Using Twitter to promote your blog and your personal brand

This post is Day #4 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

The next tool every developer should have is a Twitter account. In this article I will tell you why Twitter has become such an effective tool for social networking and personal branding.

I admit that I did not see much benefit to Twitter before I joined. I thought the micro-blogging site was all about people talking about what they had for breakfast and other non-essential postings. I did not realize the amount of information one can attain from those little 140-character posts.

Twitter has two uses: as an information stream and for promoting yourself & your actions. With the latter though come some hidden pitfalls. Whatever you post on Twitter is out there forever and you cannot take it back. Thus you need to be careful of what you post on your feed. It is with this in mind that I have kept my Twitter feed on a strictly professional level. I only post and re-tweet items that relate to my experiences in software development. If you want to post more personal items I suggest you have dual feeds to separate your business and personal lives.

To get a Twitter account you need to go to Twitter.com When registering for an account I suggest you use your own name. You want to associate the account with yourself. The only instance where you might not do this is if you are well known under your company name or some other nickname within your profession. By having your name on the account you are indexing your Twitter account and all your tweets within the various search engines. For more on creating a unified identity on the web see my article on identity consolidation.

The first use for Twitter is as an information stream. You can have a Twitter account just to monitor other Twitter feeds. There are no rules saying you must Tweet just because you have an account. In fact I suggest you create your list of people to follow before you tweet. This way you can see how people are tweeting, re-tweeting and what people are talking about.

You might be asking yourself who I should follow. Well that is going to depend on the information you seek. You might want to search for colleagues in IT that are on Twitter. Are they posting interesting items about software development that you might want to know? Then there are also companies you can follow. For example Microsoft has an official channel as does each department within Microsoft. Perhaps you want to follow the ASP.NET tweets or the SQL Server ones. You can choose from any number of tweeters to follow.

Note though that some people tweet – A LOT. Yes, I am looking at you Scott Hanselman. For people like this or for subjects that you may want to group together you can create lists. A list will allow you to segregate tweeters so that you can access them but they will not appear in your main timeline. Lists can be both public and private. This can be a handy feature to monitor certain tweeters without seeing all their information every time you got to Twitter.

One final word of warning is that everyone can see which Twitter users you follow. So be wary of following people that use a lot of profanity and touchy subject matter. You need to think about the image you want to present. Following these types of tweeters using a private list might be a better alternative.

The second use for Twitter is for self-promotion and for driving traffic between your sites. I will often post a tweet on Twitter after I have added a new post to my blog. Case in point is the tweets I have issued for the previous blog posts in this series. For these posts I have used the format of [Series Name] | [Series Day Number]: [Article Title] [Article Link] [#hashtags]. If you scroll down you can see the format I use for my general blog post tweets: [BLOGGED]: [Article Title] [Article Link] [#hashtags]. Both formats alert people to the fact that I have a new article in my blog and I provide them the link to it. Twitter will automatically shorten the link to resemble links from Bitly. Hashtags are used to mark keywords or topics within a tweet. Clicking a hashtag will take users to all the tweets with that tag. Note: anyone can make a hashtag and they are also case insensitive.

You may have also noticed that the last hasthtag on my previous tweets is usually #in. This is a feature within LinkedIn (a tool which I will discuss in my next article) that creates a connection between the two social networking sites. LinkedIn looks for tweets with this tag and then uses it as my status update. It means a tweet will appear exactly the same way on my LinkedIn page as it does within Twitter. This is another way to drive people between your sites.

UPDATE: This functionality has been discontinued.

Mentioning your blog post is only one way to tweet. You can talk about an interesting article you read, a new developer tool you used, send a message to another Twitter user about one of their Tweets or re-tweet someone else’s tweet to your followers. All of these actions can demonstrate your interest in an area and help showcase you as an expert. It also adds value to your followers.

You may be asking yourself how I get people to follow me. Generally when you follow others they tend to start following you. It is one of the courtesies of being on Twitter. You can also ask your friends to follow you if you want to build up your numbers. However, the best way is to tweet interesting content on a consistent basis. Once people recognize that you have something to say you will gain followers. And if you choose to specialize in an area like I mentioned in my second article on developing your personal brand you will see that you will gain followers who are working in the same development environments as you. You can then start following them to increase your own information stream.

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About Ken Cenerelli
I am a Programmer Writer, .NET Developer, Microsoft MVP - Visual Studio and Development Technologies, Public Speaker, Blogger, and Microsoft Azure Nerd. I blog regularly at kencenerelli.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter via @KenCenerelli.

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