How We Manage The TweetSmarter Twitter Account

Our account has, since the first months we started it, been one of the most-retweeted in the world. You may also be interested in some data about how we get followers.

What we do

We answer tons of questions every week, and we find interesting and educational articles about Twitter to share. We also get to know people, and occasionally bring different people together when we can see making an introduction would be helpful. Sometimes we search for users who have certain kinds of questions and engage with them. Because we have nothing to sell, we don’t do searches related to our “brand” or anything else like that.

How popular are tweets from @TweetSmarter?

It varies. They get between 220,000 and 550,000 clicks per month, according to bit.ly. In early 2011, it’s been more regularly around 340,000/month. We appear on  Edelman’s “Top 20 Most Influential Worldwide” list more often than not. When TweetLevel first came out in 2009, we debuted at #3 and have maintain a Klout score most commonly between 84 and 86.

How we find and schedule tweets

  1. We find articles mostly through (1) Specialized search engines, feeds, alerts, special searches (2) Submissions from select Twitter users (3) Tweets that are getting a lot of RTs (4) A few other methods
  2. We write a tweet about each article found.
  3. We save the tweet to be scheduled.
  4. We schedule the  next 6-12 hours of tweets.

Finding things to tweet

This is of course our “secret sauce” and even after three years we still find good new sources every month or so. One major misperception is that we find our tweets by looking at other people’s tweets, then remove their names instead of giving them credit—that is NOT the case. This happens because people see that most of our tweets are not retweeted from someone else’s tweet and think we are removing the credit. It’s an understandable misperception.

Actually, there is no way we can find many good new articles to tweet just by retweeting other people. We do find a few, but the vast majority of our tweets are found via internet searches and specialized aggregators of new articles on Twitter, mostly NOT by looking at other people’s tweets. Tweets don’t tell you how new the article being linked to is; most searches do. If we could see which tweets contained only links to things posted in the last 24 hours, we would retweet other folks a lot more. So, we don’t remove credit; we just don’t do a lot of retweets of other users. When we do find something from a tweet, we give credit in the form of a …/via @username1 @username2 etc. at the end of the tweet. Here’s some of the custom searches and tools we use to find tweets:

Choosing what to tweet

We like to check the last 24 hours of results in custom Google searches such as this one for Twitter tips, as well as feeds like this one of popular social media stories. We usually also take a peek at what the hottest stories in the Twittersphere are. We have a number of custom feeds I’ve created that we sort and view through Google as well, as well as some custom searches on specialty search engines and aggregators, and some similar searches for “social media” instead of just “Twitter.” Finally, we’ll look at custom aggregators such as the Smart Blog on Social Media to see what they are turning up.

We started with attempts like using Yahoo! Pipes to filter popular tech blogs for articles on Twitter and reviewing them in Google reader. We’ve adjusted our system for a couple of years now and where we used to review as many as 2,000 items each day, now we rarely look at more than 750 or so a day. And believe me, we speed read the headlines! But when we read the posts themselves, we read carefully to find out what they’re really about. It’s surprising how often the content doesn’t really match the headline.

So: What makes something worth tweeting?

First, we watch what people are retweeting of ours and what kinds of questions we are getting. Several times a week when we am searching for information to answer a user question we’ll find something worth tweeting to everyone. We’ve gone through several phases over the years. Here’s a few of the different kinds of things that have been popular in different phases:

  1. Notices about Twitter problems and  Twitter rules
  2. Interesting uses of Twitter for socializing and Twitter news
  3. The basics of how to use Twitter, with an emphasis on Twitter apps
  4. Using Twitter for learning and education
  5. Advanced Twitter topics such as unusual uses
  6. Back to the basics of how to use Twitter again (more new people joining)
  7. More information on how to use Twitter for business

Currently we’re in a phase where a wide variety of topics for mostly semi-experienced users is dominating.

Rewriting Tweets

We send out around 15,000 tweets a year, and we rewrite a good number of them each day, so we’ve written many thousands of tweets by this time. Dave does about 95% of the actual tweet writing. We have a pretty good feel for what kind of tweet will get clicks, what will get RTs, and what will get comments. We try mostly to write tweets that get clicks, because we’re trying to find and direct people to good content, but sometimes there is an obvious way to adjust the wording for RTs, and so sometimes we’ll choose that kind of writing.

Scheduling Tweets

When it comes time to schedule tweets, we’ll usually already have placed the most important tweets in the upcoming time slots that are the most read by our followers. We have a wide number of peak times each day across many time zones, and we try to get the most important tweets in front of the largest number of people. However, this often means they get less retweets, because by delaying important tweets instead of tweeting them right away, often many of our followers will have seen them already.

However we’d rather get less retweets than clump a bunch of tweets together—that “clogs up” people’s feeds with our tweets, which we don’t want to do. We tweet an average of about once every 30 minutes, so it’s important that tweets are spaced out or they will overwhelm newer users who don’t follow that many people. The scheduling interface I like to use is HootSuite. There we have two side-by-side columns showing upcoming tweets and most recently sent tweets. It’s kind of fun to watch scheduled tweets move up on the right, then over and down on the left after they are tweeted:

Watching to see what is popular

As part of scheduling, we will sometime repeat very popular or important tweets. To see what the current RT trends are on our tweets, we move over to Chirrps on the Profile > Popularity > By Date tab:

We keep an eye on the last 12 hours of tweets to see if anything is getting an unusually large number of RTs. If so, we may tweet it one (and only one) more time, or search for related articles if it’s a hot topic that people are updating with new information over time. About once a month or less, we’ll tweet one key tweet three times instead of two times.

What’s the future?

Since we’re trying to fill a gap in what Twitter is able to do for its users, we’ll follow their lead. I think Twitter’s future will depend first on how users use it and how well Twitter supports them in what they want to do. So it depends on things Twitter introduces. Users have always driven Twitter. Users created @messages, Retweets, #Hashtags and much more.

I would love to see Twitter get out ahead and pay more attention to what users are doing and figuring out how to support that. But they’ve rightly put their main emphasis on hiring enough people and building the infrastructure properly. 2011 should be a really interesting year as Twitter will finally have the right people and infrastructure to fully support their community.

Hopefully 2011 will be the “year of community” and Twitter will really engage people on a wider basis to help support all the interesting ways we all find to make Twitter do wonderful things.

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