July 15, 2011

Blog Tips: Using Twitter to Promote Your Blog

TwitterI first addressed Twitter in this series back in August of 2008. At the time, I'd only been using it for a month. And yes, I was naive enough to think that was enough time to learn what it could do. It is time to revisit the use of Twitter for blog promotion. I have learned that it can be quite effective when used correctly and that it can even provide some benefits even when used in the most lazy way imaginable. I'll walk you through the lazy way first and then the more beneficial way. You can decide for yourself which method is for you.

If you are absolutely unfamiliar with what Twitter is and how it works or if you do not yet have a Twitter account, start here. Go ahead and create an account if you don't already have one.

The Lazy Method

In a prior tip about setting up FeedBurner, you may remember that I encouraged you to add links to your new RSS feed and an email subscription link/form to your blog. The rationale was simple: we wanted to make your content more accessible to readers by giving them different choices in how to access it. The lazy method for using Twitter to promote your blog is merely an extension of this same principle. Twitter has become so popular than many prefer it over RSS readers and email.

Here is what you need to do in order to implement the lazy method of using Twitter to promote your blog:
  1. Add a link to your Twitter account on your blog, preferably near the RSS and email links you've added for your feed. Your Twitter URL will be in the form of http://www.twitter.com/username (where "username" is your Twitter username. There are also buttons you can use.
  2. Fill in your profile in Twitter, making sure to include a link to your blog.
  3. Now, remember when we set up your FeedBurner account how we said we'd return? It is time to do that. Sign in to your FeedBurner account, and click on the name of your feed. Now click the Publicize tab and select Socialize from the left. Now click "Add a Twitter account" and follow the instructions to authorize it. Under "Formatting Options," set the post content to title only and make sure "Include link" and "Leave room for retweets" are checked. Click "Activate" at the bottom of the page, and you are done.
That's it. That is all you have to do for the lazy method. You've now accomplished three things: you've made it easy for people to follow you on Twitter from your blog, added a link to your blog from your Twitter profile page, and set up your feed to automatically send your blog posts to Twitter. You never have to visit Twitter again.

A Better Method of Using Twitter to Promote Your Blog

There is an obvious limitation to the lazy method that anyone who regularly uses Twitter will recognize: it may take you considerable time to get people to follow you. This means that while your posts are going there, not many people are seeing them. If we think of Twitter as just another means for people who want to keep up with your blog to do so, then this really is not a problem. If, however, we want to get the most of Twitter, we are going to have far more work to do.

The better method involves doing everything you've done in the lazy method and then investing considerable time on Twitter so that you are using it for far more than just automatically posting your blog feed. You need to say other interesting things, retweet interesting content from others, and participate in the Twitter community.

Twitter is a great example of the amount of time you invest being proportional to the benefit. By becoming an active member of the Twitter community, more people will discover you and therefore your blog.

The good news is that what is optimal when it comes to Twitter is really just a matter of opinion. The lazy method plus as much interaction on Twitter as you can stand will almost certainly be better than the lazy method alone.

If you want to see how I use Twitter, you can find me @vjack.

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