Tweeting Above the Crowd

Updated January 3, 2011

Doc Sheldon

\Twitter IconSocial media has been enjoying increasing popularity for some time, but the recent admission by Bing and Google that they’re now paying attention to parts of a profile owner’s history has given rise to more interest.

Astute SEOs have been expecting this for some time and as Web 3.0, or Social Semantic Web develops, it stands to reason that such signals as Likes and Tweets would enter into the equation. Just how much they matter, of course, will remain a closely guarded secret. For this post, though, I’m only going to focus on Twitter.

There are a number of ways to use Twitter, and several of them can be “right”, depending upon your situation and your goals. I think it’s safe to say that most of these recommendations will apply to anyone, to some degree.

Your username

Your Twitter username is your brand, whether you like it or not. People that follow Matt Cutts may think of him as the voice of Google, but the reality is, they’ll remember what he says as what “Matt said”. If he one day moves to Bing, he’ll still be Matt Cutts.

When deciding what username you want, I suggest you keep it simple. Unique and memorable is sufficient.

  • Is it unique? DaveSmithEnt won’t stand out very well from DaveSmith1131. If you are the owner of Dave Smith Enterprises, you may decide to use that for a combined personal/professional persona, or you may want to have two separate personas.
  • Is it easily remembered? Kikolani, Sugarrae and theGypsy all have distinctive, yet easy to recall names. People remember them easily, and identify with them.

Your Style

We all have our personal style. Me… I’m a bit of a clown. But some very successful Tweeters are very serious types. You need to pick a style that’s natural and comfortable for you, and stick with it. Your personality will shine through, and will attract followers that enjoy that style. There’s someone for everyone.

Your avatar

While this is less important, I think the two things to take away are that your avatar should be distinctive and lasting. Many people scan quickly for the avatars they recognize and if you change yours, you may find your followers miss some of your tweets.

Your pattern

I think this is an extremely important part of building relationships. We’ve all seen people that only Tweet their own blog posts or articles. They rarely, if ever, retweet someone else’s stuff, and basically just regurgitate the same sort of Tweets, day after day. Guess what… few people pay them any attention, and even fewer engage with them.

The pattern that I follow (since getting some great advice from a very dear friend and renowned brand builder, Gabriella Sannino) is to retweet at least six to eight times between my own tweets. I also sprinkle four or five exchanges with other Twitterers throughout. That means that I’m only pushing my own Tweets every ten to twelve Tweets.

When one of your followers tweets something interesting, it costs you nothing to retweet it, and will be appreciated. Also, as the Social Graph continues to develop, that activity helps bolster both their credibility/popularity and your own. Besides, next time you tweet something, they’ll remember, and will probably return the favor.

If you stumble across an interesting tweet from someone you don’t know, there’s no reason you can’t retweet that, too. You can even reply to people you haven’t “met” yet. Who knows… they may turn into a follower.

Your ratio

This is probably the most debated aspect of Twitter. There are a LOT of different opinions, and I’m not going to try to convince you that mine is better than any other. I’ll just give you some things to think about, and tell you how I address it. You’ll have to make up your own mind on how you feel.

When I get an email notification of a new follower, I first look to see how many followers they have and how many people they are following. At the same time, I look at how many Tweets they have.

If they have 118 followers and are following 1,200, I usually delete and forget, unless I recognize the name. In my mind, they’re interested in quantity, not quality, and I don’t intend to contribute to their count.

Similarly, if they have 10,000 followers, I’d better know who they are, or they’re gone… same reason as above. If I don’t recognize their name, they probably bought the followers, anyway.

Now and then, I’ll get one from someone with 6 followers, that’s following 12, and has only 3 Tweets. At that point, I’ll scroll down a bit and see what common followers we have listed. If there aren’t any, and they’re a stranger to me, poof! Deleted! But they’re worth a look, because we were all newbies at one point.

Regardless of their ratio of followers to followed, if they’re also followed by a couple or people I know and respect, I’ll usually follow them back.

I don’t want it to sound as though I’m snobbish, because I definitely am not! I just think that my ratio has value. Almost all the people I follow have profiles that are relevant to me… SEO, SEM, blogging, copywriting. If I clutter up my list with a lot of extraneous profile types, it takes away from my own profile. And as the Social Graph gets more polished, that effect will increase.

I hope this helps some of you that may be just starting to get heavily involved in Twitter. Think of it as a networking exercise, and give as much or more as you receive, and you should do well. As always, I’d enjoy hearing any ideas or comments you may have, whether you agree or not!


  1. Doc what can I say … it’s a beauty. I love what you’ve done with the place. I’m just not a big fan of Disqus. I’m glad you shared our little secret 😉 lol indeed always give more to others than yours. Not just at the beginning of your campaign but, throughout. Your best cheerleader should be your readers, family, clients, friends. Not in that order, but you get the message.

    Nothing worst than to look at someones’ twitter feed and to see nothing more than posts about them and how wonderful they are. They never RT and if they do guess what it’s a RT from “Their” article. One word for that cheesy. You can thank the person you don’t have to include the post again. One thing you can do if you absolutely have to include your post again. Pick a couple of the people that RT you thank them with the link. But just do it once. Not every time someone RT’s your post.

    Another point I forgot to share with you is when you are signing off for the day is really the best time to say thanks for all RT’s on “” this will give your down time more foot traffic. In conclusion great work Doc I will be watching you and looking forward to our next brainstorming session.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time to stop by and comment, Gabs. I think you already know how much faith I put in your opinion.

    I like your last suggestion. Dynamite stuff!

    Don’t be a stranger…. there’s always a place at our table for you!

  3. Brad Jones says:

    Thanks for the post Doc! It was an excellent outline of advice for the Twitter newbie that is attempting to get a grasp on the ins and outs of how to go about getting started and why even bother to get started on Twitter.

    Seems like going by the same rule of thumb of being a provider or repeater of actual content serves just as it does when blogging or in a forum, it makes much more sense after reading above…


  4. Thanks, Brad. Hope it helps. The methodology is very subjective, but that’s basically been my approach. Depends upon what you’re trying to accomplish, I suppose.

    I know that some folks think that Twitter is only for socializing, and essentially useless as a business tool. I disagree with that, because I know a lot of folks that have seen tangible benefits that they attribute directly to their Twitter interactions. I just consider it to be one more facet of my network.

    Thanks for the comment! Don’t be a stranger.