I particularly like Twitter, because it’s short and can be very funny and informative. It’s a little bit like having your own radio program.—Margaret Atwood
In February of 2017 I started a twitter account in hopes of increasing traffic to this blog. I reached 3500 followers recently and thought I might recap and review my experiences. I have learned a lot and just about nothing has turned out as I would have anticipated. This is not an analysis or evaluation of twitter itself, but an attempt to relay my specific experiences.
I did not have a personal twitter account before and still do not. I learned much by trial and error. For example, I didn’t realize that if you start a tweet with someone’s handle it goes directly to them, sorry Dori Tunstall. One of my first steps was to peruse other feeds of people/organizations that I was interested in. I was immediately not a fan, aesthetically, of retweeting, it makes a feed look cluttered. Otherwise, I didn’t take many notes and had no sweeping revelations, so off I went unarmed and unaware.
Like I mentioned I wanted this to drive blog traffic so I intended it to be focused. To that end, I established some self-imposed constraints. No retweeting. All original content. Support the blog. No tweets that feel like retweets, e.g. that link to a specific article or photo etc. Tweet every day. Educational content is preferred. Some of those are still in effect and some of them were abandoned almost immediately. It is difficult to post original content every day so that rule changed fairly quickly. I settled on 6 days a week rather than 7. Another quick compromise was the all original content bit. Side note/constraint: I adopted the black and white aesthetic of the blog, but use color occasionally if the need or mood warrants.
I started adding birthdays of designers and have expanded that to include artists. Adding birthdays relieves some of the pressure of new tweets every day. I try to have one post a week that is all new original content. These are either what I call a “card,” an educational summary of a GD topic or a comic, which I started making when I ran out of ideas for new cards every week. Also summarizing is hard. The comics actually came from topics that seemed too short to address as blog posts. Book recommendations and quick definitions are two other weekly staples. The rest of my tweets are random observations, GD news, or links to resources. As stated resources are an entire blog or site, not a single article. I also post links to free online classes that only I, apparently, find interesting.
My daily routine is to write a DM thanking each person who followed me from the previous day, make a new post, and then follow 100 or so new people. At first, I was selective of who I followed but curated or random, the follows I get in return are the same. And randomly is quicker. Every few days I unfollow people who have not followed me back to keep my followers and follows about as even as possible. I believe this is technically called “churning”, and at some point becomes contrary to Twitter TOS. I am operating at such a small scale that I can’t imagine it would be an issue, and so far hasn’t. Your mileage may vary.
I find my prospective follows from accounts that I am fond of or related subject matter such as, creativebloq, I love typography, brainpickings etc., as well as general search topics like “graphic design” or “design students.” I use ManageFlitter for all my twitter stuff. It costs $11.00 a month. There may be better or cheaper alternatives, but I have a workflow now and this is sufficient for my needs. I don’t automate or schedule posts. I don’t post frequently enough or have tweets ready in time for that to be useful. I also haven’t reposted anything yet which may change in the future since birthdays apparently repeat.
Following 100 new accounts a day nets me an average return of 10 new followers each day. I was hoping that would increase as my total number of followers increase and the “reach” of my account grew, that has not happened. 10% no matter what, even if I have a popular tweet. Not retweeting and not using hashtags as much as I should certainly contribute to my growth rate, but I find hashtags almost as unseemly as retweets. It screams look at me. As I write that I am becoming aware that I may be missing the entire point of twitter. Sometimes the hard way and the right way are the same.
11 things I learned from twitter, the bulk of which I surmise is common knowledge to most but is all new to me:
- Links to my blog posts are clearly the least engaged with tweets. Nobody cares about my blog posts on twitter. I do get some traffic from the link in my twitter profile, about 100 visits each month. I am thankful for the traffic, but it is not worth the time I invest in my twitter account if traffic is my only goal.
2. Having a twitter account has resulted in fewer blog posts. Partly a result of having less time because of twitter, but also because some blog topics have been cannibalized and truncated for tweet.
3. I am going to make gross generalizations, there are outliers but this is my experience. People don’t want to be challenged too much on twitter, my posts that are thoughtful or require engagement are not popular. Twitter users are interested in quick easily digested info that is also familiar. And of course the familiar is what gets is retweeted.
4. Nobody cares about my book recommendations. After links to blog posts, this is my least liked and retweeted type of tweet. To be fair I do call these recommendations “Graphic Design Adjacent” and the title is accurate. This may be a case of not catering to the audience, but I think regular design book recommendations can be found anywhere. Perhaps I’ll try more traditional offerings as an experiment.
5. An infinite number of graphic design, marketing, website, social media and related type businesses exist on the internet. Only 1 out of 10 of those businesses has a good logo and identity. They all have twitter accounts. Also all fiverr designers have twitter accounts.
6. A tweet I almost didn’t post was my most popular. I had two birthdays for one day. I don’t normally tweet two. I was deciding between Luxun and Phyllis Pearsall the inventor of the London A-Z. My thinking was that Luxun, a massive figure in Chinese history was the more substantive of the two and I would go with him. In the end, I tweeted both and Phyllis was by far my most popular tweet, ever.
7. Twitter doesn’t think I am funny. This seems to hold true regardless of the type of tweet. Whenever I think I am being humorous I am not rewarded with likes or retweets.
8. Many people post mostly junk and/or retweet junk. There is a lot of sketchy stuff and janky links. Watch where you walk.
9. Apropos of nothing, Twitter is more religious than I might have guessed. In no way, a judgment just an unexpected observation.
10. One original goal was to reach people not directly interested in GD. It turns out that is hard. It happens better randomly than intentionally. So I have stopped trying and rely on serendipity.
11. I get invested emotionally in most tweets, but specifically my original content. I did not realize how much I want people to like the things I like. I have resisted the urge for that to drive the content though. But I do check notifications more often than I will ever admit.
By the numbers:
Total tweets: 242
Top # of retweets: 37
Top # of likes: 52
Average likes per day: 8
Average retweets per day: 2
Average replies per day: 0
Average link clicks per day: 2
Profile visits per month ≈ 2500
New followers per month ≈ 400
Average impressions* per month ≈ 40.000 (*I don’t know what that means)
If you’re on Twitter, what you’re saying is, ‘I’m important enough for you to care what I think.’—Donald Glover
This has been an interesting experiment that has failed at what I most hoped it would do. Is it useful as an educational tool, to teach about the value and history of graphic design? I think the jury is still out and I didn’t like how juror number 3 deliberately avoided eye contact. But, all is not lost. As mini-blog it is a useful tool. It provides me with a way to record and share my ideas. And as I have confessed, I am willfully not using it to its fullest potential. I do also find some enjoyment in doing this, so there is that. My goal is to continue until I reach 5000 followers and then reassess the project. I will post another summary then. Hopeful sharing my experiences amuses you or you find it helpful in some way.