Why should you join Twitter if you haven't already? For starters, it's a great medium for sharing and discovery. I've discovered countless new food blogs, trends and restaurants (and plenty of worthless/fascinating celebrity gossip too) through my interactions with the Foodista Twitter community.
Using Twitter also helps your writing. As Shakespeare said, 'brevity is the soul of wit.' Can you convey a point in 140 characters or less? Twitter forces you to chose your words wisely. In writing, many of us are much more verbose than we need to be, and many users find that practicing conscious selection makes their blog writing tighter.
I manage Foodista's Twitter account and am a student in the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington, a curriculum that focuses heavily on social media. Neither of these facts makes me in any way an authority on Twitter, but I certainly do use the site a lot, and know what (I think) works and what doesn't.
1) Tweet what you eat. Forget what everyone says about not tweeting the contents of your stomach; if you are a food blogger, your audience DOES want to hear about what you ate for breakfast. And what you're making for lunch. And what you're having for dinner. Please share a link to the recipe though: if it sounds really delicious, we're going to want to try it.
2) Automatically tweet your posts. If your blog is hosted by Wordpress, you can set up your account to automatically tweet new posts. Go to the 'My Account' tab in the upper left hand side of the screen and select 'My Blogs' from the dashboard. Under the 'Publicize' column, check the Twitter box. Wordpress will then verify your account, and you're good to go. Every time you publish a post, the title and a link will be broadcasted into the twittersphere.
If your blog is not hosted by Wordpress, try Twitterfeed, which uses your blog's RSS feed to promote your content on both Twitter and Facebook.
3) Customize your profile. This shows that you take the service, and your time on it, seriously. A complete profile makes other users more inclined to follow you because they get a good idea at first glance of what you have to say. Plus, good design almost always conveys a level of professionalism and legitimacy.
Add an Avatar Who are you? A photo other than the Twitter default reinforces the fact that you are not a spammer. We'd love to see your face, or even your favorite baked good. If you're too shy for a real photo of you, an cartoon avatar, like the one you can create at Face your Manga, does the trick as well.
Link to your blog in your profile Google marks links in Twitter bios as 'nofollow,' meaning they do nothing to increase your SEO. Still, it's critical that you do include your blog so that actual people can discover it. I've come across many blogs I never would have found before simply through this.
Include a short bio When I am look at a user's profile, what they have to say about themselves is a critical factor in deciding whether or not to follow them. If you tell me you're a food lover, I want to hear what you have to say.
Customize your background. Your background is another opportunity for potential followers to gain insight into your personality. It also can be a way to cheat Twitter's strict character limits by adding additional contact and biographical information. Your background can be as simple as a tiled photo or as complex as a custom design. The image should be at least 1280×1024 pixels, though preferably larger (1600×1200 pixels or even 2048×1600 pixels), depending on the image; keep in mind that the center will be covered up by your tweets. If you are not comfortable with your graphic design skills, the web has an abundance of services that provide free Twitter backgrounds, such as Twitrounds, TwitrBackgrounds.com, or ColourLovers.
4) Make it easy for your readers to find you on Twitter. Link to your Twitter profile on your blog. This can be as simple as a plain hyperlink or as prominent as a widget with your most recent tweets; Twitter has a host of widgets and badges available by clicking the 'Goodies' link in the footer of the Twitter homepage, and a quick Google search will allow you to find others that may better suit your blog's design. Wordpress also has a widget built in that will show your past few tweets if you activate it. Regardless of what you use, make sure the link is above the fold.
5) Use strategic hashtags Relevant hashtags (the funny number sign thingies) can guide users to your tweets; anyone using twitter can search for hashtags relating to their interests. Too many hashtags are annoying (ex: "Here's a #mouthwatering #glutenfree #vegan #recipe for #SuperBowlSunday"= AAAAAH!!), but adding a strategic hashtag or two makes your thoughts potentially available to a wider audience than just the users following you.
Some useful services:
- TweetDeck: allows you to view your friends, replies, direct messages and any searches you choose, all updated in real-time.
- Friend or Follow: who are you following that's not following you back? Friend or Follow allows you to pinpoint these users and unfollow them if desired.
- Twitalyzer: find out just how influential you are.
- Mr. Tweet: helps you discover relevant people to follow.
- Tweetzi: provides a much more comprehensive and reliable search function than Twitter or Tweetdeck.
What do you think works and doesn't work on Twitter? We'd love to hear your tips and pointers. Plus, I welcome any feedback about Foodista's Twitter efforts!