn, resulted in my following you on Twitter. I looked at your twitter posts over the past few days and they are very useful, especially those related to tips for improving my writing skills. I'm still working on incorporating regular blog posting into my routine; so far, I have not yet developed a Twitter strategy (definitely on the 'todo' list!)

  11. I've got to get my Twitter act together, but after spending so much time on the blogs, I have little energy left for Twitter. My it should be me mid year goal. :)

  12. I'd recommend not tweeting just writing links, unless you only want to connect with writer's. i follow a very wide variety of blogs from spiritual to wealth to entrepreneurial to craft and I post whatever interests me most from them.I spend a half hour once or twice a day flipping through my RSS feed and reading any title that catches my eye and then posting it to Twitter (scheduled out through the day). I also make sure I mention @username the personn who orginally posted it, you get points for mentioning another blogger and often they or their followers will wind up following you.

  13. Social media is really tough. There are many conplexities to consider. How much is the right amount?

    Right now my main focus is on my WIP. Too much distract from actual writing.

    I am just learning Twitter, so thanks for all the helpful information. Your perspective and dedication is always amazing! You are generous to track and share your data. I agree the best way to gain readers is still through word of mouth but getting a book out there isn't easy.

    Social Media is something to consider, especially in relation to your author platform. Websites are an entire other piece too. Jane Friedman gives a lot of information on this topic. @JaneFriedman if anyone would like to peek.

  14. I still have not really figured the whole Twitter thing out. Mostly I tend to forget I even have an account until I see blog posts like this one, or get a message in my e-mail telling me someone has started following me.

    I don't really have any plans to expand my twitter activity at this point. I just finished graduate school, and I'm in the process of remaking my life so that writing will fit in it again, so my focus is primarily on finding actual writing time around my day job. I am think about starting a blog, however, and I may at some point in the future feel that Twitter could work for me, so I always appreciate finding tips on how to use it more effectively.

  15. This is so interesting! I love your tweets, and of course Elizabeth's. I'm mostly on Twitter to build relationships, learn, and to share what I've learned. There's so much great stuff out there, and at first I freaked out about missing something. But once I realized that yes, I will for sure miss something, I was ok.

    Thanks for all the great writing posts you do AND the great tweets. It truly helps other writers.

  16. Interesting post! Thanks for sharing your strategy with us. I'll make a point of following your tweets from now on.

  17. Great post! I started blogging and tweeting in September and at first it was overwhelming; I'd addictively check my twitter stream in case I missed something. Finally got over that, but I still devote time to it each day as part of my routine.

    I recently put my blog in low-wattage mode to devote to Candace Havens FastDraft/Revision Hell class, but just started my regular schedule again this week if you're interested. Monday is Monday Hunk Who Reads, Wednesday-writing post, Saturday-link roundup,Sunday-Six Sentence Sunday.

  18. What a great post. Your checklist for getting more tweets is golden. Especially: put your twitter handle on your blog! Also if you have a twitter handle that has nothing to do with your name, accept that you won't get credited most of the time. Retweets are a big favor. Don't make the nice people jump through hoops.

    Elizabeth Craig is my inspiration, too. She's such a Twitter goddess. But I'm glad you did an analysis of the effect of more tweets on your blog and book sales.

    I get most of my blog traffic from Twitter, but I don't know if my book sales come from the blog or not. That's the hardest part to gauge.

    Thanks for this useful post!

  19. Angelina, thanks for the feedback and the upcoming link. I agree. There are folks who follow me that I know are just clicking links. I had one the other day that had over 5K followers and had only 8 tweets. How exactly does that work? I follow back writers mostly.

    Natalie, you can do as much or as little as you'd like. And it really depends on what you want out of it. Social Media Guru Kristin Lamb said recently on her blog that all it takes is 20 minutes or real interaction a day to be successful with it.

    Carol, thanks! I's not for everyone and that's okay :)

    Emberlin, how cool! It's challenging to figure out what works for you (or at least I found it so). But it's nice once you do get it worked out. And if you don't like it, dump it!

    Stina, I found that once I got my blog streamlined I had more time for twitter. You might look at ways to blog more efficiently. Could help free up some time.

    Comingalive, good point. My goal was to connect with other writers, so that's why I do the writing links. I always give credit unless I can't find their name.

    Galcier, Jane's blog is one on list. (and a great blog it is). Good for you to stay off to get your WIP done ;) I need some of that discipline, lol.

    Gypsyharper, if you don't want it, don't do it. I'm a firm believer in doing whatever social media or marketing a person feels comfortable with and has fun doing. It can easily distract you.

    Julie, thanks! Sometimes I feel like I miss things, too, because I tend to tweet live early in the mornings and few are online. I hear the bust times are in the afternoons, but I have too much else to do then. But it's fun to meet folks from the other side of the world (which I do a lot at that hour)

    Joanneguidoccio, thanks!

    Angelaquarles, thanks! I'll go take a peek. I hear good things about your current book over at Jami Gold's blog :)

    Anne, Elizabeth Craig is amazing. I don't know how she does it but she's an inspiration. I LOVE bloggers who put their handles up top and easy to copy. Shame you can tag book sales to know where they came from ;)

  20. Such an interesting experiment! I DO think Twitter followers are hard to qualify in terms of what it DOES for you. I'm glad you did the experiment. (Now I don't have to!) :)

  21. Ninabadzin, almost all marketing is, which is what makes it so hard. The more I look into it and test things, the more certain I am that "getting out and meeting folks" is the best thing an author can do. Aside from writing the best books they can of course.

  22. Great post, Janice! :) Thanks for sharing the results of your experiment.

    And I had to laugh when I saw Angela Quarles comment here and then your reply. See? Networking, right? :)

  23. Thanks for sharing this information. I only tweet for myself if I have a new post or article up. I tweet others a lot though. Angie

  24. Great post - am now following you on twitter (am vixatthemovies) and your blog!

  25. Jami, thanks! I know, I checked comments right after reading your blog. Small world!

    Angie, always good to share the love. You meet more folks that way.

    VikLit, hi and good to meet'cha!

  26. I wonder about the usefulness of the whole social media thing too, so found this post very interesting.

    I have around 2000 followers and I gain 20-40 a week. I don't do anything to find these people. A few are spammers (5-10), the rest are pretty much all writers. In my Twitter profile I state "I followback writers". I think that's what attracts them, although I can't be sure.

    I also tweet when new posts go up on my blog, but it isn't usually my tweets that attract traffic, it's when other people retweet my tweets.

    I've never had more than 5 retweets off a single tweet, so can't claim to know what happens then. some sort of free gift from the internet, I'm guessing.

    I do think you need to reach a certain size of audience before social media starts working for you. Maybe in the tens or hundreds of thousands.


  27. Mooderino, It's hard to really know what gets retweeted. I've had some various programs have told me got tweeted a lot (a lot for me is 14 times), but if someone tweets a RT and my name isn't on it, does it count? Who knows.

    I'm not sure what size "works." I've had folks with tens of thousands of followers tweet me and not seen any change in blog hits. And I've had one small blog mention me and get a slew of hits. I think if you happen to have folks who reach a lot of other folks (and influential folks) you can do well even with low numbers. It's the quality of the follower not the quantity.

    This post was a week ago and I'm up to 2063 now. Seems to be moving faster now, so I must have hit another tipping point. From what I've seen, there are moments when you reach a critical mass at one "level" and then someone bigger in the next level mentions you and suddenly you jump up.

    I hope i can keep it up because it will be interesting to see how things evolve and what (if anything) changes between my last book and my next book.

  28. Um, be carfull of following too many people. I head about this but wanted to test it, so I went to wattpad's twitter page and then their followers. I got locked out of my own after following about 35 people. Whoops! So, i think our following 5 people a day is way safer and less annoying. Now I'm waiting forever for a stupid password reset email thing. *sigh*

  29. Right on! An "oldie but goodie." Very helpful comments for this new to Twitter person. I'm feeling like a pro with my blog posts, but Twitter is challenging for me. Marlene Cullen