I once had a pile of old books that I no longer wanted. I brought them into a bookstore that buys and sells used books. After placing my pile of books on the counter, the owner proceeded to examine each one. He carefully examined the cover, opened the book to read the chapter of contents, and then skimmed quickly through a few pages.
I was expecting him to accept each of my books, but he only took a third of them. When I asked him about his evaluation process, he told me that it’s driven by limited shelf space, along with his understanding of what his customers want.
To become a regarded sharer of content on Twitter, you need to act like the used book shop owner. His shelf space has a fixed amount of space, in the same way that your Twitter followers have a fixed amount of attention. The store owner can’t sell every used book he comes across and you can’t (well, shouldn’t) share every single link you find.
So speaking of sharing, I thought I’d share the process I use for curating and sharing content on Twitter.
Like many of you, I have a daily “surfing routine,” in which I visit a number of “go to” sites each morning. For the national (and global) scene, my favorite site is NYTimes.com, for which I gladly pay to gain access. For the local tech scene here in the Bay Area, I visit SiliconValley.com, a web site of the San Jose Mercury News.
In addition to these go-to sites, I use the somewhat old fashioned method of maintaining 40+ RSS feeds, which I read via Google Reader.
I then behave like the used book store owner. To gain credibility and respect, I like to share links (content) that my followers (and even folks who are not following me) find useful. If I blindly tweet out a large volume of tweets and my followers don’t find them useful, then I’m sure to lose followers.
While I’ve committed the sin of tweeting an article solely based on a captivating headline, I prefer to read the article entirely – or, at minimum, to skim the article to get a sense for it. Recall that the book store owner did the same thing.
When you read the article, it helps you understand what you’re sharing. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to share an article in which the body didn’t match the title at all? Yes, that could annoy followers who clicked on the link.
Another benefit to reading the article? Including a fact or quote from the article in your tweet. I like to include my own thought(s) in my tweets, rather than just tweeting the article title and link. In short, I believe that “curate and comment” is better than just “curate.”
For something to be shareable, I look for the following:
Timely: I prefer to share content that’s been published in the past 0-2 weeks. If I find a really useful article that’s 1+ year old, I mention that in my tweet (e.g. “From 2010, but still quite relevant”). Timely also refers to “what’s hot” (a trending topic, if you will). Timely topics that I’ve shared of late include Pinterest, Instagram, mobile apps and Google+.
Interesting: If everyone is writing about Pinterest (and they are), I prefer to share bloggers or journalists who provide a unique spin on the latest trend. Early on during the trend, however, an “introduction to” or a “how to get started” article is, in fact, interesting.
Useful: Related to the introductory articles that I mention above, I like to share content that helps my followers learn something new or do their job better. I often use the rule that if I find it useful, that you may as well.
I estimate that 60-70% of my tweets come from the Tweet button. Almost every site that I frequent (including most blogs) has social sharing buttons. So I share as I read. It’s efficient, because I share as I surf – and, because the Tweet button makes it so easy.
If the Tweet button doesn’t include the author’s Twitter handle, I like to search for the authors, to see if they have Twitter accounts. If they do, I like to include their handles in the tweet. This is useful for your followers (i.e. they can follow the author, if they like) and, it lets the authors know that you’ve tweeted their article.
I’ll also use a neat tool called Buffer to schedule certain tweets be sent out at particular times. There can be times where sharing becomes too frequent. Buffer allows me to “save up” a bunch of tweets and send them at a later time or date.
You can even schedule tweets with Buffer directly from Google Reader, which I find quite useful.
Retweeting (“RT”) is even easier than the Tweet button, as you can perform the action directly from your Twitter client, or from Twitter.com. I use the same selection criteria (listed above) when retweeting. There’s an added benefit here: the act “sends a little love,” if you will, to the person who posted the original tweet.
And there you have it. If you’re still with me, then I hope this insider’s look at my processes (and thought process) was useful. Use the comments section below to tell me how you go about curating and sharing on Twitter.
Note: I invite you to connect with me on Google+.