I admit that I was initially a little cynical about Twitter. 

Early web stats indicated maybe one, or two views per day via the site – and that was on good days. Facebook seemed to be where the bulk of my traffic came from. I stuck with my tweeting method, though, and I can happily say that just a few short weeks later, I’m not only gathering a lot of views from Twitter, but making new friends and connections.

I defended the Facebook author page a few weeks ago, and I stand by that. However, if you want to reach out beyond your immediate friend group, then you need to learn to tweet effectively. I’ve already outlined my major Tweeting gripes in the past, so be sure to keep any of those to a minimum for a start.

The Tweeting Trinity

Some cynics and Twitter guardians argue that it is ‘wrong’ to have a Twitter formula. Twitter should be natural, and spontaneous, they say.

Stop the press: spontaneous and natural usually isn’t very interesting, and really, the world doesn’t give a damn about what you have to say about what sort of milk you put in your tea. Unless you’re a celebrity, in which you can pretty much get away with anything.

Side point – maybe the bulk of celebrities using Twitter to be, well, ‘normal’, convinces us that we can be interesting through being ‘normal’, too? Difference is, we are normal. We need something to set us apart.

That’s where the formula comes in.

I honestly believe that if you follow this Twitter formula loosely, you will gain traffic and interest. It works for me, anyway, so hopefully it will for you too.

1. Tweet useful links in your niche

This one was suggested by the great Joanna Penn. Get subscribed to a load of blogs and follow interesting people, and spend some of your time sharing this content on Twitter.

You should always attribute when you share, as it looks like a bit more effort has gone in than if you merely retweet.

Use relevant hashtags, too. #amwriting and #writetip are two good places to start.

How many links per day? That’s up to you. I usually aim for three, but that’s in proportion with the rest of my output. Don’t flood your followers with links, but make them a prominent part of your Twitter presence. It’ll take some trial and error, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

You’ll pick up followers quickly using this tactic. I gathered around 300 in the first month of sticking to this, so it’s a no-brainer really.

2. Link to your own content

Once you’ve got some good content on your blog, and maybe a book for sale (we’ll get to tweeting about that in a second), use an equal amount of Twitter space to share your own stuff.

Don’t just tweet the same old link, though; search through your archives. The beauty of the internet is that even old content can be new to someone, so keep those back pages fresh by sharing them every now and then.

About tweeting book advertisements: I’ve seen no evidence of this working whatsoever. I tweeted about Something in the Cellar a few times on launch day, and offered a Sample Sunday yesterday. Neither brought in the typical level of traffic I am used to, and left a part of me wishing I hadn’t tweeted it at all.

Why? People plug their own work too much. There is literally a sewer of ‘buy my book’ tweets flooding Twitter to the extent that it’s just not effective. You need to come up with something different. I started a giveaway, which seemed to work pretty well.

Don’t make yourself look desperate – once you’ve earned the reputation of a spammer, you’ll never, ever shake it. Do you really want to lose Twitter as a way of potentially reaching new people?

3. Now, be yourself

I spoke about being ‘normal’ earlier – well, now’s your chance. Spend the rest of your time replying to tweets, and sharing general musings.

Don’t take this as an opportunity to start talking about your food, though – keep things interesting. Show your human side. Be witty, informative, and most importantly, don’t be mundane.

I don’t believe that many new tweeters strike this balance perfectly, but you can gain a headstart if you do. Just remember: results won’t be instantaneous. It was a few weeks before I spotted any notable interest. Now, though, it’s very rare that I post a link that doesn’t get at least two or three clicks.

Just please, for the love of God, keep Bieber out of it.

How do you use Twitter? Do you use it to share content from others and yourself, or does the more personal approach work for you?

Image courtesy of stevegarfield via Flickr.