How long is a piece of string?
How often you tweet is very much a matter for you and what you are trying to achieve by tweeting.
If you are a corporate tweeter – i.e. all your tweets are with your work hat on and you are linking to a lot of case studies, press releases etc., then you need to find a happy balance.
Especially when you start, if you don’t tweet fairly regularly, it’s unlikely that you will develop much of a following.
On the other hand, if you just blast out a never-ending series of “Aren’t we a wonderful police/probation service” tweets, people will soon stop following you.
As always, the most important rule is to make sure your tweets are interesting.
Corporate tweeters need to find a balance between publicising new initiatives and engaging with your audience.
Having twitter discussions is a great way to establish an online presence and to give a real flavour of the work that you and your colleagues do in the real world.
However, beware having a 50 tweet exchange with two or three others as it makes it very hard for your followers to pick out the key messages that you are tweeting.
Of course, if you are an anonymous tweeter, you can set your own guidelines and feel your way into a happy level of tweeting for you and your followers.
@TheCustodySgt for instance is a very popular and prolific Tweeter precisely because he is chatty and engages regularly with a wide range of police, legal and other tweeters.
He averages 39 tweets per day.
@SuptPayneWMP is just as popular but runs a much more corporate account.
He averages 4 tweets per day.
It really is up to you how often you tweet. But, in my view, regularity is more important than volume.
If you want to maintain a presence on Twitter and communicate your message to a large number of followers (next week’s post will look at how to build an audience), you probably do need to tweet at least once per day – weekends are entirely optional!
If you do only tweet a couple of times a day, you should invest some thought into those tweets and make sure that they are funny/witty/intriguing or, at the very least, link to some interesting content of interest to your followers.
Twitter is increasingly popular and although the scarcity principle can apply, you need to get noticed amongst the crowd and build up a following first.
Of course if you are a Chief Constable or get elected as Police and Crime Commissioner, you can get by with a more sporadic approach.
Here’s another few benchmarks by way of context:
The top 5 UK journalists with the most online influence tweet an average of 17 times per day – but remember, they are in the news game, so frequency is important for them.
Twitter “A-Listers” (those with the most followers) reportedly tweet an average of 22 times per day.
The Probation Association tweet 6 times per day.
The Police Federation tweet 4 times per day.
Is it ever okay to schedule a tweet?
Yes, it is.
I know that a lot of the joy of Twitter is it’s spontaneity; the chance to engage with topical issues as they happen.
But the reality is that most police and probation staff are pretty busy most of the time.
So if you are going to be stuck in an all-day meeting or in a mobile-phone free zone ( it’s hardly surprising that there are so few prison-based tweeters), it’s entirely permissible to schedule a tweet.
Obviously, only some tweets are appropriate for scheduling.
If you are posting some new content on your website or Facebook page, then, hopefully, it will be just as interesting at 3:30 PM this afternoon as when you uploaded it at 6:15 this morning.
Indeed, if you are tweeting to link to an important piece of content, it’s perfectly okay to tweet about it two or three times the first day it goes online.
In this respect, I always think that Twitter is a bit like Radio 1.
The reason that Radio 1 has such a restricted playlist is that people tune in and out of the radio throughout the day and will probably only hear a song once even if it is played during every show.
In the same way, most people only see a tweet when they are actively looking at their Twitter timeline.
So, it’s fine to tweet more than once to link to the same content.
Just don’t over-do it.
Scheduling your tweets can also be a way of showing consideration to your followers.
Most people find it easier to digest a steady flow of tweets, rather than being bombarded with 20 in two minutes followed by 24 hours of radio silence.
How can I schedule a tweet?
There are a lot of different Twitter clients which will let you schedule a tweet for later.
You just tweet in the normal way and then, instead of hitting send, click on a schedule or clock symbol and choose a date and time to post your tweet.
This facility can be particularly important for shift workers.
If you are working through the night, but want your tweet to be seen by a lot of people, it makes sense to schedule it in a time when most people are awake/online.
There are a number of utilities which will calculate the best time for you to Tweet – usually based on what time your followers are online.
I’ll cover this subject in more depth in a few weeks when I look at measuring your Twitter impact, but you can try Crowdbooster or SocialBro, if you want to find out the best time for you to Tweet – both are free.
Generally speaking, in the UK, the peak times for tweeting are 9-11 a.m. and 3-4 p.m.
There are also studies to show that people click on more links on the weekend – some of us like to kick back and read Blogs and online articles like we read the Sunday papers.
Inform your followers
If you are going to be tweeting a lot – say you’re off to Blue Light Camp and want to tweet from the sessions, let your followers know and then they can eagerly tune it, (or tune you out) for the day.
In the same way, if you are going to be off-line for a while, let people know and when you will be back.
Next Wednesday: how to get followers.
Have a good week till next week.