Social Media Sunday: Twitter Revisited

Last weekend I started actively growing my Twitter following @Sourcererblog again. On Friday, Sept. 26, I was sitting at 2,789 followers. As I write this post a week later, I’m at 3,014 and counting. If I’m able to pick up another 75 before Monday, I’ll have gained 300 followers in 10 days. That’s the largest single bump I’ve seen, so it’s worth discussing. The lesson I’m taking from it is that once you’re able to gain a stable Twitter following of 2500+, Twitter gets easier.

Twitter analytics run a day behind, so this doesn’t capture my follower growth since yesterday, but it will give you an idea of how my account is trending right now. The top of the blue line represents 2,980 followers when the stats rolled over on Friday. The little spike at the very end covers the period from Sept. 27 (2,816 followers) through Friday. So about 170 followers added last week. Most of those are people I followed last Friday and Saturday.

TwitterGraph 2014-10-04

Here’s a little history for folks who have joined me since the last time I did one of these Twitterblogs; then I’ll talk about how I’m managing this account and give you some demographic info about who’s following me. I started a couple of Twitter accounts last November because they were simple to set up and I wanted to use the WordPress publicize feature to tweet blog links. I branded one of them @Sourcererblog and connected it to both Sourcerer and Part Time Monster. I also set up a personal one, mainly so I could link to it in the @Sourcererblog profile to establish that there’s a real person behind the sorcerer persona.

On January 10, two months after I started, I was following about 600 accounts with @Sourcererblog and I had only 60 followers. At that point I decided I was going to have to do more than publicize links if I wanted the Twitter account to be worth anything. I started spending a little time every evening retweeting things and also tweeting to Diana (@parttimemonster) and Jeremy (@quaintjeremy) about blog stuff. Basically, I tweeted them things about the blog schedule, what posts we had going the next day, etc. I used #blogs, #Wordpress, #writing, and a lot of made-up hashtags for comic effect in those tweets.

As I was doing this I also started having conversations with WordPress bloggers who had Twitter accounts and I started unfollowing accounts that I knew would never follow me back. I weeded out hundreds of accounts that hadn’t tweeted in years, big celebrity accounts, etc. All that took a couple of weeks to have an effect, but it paid off. Bloggers started to notice me on Twitter.

Sometime toward the end of January, I caught a real break. I had a conversation about blog-building with Vijay of Half Eaten Mind (@HalfEatenMind) on one of his pages, and he added me to his list of bloggers on Twitter. That list had about 250 bloggers on it at the time. It took me a few days to do it without risking suspension with my small account, but over the course of the next week, I followed the entire list. It turned out to be what I’ve come to think of as a “high percentage followback” list. Well over 60 percent of the bloggers I followed from that list followed me back, and I’m still interacting with some of the people I met though Vijay’s list. The follows and the interaction I gained from following that list gave me the boost I needed to get @Sourcererblog going and keep it growing.Twitter-icon-the-bird

I started paying attention to the people who were mentioning me in Tweets. I asked questions and studied the way people with thousands of followers were interacting. I did #FollowFridays religiously for a couple of months, and when others gave me Follow Fridays, I always took care to thank them, retweet, and look at the other accounts they’d included with me. At one point I was routinely picking up 50 to 100 followers every weekend just by doing that. So many people have helped me grow my Twitter account at this point, I can’t begin to name them all, but here are five whose interactions — along with Diana’s, Jeremy’s, and ViJay’s — have been absolutely invaluable. Not all of them are even aware they’ve helped me, but they have.

I spent the next five months working to get my following above 2,000, because Twitter caps the number of people you can follow at 2,000 until you have roughly that number of followers. I passed 2K the second week of June and grew it to 2,500 over the next month.  I also wrote an eight-part blog series about it and created a page to help other bloggers figure Twitter out. In early July, I stopped actively growing it for a few reasons.

  • At the time, I didn’t see what a following of 5K would get me that I wasn’t already getting with 2,500.
  • I was starting to be squeezed for time, and the blogs are more important. I had to cut back on the other social media to keep my blogs going.
  • I wanted to see what would happen if I dialed my account activity back. I needed to know how persistent the Twitter following is and to see whether or not my follower base would collapse if I just went back to publicizing links for awhile.

TwitterSuzieAs it turned out, tweeting for 15 minutes every other day along with publicizing links and following people back was enough to keep my account growing at a minimal level. Plenty of people unfollowed me, but I still ended up with a net gain of more than 250 followers between July and September without making any effort whatsoever to actually grow my account.

Now I’m finally in a position to grow it without a ton of work, because having 3,000 followers means I can follow up to 3300 accounts. And @Sourcererblog is large enough and active enough now that I can load up my unfollowers in Manage Flitter every Thursday evening and unfollow 100 at a time without tripping Twitter’s anti-spam system and getting my account suspended. I’ve also looked at the quarterly stats from this blog, which I will share and discuss next weekend. Twitter is my third-largest source of referrals over the last 3 months. It hasn’t brought me a LOT of traffic. It’s barely noticeable in the daily stats. But it’s grown to the point that Twitter referrals are a significant number now, and it’s happened since I got my account above 2,500 followers.

My basic rules of engagement for Twitter haven’t changed, but I can already tell that keeping this account growing, going forward, is going to be a much more smooth operation than growing to 2K was. Here’s my new-and-improved growth process.

  1. Every Thursday, I load my account in Manage Flitter (@ManageFlitter, blog) and view my unfollowers in chronological order. I unfollow the last 100 on the list — the 100 who have had the longest to follow me back and not done so, or who followed me for a while and then unfollowed for whatever reason. At some point I’m going to have to start unfollowing 200 every week, but for now, this is plenty of unfollowing for me.
  2. I spend Friday afternoon and Saturday morning following to within about 50 of my “following” cap, which I presume to be my number of followers plus 10 percent. I try and do at least a few Follow Fridays every week. Once I’m loaded up, I only follow enough new people during the week to keep my “following” number within 50 the cap. I do most of my following on Friday and Saturday because Twitter is busiest on the weekends, and that’s when people are most likely to be checking their notifications there.
  3. I interact as much as I can on Twitter on Saturdays and Sundays, then tweet with a couple of dozen people who I’ve been tweeting with for months during the week. I also share quite a few links from the browser for other bloggers, and I send a link to @Mondayblogs every Monday as often as I can.
  4. When Thursday rolls around, I begin the cycle all over.
  5. I tried out the “Who to Follow” function this weekend. Up to this point, I’ve been following other peoples’ followers and following from lists when I’m added to them. I’ve had good early results with “Who to Follow,” but I didn’t use it indiscriminately. I followed people who seem to share my interests, and people who a lot of my followers are following. But it’s worked. I followed maybe 175 that way Friday afternoon, and I’m up almost 100 followers since I did it.

And here are my rules of engagement.

  • Be genuine and be nice. Twitter has a dark side just like every other social media network. But my Twitter network runs on giggles and smileys. Aside from landing at the bottom of my unfollowers list when I need to free up capacity, there are only three ways to get unfollowed by me. 1) Posting things that are Not Safe For Work; 2) Flagrant spamming; and 3) Being mean. When I unfollow for any of these three reasons, I also block the accounts.
  • If you aren’t tweeting, you aren’t present. This doesn’t mean you have to tweet all the time, because tweets circulate for hours and sometimes days. It does mean you need to spend at least a few minutes every other day tweeting things other than your own links. And that you need active people to tweet with. Maintaining a few lists also helps. People appreciate list adds.
  • If you want a lot of people to follow you, you must follow a lot of people.

Finally, some interesting facts about my Twitter following for my fellow stat geeks.

  • My following is 67% male and 33% female, but anecdotally, my active, engaged following includes many more women than men.
  • Fifteen percent of my following is concentrated in five cities: Washington D.C., New York, London, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.
  • The USA accounts for 51% of my following. Half of those are in five states: California, Texas, Virginia, Florida, New York, and Illinois. If you’re wondering why this is so, take a look at an electoral map of the U.S. These are all states with a both a lot of electoral votes and a lot of big cities, which means large populations and relatively strong economies.
  • Half of my followers outside the U.S. are from six countries: the U.K., Canada, Australia, India, Germany, and Brazil. These are all countries with large English-fluent populations and Internet schedules that overlap with my blogging schedule.
  • The rest (about 1500 followers total) are from the other 45 U.S. states or from other countries. So half my Twitter followers are from five U.S. states and six other countries.
  • My followers’ “interests” are dominated by books and writing. The only non-book related interests on my list are Leadership, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Photography. The most popular single interest among my followers is Romance Books, and it’s the only one that rates above 50%. I find this very interesting because I’m not that into romance books. But on the other hand, I know quite a few romance authors. I’ve also been pretty clear about the facts that I don’t discriminate by genre when it comes to judging artistic merit and I love to see writers succeed regardless of the genres they choose to work in.

I hope you’ve found all this intersting, if not helpful. I’ve watched my Twitter account on another monitor while I wrote this. I’m at 3,022 now. Eight new followers in the time it took to put together this post. That’s not bad at all for an two hours when I wasn’t even tweeting.


Blog Traffic and Engagement: Zemanta

In case you missed my announcement on Friday, I have a post about how I use various social networks going at Jessica Leeman’s blog Social Media tomorrow. This is my first true guest post, and I’m thrilled.

I’ve been playing around this week with an app called Zemanta. I started noticing bloggers using it awhile ago. I had a brief conversation with Vijay over at Half Eaten Mind about it last month and put it on my list of things to look into. Last week I had a chat with Julian at The Extremis Review and he shared some info with me about what it’s done for his traffic. That conversation convinced me that I needed to give it a close look immediately.

You can get it as a blog plug-in if you use I’m running it as a browser extension because that allows it to work for my posts at Part Time Monster and Quaint Jeremy’s Thoughts as well as my own blogs. Here’s a list of features:

Screenshot 2014-07-26 13.45.03

  1. It adds “Content Recommendations” to your dashboard, which suggests both articles and images that you can include in your post as you write it. The content recommendations menu is collapsible, so you can hide it when you’re not using it.
  2. It suggests tags, which is a big help, because it saves time trying to think them up.
  3. It suggests related content and allows you to add related articles to the bottom of your post. This is its best feature in my mind, because it gives me a way to link to other blogs, and I don’t have to disable the built-in “related content” feature on WordPress to do it. I can use them both.

I’m still figuring out how it works. So far, I’ve gotten a few useful things from it, but I’ve also gotten a lot of things that aren’t really helpful, like links to Wikipedia and big media articles. The tags aren’t always good. I just set up an account and added my blogs as sources this weekend. As I link to other bloggers in the future, I’ll add those blogs as sources as well. I’m hoping that as I use the app more, the suggestions will get more useful, and I’m interested in any advice other people might have on tweaks that might make the suggestions better.

Here’s what related content added with Zemanta looks like: