Monthly Archives: May 2011

One simple step to making money or being popular on Twitter

Don’t assume this is like similar advice you’ve seen until you’ve seen my secret to making this work! But here’s the one step:

1. Search for people who need help and help them.

Easy, right? However, there is a real secret to making this work that I’ve shared at the end of this post.

How can this make me money?

Search for people who are looking for recommendations of things to buy and give them a recommendation via an affiliate link (where you earn a commission if they buy). Or if you have a business, search for people who are looking for the goods or services you provide and help them.

I originally wrote this advice to a client just for how to find people to help, but I learned later they were using it almost exclusively to find people to sell things to, so I decided to modify this post so I could include this warning: If you send lots of tweets to people trying to sell stuff, you can be suspended as a spammer.

Don”t overdo it. Don’t just throw links out there with a sales pitch. Be conversational, ask questions and be helpful. Don’t repeat the same tweet over and over to different people. Most important, realize that people DON’T want to hear a sales pitch as a result of something they tweeted. (You might also like “7 Insanely Useful Ways to Search Twitter for Marketing“.)

How can this make me popular?

Answer questions that people are asking. Particularly, find people asking about things that you are most knowledgeable about. But on Twitter, it’s always good to find people with Twitter questions that you can answer and answer them! Everyone with some Twitter experience knows something worth sharing. I even have a page on this blog specifically devoted to people tweeting us questions about Twitter.

The secret

The better the search you do, the better the result, and I’ve discovered that even among internet geeks, very few people know how to do a really good search, so I’m going to share a few advanced searches. And, get this: by using Google, you can do searches that actually cost money if you try to do them elsewhere. Google pays to see all tweets, then lets you use their awesome search capability to dig through them.

I can sometimes find a new question as often every two minutes by doing searches such as what I’ll demonstrate for you. That’s hundreds a day! Yes, not every tweet is going to be a question worth answering, but this is still an awesome tool.
Start by experimenting with this Twitter search.

Building your own search

  1. Notice in the middle of the left-hand column there are two choices under “Anywhere:”  Nearby, and Custom location. These are particularly great for local businesses, of course, but sometimes there are events happening in particular areas that you may want to connect with people about. Experiment, as not every kind of location entry will produce a result.
  2. Change the word “Twitter” to whatever you want to search about. Here’s an example search for “t-shirts” instead.
  3. Remove terms you don’t want to see. For example, here is the t-shirt search with the terms “printing” and “printer” removed.
  4. Search only for people using variations of “anyone recommend.” This will tend to show many fewer questions, but they will tend to be more what you are looking for. Here’s an example.

NOTE: Type your own search terms into Google (copy from the query above) when ready to use these searches. Starting from the links I provide can sometimes make Google search act wonky as you move forward or backward in time. Best to type (or copy/paste) the terms into Google yourself.


The most typical kind of search simply includes a question mark “?” and a keyword, such as this Twitter search for restaurant questions. Experimenting with question mark searches can bring up many more questions, but also many more irrelevant ones. But if you don’t mind doing the work of sorting through them, this will bring you even more results.


When I was new to Twitter, I spent a lot of time doing search like this to find people with Twitter questions I could help. Now I get so many inbound questions I don’t have much time to search for people with questions anymore. But I still do from time to time. Everyone should! It’s very easy, and takes only a small amount of time.

For businesses, I tested this one day by responding to everyone who was looking for a product recommendation over a 12 hour period. My wife and I researched each question and found a product on we could link to. It was a lot of work, but I do several question-answering tests of various kinds throughout the year anyway.

The result? We made two sales. Since I’m not on Twitter myself to make money, this is not something I want to do with my time, but as a proof of concept, it worked. We made money. But, a warning: work very, very hard at being friendly and conversational instead of using a sales approach. Remember the warning about not being a spammer! I said things such as

  • “Have you ever tried [link]?”
  • “Something I saw that might interest you might be be [link]”
  • “Did you find anything yet? Did you look at [link]?”
  • “Something I use is [link]” (only when this was true)
  • Etc.

Why are so many people so helpful on Twitter?

Some people are helpful because it’s easy, or they figure out that they can help themselves by helping others. Others come to Twitter because it’s the best place in the world to help others! No matter who you are or why you’re here, Twitter can help you if you help others.

► Power to the people

The first reason is because it’s easy! Simply by retweeting something, in one or two clicks you spread valuable information. For example, I know a lot of people that search for pets waiting for adoption in their area and then tweet about specific ones. Their local friends then retweet, and together they have built a network for finding new homes for animals. (Take this idea and find other good causes local to your area that you can support!)

And in areas of political unrest, people have used Twitter and social media to protect others, by making information about arrests and perpetrators of violence public in real time, in addition to organizing and reaching out to media worldwide.

► Everyone is an expert to someone

With so many people on Twitter, you can always find someone you can help, and someone who can help you. Often it starts with sharing what you’ve learned about how to use Twitter with someone who is newer here. It’s satisfying to solve a frustration for someone else that was once a frustration for you—it’s called empathy :)

► Reputation building

Even cynics can be successful by putting in some time helping here and there. The more you help, the more others find it valuable to connect with you and promote you to others. I love how some people whose hearts really are NOT in the right place still put on their helping attitude and do some good on Twitter. While they haven’t changed their cynical world view (yet) they still see the benefits to their reputation of doing some good publicly.

► The very finest people in the world are on Twitter

Twitter has such incredible power to amplify a mission of helping others that nearly 100% of the finest people in the world are on it now. It’s amazing that a tool used by so many for little more than random chatter is a channel of communication for the giants of the human race. Twitter even spreads the life missions of those greats that have passed on, through all the people that quote them!

Which kind of person are you?

Probably my favorite thing about Twitter is how people get caught up in helping others without expecting that they would. First you find it’s easy, then you stumble across someone you can help, and soon you find people are connecting with you because of your positive reputation. And—hopefully, eventually—you become one of the finest people in the world yourself!

10 Guidelines to do doing well on Twitter

I was asked to summarize our approach to Twitter and Social Media into ten rules for an interview with Canada’s Sun newspaper chain. While I find that I’m always learning, I thought I’d share the response I gave:

  1. Seek others that you can help, and help them.
  2. Seek others that can help you, and take an interest in who they are and what they do. Always be looking for better and better mentors. Study their behavior. Emulate them when it is natural to do so. Have more than two mentors.
  3. Work at striking a positive tone in all your communications.
  4. Use Twitter as a Personal Learning Network (PLN).
  5. Seek out and promote people, organizations, missions and projects that you believe in that help others.
  6. Work to strike a balance between personal, mission or business and fun or interesting posts
  7. Anything beyond a few brief messages is best moved to a private channel. For example, if you’re having a longer interaction with someone, switch to direct messages on Twitter or chat on Facebook.
  8. Create your own set of helpful links that you use when helping others. For example, save links to the appropriate help sections at Twitter and Facebook to share with others who need them. It makes helping people faster and easier for you.
  9. Be biased toward setting a good example, instead of telling people who are still learning what you think they should do differently.
  10. Don’t follow rules that feel restrictive or take away the fun! Make your own rules. You can be successful doing things differently than other successful people do. Be yourself—no one is better qualified than you to know what is best for you!

Of course, I would say that you should always keep in mind Twitter Rule #1 when looking at lists like this!


Why we link to other Twitter bloggers instead of blogging more

Someone recently asked me:

Why do you share so many other people’s writings about Twitter instead of blogging them yourself and becoming more popular? I’ll bet your blog could get ten times the traffic!

In fact, I even tweet other people’s writings when we have written something similar ourselves already! I like connecting people, learners with teachers especially.

Connect people who want to learn with people who want to teach

I feel that by finding and sharing great writings it’s a better service to people, since there’s no way we could write all the good stuff ourselves! I also think we build a better community by connecting people who want to learn with people who want to teach.

It’s true this blog would get a ton more traffic if it had more posts on it. We could probably sell ad space, etc. I’m just not sure that would be better for people trying to learn Twitter than what we do now: connecting them to all the great Twitter writers out there already. Mostly I write things that I can’t quite find in enough detail elsewhere, often to answer questions that people regularly ask me about.

For example, when I wrote the “The ULTIMATE guide to getting Twitter followers” (longest post ever) I found I couldn’t answer all the questions I was getting by linking to other people’s writings. There were a bunch of topics I hadn’t seen ANYONE write on before regarding Twitter following practices, much less putting it all together in the same place.

I have a database of many of the most popular Twitter articles ever written. I could easily use that to determine which topics to write about that would be popular and get a lot of traffic. Instead, I prefer to write about things that people ask about frequently that I think need more clarification.

You can tweet our posts before we do

While I try to tweet most things within 12-18 hours of when they are published, I don’t try to be the first to tweet new articles (unless they have urgent information, such as Twitter downtime). I try to spread tweets out so as not to overwhelm people, taking care usually never to schedule more than 1-2 links/hour. This means our tweets get less clicks than they could, because people see stuff elsewhere first. That’s fine. The important thing is that they see it! It doesn’t have to be from us.

I also put posts on our blog many hours before I tweet them myself. That gives other people time to be the first to tweet them. Yes, if you subscribe to our feed and tweet our posts, you’ll tweet them before we do almost every time!


I blog a lot of things that are answers to questions people have, or advice I find myself having to give frequently. So I have begun writing shorter, simpler blog posts in many cases, which don’t get that many visitors, but instead simply help me help others by giving me something I can send them in response to questions they have.



Make Twitter pay off—do the hard work (it doesn’t have to take long)

There are so many Twitter tips that boil down to one thing: put some effort into your tweets!

Help others. Respond to people. Don’t use too many abbreviations. Write well. Thank everyone you can. Follow quality people whether they follow you back or not.

Also: Be more positive than you feel. Why? Tweets are so short, they tend to make you appear kind of grumpy! So put a little positivity into your tweets to balance that out.

Use “real life” common sense

Particularly, when comparing Twitter to real life applies, ask yourself: Would I do this in real life? Would you give your phone number out to just anyone simply because they would give you theirs? Of course not! Yet this is how many people “build followers.” Meaning: “You follow me and I’ll follow you” is a quick way to ruin the better uses of Twitter for yourself.

Also: discipline yourself not to spend more time on Twitter than you are ready to. Don’t make it a grind! Always be biased towards feeling like you’re getting something for the time invested, not that it’s a time suck that you don’t understand. The more you learn how to use it well, the more time you will want to put into it!

Are there Twitter Rules?

Some say yes, some say no. While I believe in Twitter Rule #1, I also think there are some useful guidelines.



30 seconds to getting more Twitter visitors to your blog

For much more detailed advice, see What makes a tweet great? for ideas on writing tweets.

To get visits and retweets from a tweet, the best headline for a blog post is often a compelling summary of what the post is about. Giving the “sizzle AND the steak” in a tweet is one great technique to get people to check out what you’ve written.

Surprisingly, many writers DO write a compelling summary of their blog post, but DON’T use it in the headline. Even more surprisingly, I’ve found that many writers don’t even realize that the best headline is buried somewhere in the blog post, but see it when it’s pointed out to them.

30 seconds to writing better tweets about your blog post

So, to get more visitors to your blog when you write a tweet about a blog post, read your blog post and look for the most compelling summary of what your post is about. I’ve found that it is typically in one of three places:

  1. One of the first three sentences
  2. One of the last three sentences
  3. About 2/3 of the way into the blog post, after the writer begins to “hit their stride.”

Generally the statement will jump out at you (if there is a good one). And in just 30 seconds you’ve found a better headline to use in your tweet to get more visitors to your blog!

Here’s an example: @GourmetGuyMag wrote a nice piece, and about 2/3 of the way into the article put a few words in caps. I used a phrase from that partially capitalized sentence as the headline I tweeted:

  • ORIGINAL TITLE: “Some Twitter Common Sense For Brands”
  • FOUND STATEMENT: “Twitter is not 140-character billboard, it’s a chance to interact & listen.”

Often you can ask yourself this question “Is there a statement I can make that readers will nod their heads at when they read it?” If so, that is often a good statement to base the content of your tweet around. Sometimes you can easily rewrite once you see the statement. Here are some examples, building on “Twitter is not 140-character billboard, it’s a chance to interact & listen:”

  1. SIMPLE REWRITE: “Quit using Twitter as a 140-character billboard! You’re missing a great chance to interact & listen:”
  2. CONCEPT SUMMARY: “Twitter is a great place to interact and listen. So why do so many use it just to tweet ads?”
  3. ADD AN ANGLE: “How to be beat your competition: Use Twitter to interact and listen…instead of just tweeting ads.”

Does this really work? How often?

I’ve found that around 1 in 3 of the posts we tweet I can easily rewrite to get a higher RCEF (Retweets/Clicks (visits)/Engagement (comments-conversation)/Favorites learn more about this) by simply looking for a key statement within the blog post. Some folks whose writings we’ve tweeted a lot of over the years have credited us with making them much better headline writers, simply by using this simple tip.

Having tweeted thousands of other people’s blog posts over the years, I’ve found this is the single biggest factor in getting a higher RCEF from tweets.

Other techniques

One of the most common headline writing techniques is to take what you have already written and make it more compelling, challenging or controversial. So “Some Twitter Common Sense For Brands” could be changed to something such as “How brands alienate their Twitter customers…and what they should do instead.” For many more tips, see “What makes a Tweet great?

But if you’ve found that the most compelling summary of your blog post is somewhere in the middle, also consider rewriting your post by moving to the end (or eliminating) most of what you have written that comes before your compelling summary. Often it is information that is more interesting to you than to your readers. Readers visiting your blog after clicking a link in a Tweet often want the information “meat” of what you’re writing about. Setting the stage, giving backstory or providing detailed contest can often be done after you give them the main information.

Often, the writer goes through stages like this

  1. Explaining why they’ve been thinking about this or providing context or backstory
  2. Giving examples or working up their emotions
  3. Making a statement such as But you really need to realize is this: [Insert Tweet Statement Here]

Sometimes, you can tell that they’ve done this, but they gone back and edited it to put their main statement in the first few sentences, but still left the headline too cryptic or ho-hum.

Twitter Stats & Graphics on Osama bin Laden’s death

TPS ChartOther RecordsWhere people heard firstGlobal Internet TrafficLive Tweets of attack — “The Opinion Navigator” — Other linksYour Comments

Most sustained tweets ever

Twitter states that the night of Osama bin Laden’s death announcement saw “the highest sustained rate of Tweets ever.” From 10:45 to 12:30pm ET, there was an average of 3,440 Tweets per second.


Twitter comparison stats: Other peak TPS events (Tweets per second):


Source: NM Incite

  • New Year’s Eve 2011 6,939 tweets/second
  • Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami (3/11/2011): 5,530 tweets/second. TPS went over 5,000 mark five times and 177 million tweets total that day.
  • Osama bin Laden Dead: 5,106 tweets/second. 5,008 when Obama statement ended.
  • Super Bowl 2011: 4,064 tweets/second.
  • Royal Wedding: 3,966 tweets/second, at peak (4pm UK time).

How did you hear of bin Laden’s death?

Source: Poll of 18,485 readers by Mashable


Source: Poll of 4,935 readers by CNET

Osama Bin Laden Opinion Navigator (click to try)

Positivity of tweets


Global Internet Traffic

Traffic was up, but nowhere near historical peak levels:

Source Akamai and Huffington Post

Live Tweets of attack

Read the rest of the live tweets of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden

Other links

  1. Osama Bin Laden Dead, The Story Twitter Broke
  2. Twitter Reacts To Osama’s Death