Monday, July 13, 2009

Twitter Crash Course For Food Bloggers



Today I have an extremely informative guest post from Darya Pino of Summer Tomato. This post is jam-packed with tips on using twitter.

Darya Pino (@summertomato) is a foodie, scientist and Twitter lover. Visit her blog Summer Tomato for healthy eating tips.


Twitter is the hottest thing in social media and marketing right now, but if you haven’t figured it out yet it may seem like a bit of an enigma. Harnessing the power of Twitter is not a simple task, but if you can tap into your niche’s tweeting community the rewards can be massive.

For food bloggers especially, Twitter is essential. The food community is thriving in the microblog format, and the integration of multimedia offers several different pathways to build your readership.

This Twitter crash course for food bloggers can help you get started and well on your way to feeding thousands of hungry new readers.

Tons of useful information in second part of post...


6 Steps To Twitter Success

1. Find people to follow

Once you have set up your Twitter account (pick a memorable username that promotes your brand) you must find people to follow. There are many ways to go about this, and everyone has their own opinion on how to do it best.

I recommend starting by finding your friends and a few celebrities to follow. Use the “Find People” tab to search for people you know. The “Find on other networks” option can be used to search for friends on other social networking sites or by email.

find people using twitter

Don’t be embarrassed to follow people on Twitter, everyone loves a new follower.

There are many fantastic food celebrities to follow on Twitter like Mark Bittman (@bittman), Ruth Reichl (@ruthreichl) and David Lebovitz (@davidlebovitz). Search for your favorites, they are probably there.



You can also check your favorite food blogs to see if they have Twitter accounts. You can start by following me (@summertomato) and Danny (@fbloggersunite), we promise to follow you back. Let us know what other food bloggers you recommend in the comments.

And don’t forget to add a Twitter button to your own blog!

Once you are following a few people try messaging your friends (using @username in a tweet), say hello and explain that you are new to Twitter (these messages will be displayed publically). Ask if they recommend anyone to follow and follow those people.

When you have a few real friends and some Twitter interactions, your account will appear legitimate and respectable (i.e. not spammy). Now you can use Twitter search to start finding potential readers.

In the Twitter search bar, type in your favorite keywords like “food,” “foodie,” “recipe,” etc. Any tweets using these words will appear. You can also use hashtags like #foodie to target your search for keywords rather than casual mentions. Check out people’s profiles and follow the ones you find interesting (and, more important, who might find you interesting).



You can also browse Twitter directories like WeFollow or Twellow. When you start out try to follow at least a few hundred people for the best Twitter experience.


2. Install TweetDeck

Once you are on Twitter you quickly discover how massive and unwieldy it can be. Personally I could not function without a desktop client like TweetDeckto manage my account. Seesmic and Tweetie also have popular desktop clients.

There are several ways a desktop client can improve your Twitter experience. First, it updates your Twitter stream automatically so you do not have to constantly hit refresh to see new tweets. Second, TweetDeck is divided into columns so you can simultaneously see your twitter stream, replies to you (@your_username) and direct messages (DMs are private messages. Send one by typing: d username then the message you want to send). Third, TweetDeck has easy buttons you can use to reply to a single person or multiple people, DM, or retweet (RT @username).




Most important, you can use TweetDeck to create groups and filters that allow you to keep tabs on the people you are most interested in. For example, you can create a filter for “A-list” or “watch,” that will sort out the tweets from your favorite tweeters and put them in a separate column. You should definitely reply to or retweet famous tweeters on occasion, because a reply or follow from one can have a huge impact on your following.

You can even set up a column for a search term such as #foodie, and all the tweets with that term will be displayed (tweets from anybody, not just people you follow). This is a great way to find new people in your niche.

Personally I keep TweetDeck open all the time unless I am writing an article and need to focus. The more often you interact on Twitter, the more success you will have.


3. Sign up for Twimailer

Once you find your Twitter groove it will become increasingly difficult to manage your new followers. It is up to you to decide whom you want to follow back, but I recommend following everyone who seems like a real person (food lovers and blog readers come from all walks of life). But there are plenty of spammers to sort through if you want to keep your Twitter stream free of clutter.

Twimailer is a simple notification service that sends you an email when someone starts following you. Twimailer emails contain more relevant information than the standard Twitter notification.




I use these to quickly tell if someone is a spammer and then I just delete the message rather than waste my time opening Twitter and evaluating the person’s profile. When you start receiving dozens of new followers daily, saving yourself from opening a Twitter window each time can mean the difference between hating and loving Twitter.


4. Sign up for Bit.ly

To really understand if Twitter is driving readership to your blog you must know that the links you post are being clicked. Twitter has a built in URL shortener to help you stay within the 140 character limit. TweetDeck also offers an array of different URL shorteners for you to use. I use these tools when sharing articles and links on Twitter.

For links to my own blog, however, I do not use the TweetDeck shortener. Why? Because almost all regular Twitter users use TweetDeck, and if they click your link from a desktop client rather than a URL you cannot tell where the visitor came from. Google Analytics, for example, shows these clicks as direct traffic rather than referred traffic. Thus you will not be able to accurately track the traffic from most Twitter users.

Bit.ly is a URL shortening service that enables you to track the clicks from any URL that was shortened by you while logged in on their website. You can use this information to help you understand how many people are clicking on your links, which posts are popular on Twitter, what time of day brings the most traffic, etc. This is an invaluable tool to gauge the impact of Twitter on your blog.




There are several different applications with this same functionality.


5. Be a great Twitter user

For some reason this point is lost on many people. Twitter is all about social interaction and connections, and regular Twitter users hate a phony who only tries to drive traffic to their own website without giving back to the community.

But being a great tweeter is not that hard. For tips on how to become a beloved Twitter user I strongly recommend the blog TwiTip by Darren Rowse (@problogger).

TwiTip is filled with great Twitter advice, but the core tips are:

• Be interesting
• Be authentic
• Be helpful
• Be kind
• Be curious
• Stay on topic
• Share generously
• Support your friends

In other words, tweeters want to follow people they would be friends with in real life. And like any good friend, they would like you to check out their blog or business too. It is expected that you will link to your own blog posts on Twitter, but do it less often than you interact with others and retweet their material.

Give, give, give, and you shall receive.


6. Use smart copy

In the Twitterverse words are a commodity and it is essential that you choose yours wisely. Not only are your characters limited (don’t forget to save room for a retweet RT = username# + 4), but carefully chosen words can be the difference between a few clicks and hundreds or even thousands of clicks.

Do not underestimate the value of copy when you tweet (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, follow Brian Clark @copyblogger and subscribe to his blog).

For food bloggers, this usually means using descriptive, enticing and informative words to describe your posts and recipes. Do not use vague generalities because Twitter readers won’t hesitate to skip right over you.

Here is one of my favorite examples of bad food copy.




What is so bad about it?

First, all his tweets say basically the same thing: Try my Spanish dessert! (I didn’t click any of the links, so I’m not sure if they are the same or not.)

But why would I want to click them? Are Spanish desserts better than Ben & Jerry’s? Someone unfamiliar with Spanish desserts (like me) would not be compelled to try them from these tweets because no reason is given. Someone familiar with Spanish desserts would be turned off because not enough information is offered to make these links enticing.

Copy fail.

A better tweet might be: Spanish crema catalana is the perfect Sunday afternoon treat and the recipe is so easy! http://bit.ly/yum

Before you tweet ask yourself if you would click on the link you are about to post. If the answer is no, be more descriptive and cut out useless words.

Adding photos to your tweets using TwitPic is a great way to engage followers as well. If you have an iPhone, applications like Tweetie allow you to post pictures directly to your Twitter account.


Conclusion

Twitter does not need to take a lot of time or effort, but putting a little thought into how you use it can bring in a substantial amount of highly targeted traffic to your blog. But as always, it is up to you to keep new readers once they find you.

Do you have any Twitter tips for food bloggers? Any questions I didn’t answer?

Darya Pino (@summertomato) is a foodie, scientist and Twitter lover. Visit her blog Summer Tomato for healthy eating tips.




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11 comments:

  1. What a surprise to find you using ME as an example! Hehehhehe...

    I've gotten a steady increase in traffic since using Twitter.

    Another tip: Don't be afraid to tweet links to your older articles if they're relevant. :-) For example, the SciFi channel re-branding just resurfaced in the news even tho my asst wrote about it over a month ago. We re-tweeted her article link and it got a whole surge of new traffic and comments.

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  2. Thanks for the tip about Twimailer. Never heard of it, but am going to give it a try.
    I dislike the short, uninformative Twitter emails "So&So is following you".

    I also strongly agree about the way to Twitter *any* good article, especially recipes.
    If you simply say "This is great! - http://bit.ly/something"
    ... well, what is it? What is great about it? Tell me some reason to click that link!!!

    Thanks!

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  3. Some handy tips here -I didn't know I could track clicks from Bit.ly! Thanks ;)

    I think its nice that Twitter shows what food bloggers do behind the scenes. I love all the micro blogging... it gives the blog more personality and readers more incentive to click.

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  4. @jen I agree, the impromptu part of Twitter is my favorite. Tonight was a great example when Chris Brogan commented on a yolkless egg pic I posted!

    -----

    One thing I forgot to mention in the post though, DON'T AUTO DM!!!!

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  5. To build on the "don't auto DM" comment, also don't DM with those fabulous links that will get me more followers. I also get really turned off when I follow someone and they DM with a link to their website. Even if it is legit and relevant to my interests it's a turnoff. I know how to read profiles and I assume your website will be listed there if I ever want to visit it.

    Lastly, don't just RT what others write or simply post from news/twitter feeds. Say something useful, or at the very least, original once in a while.

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  6. Great post! Just forwarded it to a few Twitter n00bs. :)

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  7. I have seen those spanish recipe tweets...I've never clicked them either. This is great advice - I especially like the part about supporting your friends via Twitter. I always feel so good when a friend tweets a recipe I've made. :)

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  8. I'm not really that into food, but I think your info about Twimailer kinda interesting. Im gonna try it now and find out the difference from the standard twitter email notifications.
    Thanks.
    Best Regards,
    Andriy

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