Everyone’s favorite example of how NOT to use Twitter is to tweet what you ate for breakfast. But even mundane tasks like eating can inspire people to follow if you tweet creatively. Ultimately it is not the subject of your tweet that makes you worth following, it is how your message connects with readers. Eat interesting food, eat for interesting reasons, or teach people something fascinating about food and suddenly everyone has a reason to care about your breakfast.
The key is communicating something that transcends the subject of your tweet and creates value for your followers. If you can do this then what you tweet about hardly matters, because you will regularly engage your readers and promote your personal brand.
I’ve tweeted what I ate for breakfast (and lunch, snack, dinner and everything in between) every single day since December 11, 2008. When I was new to Twitter my instinct was to use it as a food diary microblog so my regular blog readers could easily follow my eating habits (Summer Tomato is a blog about healthy eating).
Since then I have learned better-Twitter is an amazingly powerful tool to make connections and build your network. But I have also discovered my daily “tweats” can be an effective way to engage my followers and drive readership to my blog.
After over 5 months of observing the responses to my tweats it is clear that the better I describe my meals and how they taste, the more people reply expressing enthusiasm, envy or curiosity. For example, “chicken and chard soup” did not get as strong a response as “Moroccan vegetable tagine with spiced couscous and toasted almonds. Yum!” Tantalizing tweats inspire people to ask for recipes or more details about my meals, which can send fresh traffic to old blog posts or be translated into future posts.
Engaging tweets that enable you to interact with your followers is what Twitter is all about, and is valuable even if your tweet doesn’t have a direct link to your website. Now I receive regular following recommendations because of my “delicious” and “inspiring” tweets.
Someone I follow (@twitterbo) once posted the question, “What is the most interesting thing you have ever eaten?” I replied immediately with “The most interesting thing I’ve eaten? Shark’s lips.” (Notice how I repeat the question so my followers can track the conversation?)
This reply sparked several minutes of vibrant twitversations with various people about food, travels and ecological concerns. The people I interacted with as a result of this tweet may not remember the details of our communication, but it is likely they went away with the general impression that I’m an interesting person worth following and recommending.
In other words, this single tweet strengthened my network.
My ultimate goal on Twitter is to build my authority as a healthy eating expert, and the first step is making sure I sound like one. Adding educational tips to your tweets is an effective way to turn a boring blurb into a valuable tweet.
For example: “Oatmeal for breakfast. Whole grains improve insulin sensitivity, lower cholesterol & reduce hunger later in the day.”
Not only does this tweet convey my personal eating habits, it also suggests that you can improve your own health and possibly lose weight if you choose certain foods.
Turning simple tweets into educational tips makes them useful to your readers and increases your likelihood of being retweeted. (Hint: Be sure to leave enough characters for a RT = [username character #] + 4.)
Think Outside the Tweet
You can further expand the impact of your tweets by optimizing with third party applications. A few weeks after I began “tweating” I discovered a service called FoodFeed, which allows me to target all my meal tweats with a reply to @having. This sends my post into both my Twitter stream and a unique RSS feed hosted on the FoodFeed website. The beauty of this service is that I can use the FoodFeed RSS to directly publish my tweating diary onto my blog. Filtering the noise of extraneous Twitter conversations thus enables me to better fulfill my original goal of sharing my eating habits with readers.
If you do not want your every bite displayed on Twitter but would still like to keep a microblog food diary, FoodFeed can be updated using direct messages. I use this DM function occasionally to keep my public Twitter stream focused and uncluttered. There are, after all, only so many interesting ways to tweet about oatmeal.
Twitter is a relatively new means of communication and there are still no unbreakable rules. People like to eat, so why would you assume tweets about food have to be boring? What kills your readers’ attention is not food itself, but the fact that we when sit at our computers we want to learn something about life, not about your life. Great tweets are not defined by their subject, but by how they engage your followers.