8 Useful Tips To Become Successful With Twitter


Twitter is the new big thing. With everybody from Britney Spears to Barack Obama now on Twitter, it is safe to say the social networking platform has gone mainstream. For many users worldwide Twitter has become a crucial tool for maintaining contacts, exchanging opinions and making new connections. But what does this mean for the service, and how can we, website owners, actually use it for our purposes?

I posted my first tweet in November of 2006, only 7 months after the service launched. For me, it was a way to keep in touch with new friends. It was less intrusive than instant messaging and less formal than email. I quickly became hooked. For the longest time, it was the tool of geeks. My friends laughed at me as I tweeted from the pub; my family stared blankly as I explained the service. However, that has all changed now.

Twitter2 is the new big thing. With everybody from Britney Spears to Barack Obama now on Twitter, it is safe to say the social networking platform has gone mainstream.

Some time ago I was wrong to lament on Twitter about it becoming a marketing tool; I should embrace it as a tool I can use. Nevertheless, like everybody else, I need to be careful how I use it. I do not believe Twitter users will allow the tool to be reduced to a broadcast mechanism for pimping the latest blog post or special offer.

So how do I use Twitter? I guess the first thing to say is that I am not a huge Twitter success story. However, Twitter is turning into the third facet of my online presence, alongside my blog and podcast. With that in mind, let me share a few tips that have helped me better use this interesting new tool.

1. Above All, Keep It Personal

Although Twitterers like CNN breaking news3 have been very successful, generally, corporate Twitter accounts are a mistake. Twitter is about person-to-person communication and not a broadcast tool for faceless corporations. To use it in that way is to miss the potential of Twitter.

CNN Breaking News Twitter Page4
CNN Breaking News Twitter Page

Does that mean you cannot have a Twitter account for your organization? Not at all. For example, if John Boardley created a Twitter account, you may not recognize the name. However, if he used the name ILoveTypography5, you would be more likely to follow because you know the I Love Typography website6.

It is not the name that matters so much as the tone of the posts. Tweets should be more than an endless string of press releases and links. They should include personal content and a dialogue with followers.

This is important because it enables you to make a connection with your followers. An open and honest relationship with followers is very powerful. It builds trust, loyalty and engagement. It encourages repeat traffic and word-of-mouth recommendation.

2. Learn From Others

I have learned a lot about Twitter just by reading the tweets of those I admire. Merlin Mann7, for example, injects a lot of humor into his posts, and his followers really respond to that. Darren Rowse8, on the other hand, strikes a good balance between recommending content others have written and promoting his own posts.

TweetStats.com allows you to build up a picture of how successful twitterers use the service.

In addition to examining the styles of others, you could also examine statistics. Use a tool like TweetStats10 to examine how often others tweet and how often they reply to their followers. All of this helps to build a picture of what makes a successful tweeter.

There is also a growing number of great websites that give advice on how to get the most out of Twitter. One of my personal favorites is TwiTip11, which covers such subjects as “The Merit of Twitter Competitions12” and “How to Get Unfollowed on Twitter13.”

3. Get A Good Desktop Client

Without a shadow of doubt, the most powerful Twitter client currently available is TweetDeck14. This AIR application not only runs on Windows, Mac and Linux, but also provides a range of superb tools for managing your life on Twitter.

TweetDeck is the most powerful desktop Twitter tool available15
TweetDeck is the most powerful desktop Twitter tool available

With TweetDeck, you can create groups, filter tweets, monitor certain subjects as well as post tweets, replies and retweets. In fact, it is so powerful that it can be somewhat intimidating at first. Don’t let that put you off. Check out this short tutorial on TweetDeck’s core features16, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

4. Use Twitter On The Road

If your Twitter account is going to be personal as well as professional, then you will almost certainly want to use it on the road. One option is simply to use Twitter’s mobile website17. However, if you are fortunate enough to have an iPhone, then there is a wealth of Twitter clients available to you.

Tweetie Screenshots18

I have paid for and tried almost every Twitter client on the iPhone, but the winner hands down is Tweetie19. I love Tweetie. It has a clean, easy-to-use interface and yet is packed with powerful features, including the ability to:

  • handle multiple Twitter accounts,
  • navigate reply chains,
  • view Twitter trends and perform custom searches,
  • access complete user profiles.

In many ways, it is even better than TweetDeck because it has much of TweetDeck’s power but in a much cleaner interface. If only they made a desktop application!

5. Tracking The Results

TweetStats is just the tip of the statistical iceberg. There is an ever-growing number of tools you can use to track your activity on Twitter. However, the ones that really interest me are those that track click-throughs. What I really want to know is, if I post a link on Twitter, how many people click through?

Tweetburner Homepage20

If the link points to one of my own websites, I could use Google Analytics’ URL tagging tool21. However, this is somewhat fiddly and only works if I am linking to my own website. What’s more, these URLs can get long, which is a problem when you’re limited to 140 characters.

Fortunately, there is a tool called TwitterBurner22, which solves these problems. It shortens URLs and tracks all click-throughs, even to websites you do not run yourself. Best of all, it is now supported directly in TweetDeck (although not in Tweetie, unfortunately).

6. Follow And Be Followed

Always remember that Twitter is a two-way conversation. A big part of successful tweeting is replying to those who tweet you. Twitter is not just about who follows you, either. It is also about who you follow. One service I find particularly useful is Mr Tweet23. Mr Tweet provides two type of information:

  • first, it suggests people you might want to consider following, because they fall within your broader network (i.e. people who are followed by your friends),
  • secondly, it suggests those from your list of followers who you should follow back.

MrTweet homepage24

For each of these people, it provides various statistics, including:

  • the number of followers they have,
  • the chances of them replying to you,
  • how often they update.

This is a great way to extend your network of contacts and increase the chances that your tweets will be retweeted. It’s also a great way to meet new people!

7. Integrate Whenever Possible

If you intend to use Twitter for anything other than personal use, it needs to be incorporated in the rest of your Web strategy. That means it needs to link to your other online activity, including your website and other social networks. There is no shortage of tools to help you do this, from the basic Twitter widget25 to a tool for sending your tweets to Facebook26.

twitterfeed homepage27

One tool that caught my attention is called TwitterFeed28. It posts content from an RSS feed to Twitter, which is a convenient way to update your followers on new posts. However, use any tool that automatically posts to Twitter with caution. It can easily become annoying if used too much. Also, it lacks the friendliness of a personal post.

8. Don’t Over-Think It

Of course, the problem with all these tools, statistics and analysis is that they can suck the spontaneity and personality from your tweets. While some of those late-night drunken tweets29 are best left behind, you want to avoid making your tweets too sterile.

Let me explain. I am naturally a fairly good public speaker. However, once I attended a public speaking workshop. The instructors taught me about all of the techniques that make for an exceptional speaker. However, instead of improving my skills, they made me so amazingly self-conscious that I was paralyzed. I started over-analyzing what I was doing.

Twitter message from Boagworld: mmm... caburys cream egg and redbull. Nice post lunch snack

The danger is the same with Twitter. Sure, Twitter can be used as a marketing tool, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be fun too. Don’t let articles like this suck the joy out of tweeting!



  1. 1 http://www.twitter.com
  2. 2 http://www.twitter.com
  3. 3 http://twitter.com/cnnbrk
  4. 4 http://twitter.com/cnnbrk
  5. 5 http://twitter.com/ilovetypography
  6. 6 http://ilovetypography.com/
  7. 7 http://twitter.com/hotdogsladies
  8. 8 http://twitter.com/problogger
  9. 9 http://tweetstats.com/
  10. 10 http://tweetstats.com/
  11. 11 http://www.twitip.com/
  12. 12 http://www.twitip.com/follow-me-and-win-a-prize-the-merit-of-twitter-competitions/
  13. 13 http://www.twitip.com/how-to-get-unfollowed-on-twitter/
  14. 14 http://www.tweetdeck.com/
  15. 15 http://www.tweetdeck.com
  16. 16 http://www.yourbloghelper.com/2009/01/26/how-to-use-tweetdeck/
  17. 17 http://m.twitter.com/
  18. 18 http://www.atebits.com/software/tweetie/
  19. 19 http://www.atebits.com/software/tweetie/
  20. 20 http://tweetburner.com/
  21. 21 http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55578
  22. 22 http://tweetburner.com/
  23. 23 http://mrtweet.net/
  24. 24 http://mrtweet.net/
  25. 25 http://twitter.com/widgets/which_widget
  26. 26 http://twitter.com/widgets/facebook
  27. 27 http://twitterfeed.com/
  28. 28 http://twitterfeed.com/
  29. 29 http://blogs.zappos.com/blogs/zappos-tv/2008/05/30/dont-let-friends-friends-friends-drunk-twitter

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Paul Boag is the author of Digital Adaptation and a leader in digital strategy with over 20 years experience. Through consultancy, speaking, writing, training and mentoring he passionately promotes digital best practice.

  1. 1

    Brilliant article. I tend to avoid following people who follow thousands of people themselves.

  2. 52

    Excellent tips!
    Utilizing as many social style websites as possible gives the oportunity for free traffic to your own blogs. I hadn’t realized how big Twitter has gotten until I started seeing widgets on some blogs, The saddest thing about it is, as always.. some No0ob or ruthless webmaster / marketer will always find a way to abuse it.

  3. 103

    That is a really good article! With regards to Tweetburner, there is another tool out now called Twitclick, which is similar to TweetBurner (a URL-shortener with tracking features) but on crack!

    Chris Duran

  4. 154

    I work for a pro-sports team, and many of my peers here use Twitter extensively… great way to interact with fans on a personal level. Have to say I agree with all your tips.

    Wow, drama in these comments.

  5. 205

    Happy tweeting. Brilliant tips.

  6. 256

    I’m so bipolar with twitter… some days it really excites me and other days it gets me really annoyed because I really don’t care what most people are doing.

    And I really hate seeing alltop all the time too!

  7. 307

    This was great! I’ve been struggling to find a way to make twitter more useful to me. This has helped a lot. Thanks!

  8. 358

    Really nice tips! Valuable advice

  9. 409

    Thanks for these tips – I’m just starting out and have embraced twitter to the max! Check out my new site foodess.com – even had to use of the cute tweet icons you guys released.. :)

  10. 460

    I love Twitter because it’s so easy to got on there, say what I want, and get off and go about other business. I also love reading tweets from other members with valuable links.

  11. 511

    Thanks a lot for this one, I am really new to twitter and this can really help out a lot.

  12. 562

    Twitter is a tool, useful for some kinds of communication but not all communication. I’m getting really tired of people promoting their blogs on Twitter. I think there’s other better tools for aggregating and sharing, such as Friendfeed.

  13. 613

    What on earth could one learn from reading 140 characters? Even ‘creatives’ are expected to read more. Twitter is dumb, so is Facebook. Interactive communication started with SMS and ended with emails.

  14. 664

    really not bothered about twitter at all. how many things do u wanna update in the virtual world every day for god sake. go to the pub! tell people what your doing to their face!

  15. 715

    Some really good tips, thanks!

  16. 766

    Mahalo (thanks) for the great post.

    What do I get out of Twitter? Besides new connections all over the planet, from those that I follow I am getting the greatest education of my life! Always get the latest news if I desire to click thru. Lovin’ it and grateful I am over that initial addiction of it .. LOL

  17. 817

    I love tweetie too , way ahead of any other Iphone app , and they keep me in the picture .

  18. 868

    Great post, my organization is just getting started on Twitter and I’m going to include this as a resource for our staff across the country. You synthesized everything really well.

    But WOW, all the commenters are so anti-Twitter! I just got on Twitter for my personal account a few months ago, but it’s great. It’s the best source for tons of information and great blog posts I wouldn’t have found otherwise. It’s more useful than an RSS feed actually.

    And it’s so much more than Facebook on crack. The real beauty of Twitter is the ability to engage in conversations with NEW people vs. Facebook where you’re keeping in touch with old friends.

    Anyway, thanks for the easy-to-read instructions. Our staff will appreciate it.

  19. 919

    My modifications:

    1. Tell me what you’re thinking: I want to know more about what others are *thinking* rather than doing. And I think this is especially important in the context of Twitter: there are people who still don’t understand why Twitter is important, and I think this is largely due to the fact that it is still marketing “What are you doing?” Unless you’re a close friend, I really don’t care what you are doing. But I bet I’m interested in what you’re thinking about!

    Let me give an example of an uninteresting and pretty useless tweet “status update”:

    muckp: I’m at Parlor’s.

    Unless a friend is close by, this is not interesting to the rest of the Twitter Universe. So, please, don’t bother tweeting about it. (But do update your status on Facebook, Brightkite, and Latitude! That’s more useful to your friends!)

    Here’s an example of an interesting and useful tweet:

    muckp: At Parlor’s Ice Cream shop, they have a new strawberry flavor!

    This tweet is useful in the sense that it gives us new information about the store. Or, how about the following tweet where the user tells us what he’s thinking and gives us a link to show us:

    muckp: I was at Parlor’s, strawberry flavor gave me inspiration for this design. [link]

    4. I love Twitterfon: cuz it’s got a handy RT button.

    6. Follow retweets (RTs): I still think Mr. Tweet has a long way to go to figure out who’s relevant to you. In the meantime, just follow other people’s retweets: it’s people sharing similar thoughts and discourse.

    7. Don’t integrate with Facebook: This has to do with issue no. 1: I don’t care about people’s “status updates” in Twitter. But, I do care about what people are thinking in Twitter. Twitter: Tell me what you’re thinking. Facebook: Tell me what you are doing.

  20. 970

    I’ve tried it. It was a heavy burden. Dumped twitter. Useless information for the most part. Who has time to wade through bazillions of tweets? Not I.

  21. 1021

    just test

  22. 1072

    Well done! I’m going to RT it :)

  23. 1123

    Glad to see Smashing finally write something about Twitter. Which is ironic as I saw a retweet of one of yours the other day.

    Seeing many of the comments above mine are from people new to twitter, feel free to ask me any questions at twitter.com/ariherzog.

  24. 1174

    Does anyone know of a good Twitter app for Windows Mobile? I have tried many, and they are all terrible compared to the awesome ones I’ve seen for iPhone.

    pocketwit is pretty nice (for windows mobile, that is)

  25. 1225

    I was also a little puzzled about the title of the article. But then I saw a little down in the article where Paul Boag not consider himself as a huge Twitter success story.

    So I take this as helpful guidence.

    I’m also a little puzzled about the effect of following Mr. Tweet. Have not got a hole lot of information from him as I would consider as helpful so far. But I might have to look more around on his website and blog and figure out if I might be missing out on something.

    I’m not quit sure yet on how to define success on Twitter. Is to get a bunch of followers? Is to Tweet like crazy? Is to get a bunch of retweet? When will I be considered as a Twitter authority?

    Hey I’m still learning.. So I take time ask all the Tweety questions..



  26. 1276

    really nice post! congrat! keep going!

  27. 1327

    I strongly disagree with “Integrate Whenever Possible” for both reasons you mentioned; “It can easily become annoying and lacks the friendliness of a personal post.”

    I don’t understand how people can’t take 10 seconds out of their day to post a Tweet.

  28. 1378

    8 useful tips to became retard…

  29. 1429

    Great article and informative I had never heard of Mr. Tweeter and will use it in the near future.

    WSF Radio

  30. 1480

    Very nice post on getting (and giving) value within the Twitter community.


  31. 1531

    What the hell is twitter?

  32. 1582

    Twitter is not for everyone. I resisted for a long time, and joined it recently after realizing that I was finding a lot of breaking news leads. As a result, I am better able to keep my news-oriented blog more up to date. I can also add links to my own blog posts and thereby drive traffic to my site. However, if you’re just looking for information aggregation, there are are better sites, such as Addictomatic.com and spy.appspot.com to name but two of dozens out there.

  33. 1633

    For once, Smashing Magazine has come up with a silly article. There are much better articles out there about tools for Twitter. And come on now, URL shortening is such a basic feature since 2001 that toting it as a new Twitter related functionality is just plain stupid. The service you plugged, Twurl.nl, is down and out now: “Account page is disabled as it’s giving some trouble with the database.” Right, so much for url tracking. Among the many excellent resources is one from listified: http://snipr.com/twitter_tools

  34. 1684

    Jared J. H. Catapano

    March 20, 2009 10:40 am

    I’m still on the fence with Twitter… I think it can be useful, but are enough people beyond the age of 13 using it. And, if so, is anyone really listening?…


  35. 1735

    Miguel (Utilnet)

    April 2, 2009 2:32 am

    very nice tips. Tanks.
    Best regards,
    Miguel (Utilnet)

  36. 1786

    Interesting…..counting on my younger colleagues to walk me through this.

  37. 1837

    This is a new app for Twitter! http://www.printyourtwitter.com

  38. 1888

    Nice artical, you give importantant information of using tweeter and with good websites Thanks :)

  39. 1939

    On the subject of integrating, I wanted to be able to create Retweet Links easily, where the user clicks a link and a pre-defined message appears in the status box at Twitter.

    So I came up with this:

    I hope someone will add it to their arsenal of Twitter tools, especially since this one is simple and easy to use.

  40. 1990

    Nice! Thanks for taking the time to help us newbies.

  41. 2041

    jolly fine Mr Boag, tx

  42. 2092

    Great tool to use if you want to help your business

  43. 2143

    Very nice article. I found it easy and enjoyable to read. I am now following you on Twitter! Thanks.

  44. 2194

    Twitter can be the same as your relationships in real life. (For me that’s a positive.)

    “Be yourself” and take your chances. I’ve found it most valuable in broadening reach within an industry, a chance to mingle with new found colleagues all over North America which hold the bulk of the users. A nugget or two of useful info makes it worthwhile and I usually gather those nuggets regularly.

  45. 2245

    I just have to say that you guys were a little off on your prediction in twitter’s importance in the corparate world.

    “Corporate Twitter accounts are a mistake” says Paul Boag. “Twitter is about person-to-person communication and not a broadcast tool for faceless corporations. To use it in that way is to miss the potential of Twitter.” (Paul Boag, Smashing Magazine Feb, 2009)

    Twitter is HUGE whether we like it or not and it is here to stay.

    Smashing Mag is HUGE too and it is just a relief that such a great org such as you guys can be wrong every now and then.

    Twitter 1 – Smashing Mag 0

    Keep up the good work tho

  46. 2296

    Loved the article. Will definetly use some pointers given there. Twitter is an excellent tool for bloggers.

  47. 2347

    I for one do not agree with the posts that twitter is lame. I have actually learnt a surprising amount from it! There is not just people posting what they are doing, or industries trying to sell products, there are actually very interesting people to follow-like one I follow posts a weird fact a day, another posts quotes, another post novel writing tips, traffic updates, weather updates, event updates, and the list goes on from that really.

    I tried the whole “telling what I am doing” thing, but it did not really work for me so now I post wilderness survival tips.

    There are countless things you can do on twitter; one girl I saw even posts short poems via twitter.

  48. 2398

    The Nerdy Nurse

    April 15, 2011 7:27 pm

    Some very useful resources here


  49. 2449

    Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s difficult to get that “perfect balance” between usability and visual appeal. I must say that you’ve done a very good job with this. In addition, the blog loads extremely quick for me on Opera. Excellent Blog!

  50. 2500

    Arden Elfenbein

    May 23, 2011 8:06 am

    Keep such posts is not difficult if you accept criticism and suggestions from other parties.


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