One of the common concerns I hear when discussing Twitter is how to keep up. As if we all didn’t already have full-time jobs, now we’re supposed to be constantly updating the universe about what we’re doing. Constant Twittering can disrupt a day and lead to lost productivity.

But there is a way to make use of Twitter while maintaining your sanity. Please keep in mind that this technique will not increase your direct engagement with your audience: There’s not a lot of back and forth conversation. So you’ll still need to log in now and then and interact with people if you want to get the full power of Twitter.

By GAHLORD DEWALD

One of the common concerns I hear when discussing Twitter is how to keep up. As if we all didn’t already have full-time jobs, now we’re supposed to be constantly updating the universe about what we’re doing. Constant Twittering can disrupt a day and lead to lost productivity.

But there is a way to make use of Twitter while maintaining your sanity. Please keep in mind that this technique will not increase your direct engagement with your audience: There’s not a lot of back and forth conversation. So you’ll still need to log in now and then and interact with people if you want to get the full power of Twitter.

Objective: Develop relevance with an audience on Twitter without having to spend every waking hour monitoring and thinking up new things to tweet about.

Establishing an editorial calendar

Some media organizations decide what they’re going to publish weeks and months in advance. They know that their readers are going to be interested in summer activities in the summer, winter activities in the winter, and so on. I bet your audience has seasonal interests as well.

Hopefully, you already know what these seasonal interests are. If you don’t, now’s the time to start noticing. By using an editorial calendar you can compartmentalize some of the time you devote on Twitter into manageable blocks instead of spread throughout the week.

Collect a handful of links and resources about the things your audience is likely to find interesting. These should not be breaking news kinds of things — more like lists and tips or even just nice photographs of neighborhoods or events. You don’t have to write all of this. Just find the links and resources. If thinking about the whole year is daunting, just think about the next month or so. Gather about one or two links for each week in your calendar.

Here are some ideas to help get you started:

  • Seasonal festivals in your market area.
  • Important civic dates (voting, etc.) in your market area.
  • Search Flickr.com for shared images of your market area that are fun, interesting or beautiful.

Assign a date to every link you have assembled. Remember that if you’re promoting an event you’ll want to publish your link a few days ahead of the event to give people time to make plans to attend. Here’s what a sample month might look like:

  • June 1: Link to fireworks, parade info.
  • June 7: Link to local fishing information or swimming information.
  • June 14: Link to a fun, beautiful photo from your market area.
  • June 21: Link to a summer festival in your market area.
  • June 30: Link to some school information.

This is just an example, but you get the idea. Keep it as tightly focused on your market area as possible. Include links to things that are useful to your local market and/or things that out-of-towners might value (especially if you work with a lot of relocation clients). Let your inside knowledge of your community shine here. …CONTINUED

Twitter power tool: Tweetlater

With your links, resources and dates in hand, let’s start doing some automation. You can schedule your tweets ahead of time using the free tool Tweetlater. Create an account — I know the interface is very ugly and a little bit confusing, but it’s worth it.

Once you have your account, you can start entering your tweets by clicking "Add a New Scheduled Tweet." Be sure to include a short bit of info, and if your tweet is about an event include the date of the event. Then you can choose a time of day to have your tweet published. Go with your gut or what you know about your audience. I tend to focus my editorial calendar links around late morning. But everyone’s audience will be different.

Click "save" and you’re done. Once you’ve done this for all the links you collected for your calendar you can go on with your day knowing that your Twitter account won’t be a ghost town.

Avoiding pitfalls

Please use Tweetlater for good. Here are five quick dos and don’ts:

  • Do continue to log in to Twitter and see if anyone has asked you for more information about something you’ve put in your editorial calendar. You can do this at your leisure, but try to log in at least once every couple days.
  • Do continue to post regular chatty tweets whenever you feel like it.
  • Don’t try to pretend like your Tweetlater editorial calendar is actually you in the moment. If you’re providing good links no one will care if you pre-programmed it or not.
  • If all your editorial calendar tweets are the same or have the same text, you will look silly.
  • Keep your editorial calendar tweets as short as possible to facilitate retweeting.

There’s a lot more you can do with your editorial calendar. If there’s interest, I’ll discuss some of them in a future article. If putting together the links is daunting, just work on shorter chunks of time: Plan ahead a week or so. This will keep your Twitter stream lively and provide links to useful, local and hopefully relevant content.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors. He will speak during a Bloggers Connect workshop at the upcoming Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs from Aug. 5-7.

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