It’s hard to imagine a world without Twitter. It was the faster-growing social network in 2012, and 1/5 of all US Internet users are also active on Twitter.* For bloggers especially, the world would be very different without Twitter.
But maybe there’s something we can lean from that. Twitter is an amazing way to reach your community, but it can perhaps cloud our vision. By thinking about what the world would be like without Twitter, we can perhaps find some new opportunities for our blogs. Here’s how blogging would be different if Twitter did not exist:
1. We’d would have jumped on the image train sooner.
Bloggers today are starting to understand the power of having good images, especially with the rise of Pinterest and Instagram. However, I believe we would have come to that conclusion as an industry sooner if nor for Twitter, which embraces text, not images. Yes, you can tweet out pictures, but it isn’t the same as an image-heavy social network. Even on Facebook, images are more important than text and links.
Are you putting effort into your images or are you begrudgingly using crappy stock photography because you “have” to? I’ll be the first to admit that I was late to jump on the boat with using images with my blog posts, and it’s still not my favorite part of blogging, but without a doubt, I get more social share and comments (on average) when I have compelling images to go with a post.
Need some advice on image creation? Here’s how I do it.
2. Reading and commenting on other blogs would be more important.
Instead of commenting on posts we like, we usually just retweet the link, even though most of us are ecstatic when we get an email saying that there’s a new comment on one of our posts.
Social shares are great for promotion, but in my opinion, actual comments are even more important. The entire point of a blog is to have a conversation. That’s what makes blogs different than newspapers and magazines–there is interaction. If your post is meant to educate, commenters can add to that knowledge. If your post is meant to entertain or inspire, commenters can share their stories and opinions to make your original post even better.
Even if you opt not to allow comments on your blog, without Twitter, I believe we’d be more easily able to build communities. Before Twitter, I remember that I had my favorite blogs bookmarked (and later added to my RSS reader) and I’d check for new content every day. I felt more like I was part of something, and I anticipated every post because I wasn’t getting 140-character snippets from the blogger every 10 minutes between posts.
I highly encourage you to think about your online activities as they pertain to other bloggers. Don’t just follow someone on Twitter, retweet their links, and call it a day. If you enjoy someone’s work, be a part of their community by being present on their blog, and encourage your followers to do the same.
3. Responding to your own comments would be more important.
Some bloggers opt not to reply to a single comment. Instead, they interact with fans via Twitter. That’s all fine and good, but it means that you’re taking the conversation away from what should be your most important platform: your actual blog.
If Twitter didn’t exist, we’d be forced to interact with fans via our comments instead. Conversations would develop, and this only adds to the value of the post for the next reader.
For those of you not current responding to comments, give it a try. You don’t have to respond to every single “great post” or “thanks for the info” message, but if someone takes the time to leave a thoughtful comment or ask a question, answer them. This is the single best way I’ve found to build a community on your blog. When you respond, you’re telling the commenter, “I see you, and I value you.” We all like to be acknowledged.
Recently, I posted about my own experiences responding to comments. Check it out here.
4. Niche forums would drive more traffic.
In some niches, forums are still hopping, but this has died down a bit since the days before Twitter. If Twitter didn’t exist, I think more blogs would have a forum associated with them or, at the least, more bloggers would be participating in general forums about their topics.
Instead, we just log onto Twitter and interact with the people we follow or the people who mention us. I bet if you look, though, you’ll find forums related to your niche. This is a fantastic way to find new readers for your blog and to make connections with other bloggers. Too few bloggers are using forums.
5. Our Google+ and LinkedIn connections would be crucial.
Every day, I see people ask for favors and make new connections on Twitter. It’s quick. It’s easy. Why not? Without this platform, we’d likely put a deeper emphasis on Google+ and LinkedIn instead.
Maybe we’re missing out, however, by not using these connections more. When you’re not limited to 140 characters, there’s so much more you can do and say. If you’re stuck in the routine of only checking Twitter, I highly recommend that you start using Google+ and LinkedIn as well. The relationships you can develop on these platforms are, in my opinion, much more meaningful. Or at least, then can be.
This is especially true when you’re trying to get the attention of another popular blogger. On Twitter, it seems like everyone is trying to get a piece of these people. On Google+ and LinkedIn, it is often easier to build a relationship.
6. Headlines would be less important.
People send hundreds of dollars to learn how to write better headlines, and for good reason: when people share your links, the most enticing headlines get the most clicks.
On other social networks, there’s a little wiggle room to post some description with the title. With Twitter, you only have 140 characters, so the title is everything.
If Twitter did not exist, we wouldn’t care nearly as much about the titles of our posts. And maybe that would be a good thing.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t put any thought into the headlines your write. However, I do believe that some bloggers put the cart before the horse in this respect. The title of your post means nothing unless the post you’ve written is awesome. (Click to tweet.)
Most bloggers, myself included, are always looking for ways to improve traffic. It’s easy to get wrapped in what will give us that promotion edge, like writing better headlines. But it can be dangerous to spend more time on your promotion skills than on your writing skills. When’s the last time you looked at ways to improve your actual content, not just the way you promote your content?
7. Crowdsourcing content ideas wouldn’t be as easy.
Twitter is a really powerful platform for crowdsourcing ideas for your blog. Ask your community for tips to share. Brainstorm questions you can answer on your blog. Do an informal poll of your audience. Without Twitter, this kind of crowdsourcing wouldn’t be nearly as easy.
Yet, we don’t take advantage of this ability as often as we could.
My challenge to you is this: sometime in the next month, think about how you can use your Twitter following to crowdsource a blog post this week. Reach out to your followers and take advantage of this community you’ve built.
8. Email marketing would get more creative.
In my opinion, most (not all, but most) online marketing falls into one of three categories: social media, search engine optimization, and email marketing. Twitter obviously falls into the social media category and is even starting to play more into search engine optimization. Email marketing is a different beast completely. Even if you don’t spend much time online, if you’ve ever used the Internet, you probably have an email address.
Savvy marketers understand the power of email, but without social media, this way of contacting people would be even more important. The time you spend on Twitter now would have to be spent on something else, and I believe that “something else” would be email.
Maybe it would be a good thing for us to pretend Twitter didn’t exist so we actually did spend more time on email.
I’m subscribed to several so-called weekly newsletters. A very small percentage of those newsletters actually get sent every week, consistently. People get busy and the weekly obligation of producing an email for subscribers falls to the wayside.
In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. Even more than you social followers, people who have subscribed to your email list are your most engaged community members. They’re so involved that they’ve actually asked you to email content to their inbox, which is probably overflowing with junk, work emails, and communications from friends.
If you aren’t regularly emailing your subscribers, make a commitment to change this so that email becomes a priority. If you are one of the few bloggers who is very active with email, think about what you could be doing better and how you can build your list. Get creative and become an inbox standout. Email marketing deserves your attention!
9. “Engage” would have a different meaning.
I hate the term “engage.” I feel like most of the people who use it are being slimy. I guess that it’s such a sterile term that it makes me think anyone “engaging” me isn’t actually interested in me as a person, only how they can use me for their own benefit.
Twitter is place you’ll find the most “engagers” because it is easy. You don’t have to be thoughtful to engage on Twitter. You simply say thanks for retweets, promote links others have retweeted, and reply to people occasionally. Congratulations, you’ve successfully engaged people for another day. High five.
Of course, the people who really do understand how to use Twitter well know that successfully engaging means doing a lot more than the bare minimum. Still, without Twitter, I think “engage” would have a different meaning completely. It would mean thoughtful responses on other social networks, comments on other blog posts (like discussed above), emails, and maybe even handwritten cards. It would mean actually getting to know the people involved in your community.
This is what we should all be doing. You can still send short messages on Twitter, but instead of always thinking about what another person can do for you, stop engaging in order to get direct results. For example, don’t think, “if I retweet this person’s link, they’ll retweet mine.” Instead, think, “If I retweet awesome content on a regular basis, it will help my community and I’ll naturally get more followers, with some of those people retweeting my links too.” When you want engagement to give you direct results, it quickly turns into using people.
10. We’d have fewer distractions when writing.
I’m not going to tell you how many times I stopped writing this post to check or reply to someone on Twitter.
Turn it off. Write, and don’t turn it back on until your post draft is done. ‘Nuff said.
11. Guest posting would be more important.
Twitter is an amazing platform for building your audience. More so than any other social network, when someone shares one of your links or retweets something you say, it introduces you and your content to an entirely new audience.
If Twitter didn’t exist, we’d work a little harder at finding new audiences a different way. Namely, I think more bloggers would be writing guests posts. I also believe that guest blogging strategies would be tweaked a bit. It would be more important to step outside your comfort zone and write posts for completely new audiences on blogs outside your niche.
Let’s say you write food blog, for example. It is extremely beneficial for you post on other food blogs. However, those are people who may be reading your blog already, or who could come across your blog because they’re searching for that kind of information. What if you instead posted a kid-friend recipe on a popular parenting blog or a great take-along roadtrip recipe for a travel blog?
The key is to post on blogs that have audiences who would be interested in your content, but who might not otherwise find your blog.
Read more about guest posting here.
12. Content sharing would be more meaningful.
Lastly, without Twitter, it would be much more meaningful whenever someone shared content. Twitter makes it almost too easy to share links, and they have a tendency to fall into the abyss, never to be seen again. Twitter just isn’t a very effective content curation tool, and there’s not a lot of effort required to share a link on this platform.
When someone shares your content elsewhere, it’s a much bigger deal. On networks like Pinterest, that content is going to have a much longer life, because the focus is on categorizing awesome content over time instead of just blasting out links that never again see the light of day. On sites like Facebook and Google+, the person sharing your link is more likely to actually write some meaningful commentary to go along with the link, which starts conversations with their followers. And if someone emails a link to a friend? Well, that’s a huge deal. It’s more than a personal recommendation – it’s a “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS” recommendation.
Think about how you’re sharing content you love. Are you just tweeting it and calling it a day? If you actually want to support bloggers you love (and get others’ support in return), think about curating your content and going that extra mile when sharing. People gravitate toward those who share awesome content (a great example of this is George Takei on Facebook), so by putting a little more effort in how you share great content you find, you can build followers who want to read your content as well.
So there’s my list. How do you think blogging would be different without Twitter?
*Study data is available here.
Image Credit: Altered, from Bigstock