10 Practical Twitter Tips for Publishers

Twitter logoBy now Twitter is an important part of most publishers’ audience development and content promotion efforts. But in reviewing the Twitter presence of newspapers, magazines and other content sites on a regular basis I’m often surprised by the mistakes and missed opportunities that still occur.

So to help out I’ve created a list of Twitter tips for publishers.

I have intentionally left off some of the basics like being genuine, fostering two-way communication, participating not just promoting, etc. that I hope are now well-established fundamentals. In this post I’ll focus on simple, practical tips for getting better results from Twitter.

While my list is geared towards publishers the tactics are applicable to most organizations.

1. Diversify your approach
A Twitter profile can’t be all things to all people and a high volume of tweets can overwhelm followers. So spread things out through a diversified Twitter strategy. Supplement your main profile with additional accounts for key sections and topics and incorporate editorial staff profiles into your efforts. But be careful not to spread yourself too thin; how much you diversify depends on the size of your audience and your area of focus. For some titles a single branded profile is the right approach.

2. Give edit a voice
Who would followers rather interact with, a marketing person or the actual writers of your content? Let the editorial staff take the lead on branded profiles, and promote individual profiles on-site to extend engagement further. Personal profiles are a great way to share additional information around a story and allow users to get more than just headlines and links.

3. Style and word choice matters
The language used in tweets can greatly impact click-throughs and retweets. Be compelling enough to encourage user action without neglecting the literal, keyword-focused terms that help your tweets surface in Twitter search, real-time search and social search. This is turn helps the content linked in your tweets perform better in regular Web search. For some sites editorial headlines with a link work quite well; for others a more personal touch is needed. The best approach is to mix things up; avoid being too formulaic.

4. Frequency and timing matters too
It’s not just what you tweet, it’s when and how often. Frequency of tweets has a major impact on attracting and keeping followers. Every profile has to find its sweet spot – often enough to maintain interest and foster regular engagement, but limited enough to avoid losing followers. The volume of tweets and when tweets occur (time of day, day of week) also have a strong influence on user retweets. Dan Zarrella has done great research in this area (and the one above); get a copy of the “The Science of ReTweets” on his site.

5. Curate, don’t just self-promote
No one likes the guy at the party who does nothing but talk about himself. Be sure to share things from other sources too and get involved in related conversations. Make your Twitter profiles topical authorities on your areas of coverage. Twitter Lists are another good way to do this; create lists around specific topics, stories or events. It’s a good way to network while improving the strength of your own profiles.

6. Breaking news and trending topics
When news is breaking or a topic is trending in search and/or social media, maximize the visibility of your related content by coordinating promotion through Twitter and other social vehicles. The goal is to have your articles pop on news search, real-time search and social search all around the same time, all of which helps with regular Web search visibility too (immediately and longer term). By monitoring trend tools you can discover what topics are hot and how users are searching for and discussing them.

7. It’s not just for new content
While your latest articles and features will naturally get the most attention, take advantage of opportunities to promote older content too. This is particularly useful for sites that cover evergreen content and seasonal topics but it can be applied to any publication. You can also use Twitter to give a boost to underperforming sections and content types.

8. On-site promotion
Most publishers promote their main Twitter profiles through things like sidebar modules and footer links but not always prominently enough. You don’t want to go overboard but you do want to make it easy for people to learn about and follow your profiles. The New York Times created a Twitter page to showcase its profiles and Twitter Lists. Adding Twitter links to staff bios and bylines is also a good idea. Twitter @Anywhere makes it easy to do this without taking users off-site; just keep eye on how it affects site performance.

9. Optimize your Twitter buttons
The biggest on-site issue I come across is the way that Twitter share buttons are implemented and the tweet text that is automatically generated. The most common tweet text mistakes are things like not referencing the Twitter profile, including the profile of a third-party tool instead of your own, exceeding 140 characters, not using shortened URLs or showing the full length URL and nothing else. It’s also common to see 2-3 different Twitter buttons on the same page, each generating different tweet text and/or a different shortened URL. Many users will choose to customize the tweet text, but give them a strong default choice and minimize the work they need to do.

10. Incorporate Twitter content on-site
Tweets are transitory in nature so look for ways to extend their value by incorporating them into your own site experience. Entertainment and sports sites sometimes stream tweets from celebrities and athletes. News sites can showcase user reactions around a story or event on individual articles or even the home page and section fronts. User contributions solicited though Twitter can be turned into special features (or at least used for content ideas). Rand Fishkin offered a good suggestion for turning tweets into SEO-friendly on-site content.

Each of these tips could warrant a separate post and there are many more things to consider, but hopefully this list gives you some things to think about.

What Twitter tips would you add?


  1. says

    It’s a tough crowd on twitter… This is some great advice. Thanks for sharing. I really liked #7 “It’s not just for new content” … @joehall tweeted an article from 2 years ago just yesterday… it was still good content.

  2. says

    These are great tips. Frequency and timing is so important in ensuring you’ll get the most value (so to speak) out of your tweets. Gettting the right balance when it comes to timing is key to retaining/gaining followers and engaging them.

  3. says

    Good point Thomas. Two years can seem ancient online, especially for social media sharing, but for content that is not time-sensitive when it was produced doesn’t matter.

    Nick – I agree, finding the right balance for timing and frequency is key. Otherwise it’s easy overwhelm (and lose) followers, or on the opposite end get lost in the shuffle and never be noticed.

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