The Twitter Rule of Thirds: 3 Tweets, 3 Tools

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This guest post is by Andy Crestodina, strategic director of Chicago web design company Orbit Media. You can find Andy on and Twitter.

Some people are chatty. Other people are salesy. Some people just talk about themselves too much. Others probably should talk about themselves a bit more. It’s the same with Twitter accounts.

Here’s a quick rule-of-thumb for social media marketers: The Twitter Rule of Thirds. It’s a guide to help make sure that your Twitter stream stays in balance with three general types of tweets: self-promotion, sharing, and conversation.

Andy Crestodina Rule of Thirds

Note: We’re not actually suggesting that your stream be equally divided into equal thirds of each type. These guidelines are for making sure your stream isn’t overwhelmed with one type of tweet.

1. Promotion

Twitter might be the fastest and easiest way to get your content out there. But the streams move fast, so if you’re serious about driving traffic, you’ll need to tweet the link to that new blog post several times over a span of days, weeks, and months.

  • Too many of these tweets, and you’ll come across as a self-centered broadcaster of your brand. Who wants to follow that?
  • Too few, and you’re not getting promotional value from Twitter as a channel.

HootSuite offers scheduling options that make this easy. When a new post goes live, you should Tweet it right away, but then schedule a series of tweets, one for tomorrow, one the next day, one next week, one next month, and another a few months down the road.


Tip: Mention people who may be especially interested in this content. Use a tool like FollowerWonk to find people who have the topic or theme in their Twitter bio. Mention them at the end of the tweet. This kind of “Twitter Targeting” is easy, fast, and fun.

Tip: Mention people or companies who appeared in the article. Adding quotes, references, and citations to articles helps support the content, but also gives you a reason to share. When done deliberately, this is sometimes called “share bait” or “ego bait.”

Tip: If you’re going to be away from Twitter for awhile, make sure to leave one of these tweets at the top of your stream, since it will make the link to your content more visible.

2. Sharing

As you browse the web and read newsletters, you’re going to come across good stuff that your audience may love. Tweet it! This is your chance to provide value to your followers and get the attention of other authors and brands. You’re curating relevant content within your stream.

  • Too many of these tweets means you won’t see much traffic to your own articles.
  • Too few of these mean you’re missing opportunities to help youraudience and connect with other authors.

Buffer is a great tool for lining up these social shares. It keeps your tweets from getting bunched up in your stream. You might come across three or four great posts in the morning, but if your followers haven’t had their coffee yet, they might miss them all. Buffer is a browser plug-in that you can add to Chrome or Firefox to spread out these tweets throughout the day.


Twitter is actually a great networking tool. Share the content of partners, friends, and people with whom you’re hoping to build a closer relationship.

Tip: Mention the author and publication in the tweet. This helps them notice it and possibly thank you for sharing. They may even retweet it to their network, making you more visible to a wider audience!

3. Conversation

When used properly, Twitter is a lot like a telephone party line. Every great social stream includes actual conversations. These tweets usually don’t have links. They’re the hello’s, thanks you’s, questions, answers, and comments. They often happen naturally if you simply respond to people who mentioned you after seeing your promotional and sharing tweets.

  • Too many of these tweets, and you’re not driving traffic.
  • Too few of these tweets, and you’re missing opportunities to build connections and make new friends.

Tip: If you want these tweets to be visible to a wider audience (usually, you do),make sure you don’t begin the tweet with an “@” sign. When you mention someone at the beginning of a tweet and use an @ as the first character, it will only appear in the streams of people who follow both you and the account you mentioned. Avoid this by adding a period or a word at the beginning of the tweet.

Tip: If you find yourself having a really interesting discussion with a potentially useful connection, consider moving the conversation to email. The great social media pros know how to turn online relationships into phone calls and even face-to-face meetings. Twitter is just the beginning!

Creation. Curation. Conversation.

Keep a balanced stream of all three. It’s called social media marketing because it’s social and it’s marketing. No promotion? It’s just social media. No dialog? It’s just marketing.

As Mana Ionescu of Lightspan Digital says, “Be purposeful in your social streams.”

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