Add Value on Twitter: The 4-1-1 Rule

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Lots of good advice exists regarding what you can do to use Twitter well. Mashable has posted a list of best practices. They also have a great piece on building your thought capital on Twitter.

Managing your Twitter time

Today, we’re focusing neither on the value of Twitter nor what you can do with it. Instead, let’s take a look at how you should be using it for maximum efficiency.

As Twitter is in the escalation phase, you shouldn’t be spending a lot of time thinking about it or using it. You should only be spending 15% of your time marketing on all escalation-phase platforms combined.

This means maybe 1.5% of your day should be tweeting and scheduling your tweets (~12m/day or 2hr/wk).

The 4-1-1 rule

In the interest of keeping things compact, U.S. airports have the 3-1-1 rule for packing carry-on liquids; and we have the 4-1-1 rule for keeping your compact things (tweets) interesting.  4-1-1 is also the U.S. number to dial for information, and our 4-1-1 rule is a way to distribute information.

Tweet 4 pieces of relevant original content from others and re-tweet 1 relevant tweet for every 1 self-promoting tweet. This diagram illustrates perfectly.

The 4-1-1 Rule for Twitter

By following the 4-1-1 rule, you’ll keep your Twitter content ziploc-tight.

Twitter management tools

One great thing about Twitter is how much their API encourages significant development of third-party apps. Using a management tool can save time and energy. Many of these tools can bring all the capabilities of Twitter right to you in a single interface.

We use Twitterfeed to automatically import links to our blog content. I use TweetDeck, and new methods periodically emerge for managing posts, direct messages, and search. Some other management tools include TwitZap, Twhirl, HootSuite and the TwitterFox Firefox add-on.

Twitter content distribution

At the end of the day, though, Twitter is just a content distribution platform. So, beyond the nuts and bolts of management, distributing content thoughtfully is the most important ingredient.

You want to attract an audience — not drive people away. In general, trying too hard to promote yourself does the latter. Mix your tweets up. Feed content snacks to your audience that will establish you as both a participant and a leader in the conversation.


There are a lot of tools and channels across which you need to spread your efforts. It is vital not to get sucked into the black hole of foreverism created by the demands of the individual and combined media. Utilize the right tools and the right approach to prevent channels like Twitter from becoming a drain on your time.


How are you using Twitter efficiently? What strategies do you employ to maintain efficiently? What Twitter apps are in your toolkit?

8 Responses to “Add Value on Twitter: The 4-1-1 Rule”

  1. bcotier

    I also believe if you can answer a question or point someone in the right direction it is of value. Remember this is not a one size fits all formula.

  2. Ketan

    That’s a good thumb-rule…4-1-1. I would like to try it out. My boss once said, “Marketing is basically doing many things some of which will work.” I guess there are few (or none) formulas that surely work. That’s why there is so much content being created on how to leverage Twitter and other platforms to meet your marketing and sales goals.

  3. Jake Martin

    Just a quick FYI… the Nambu link is dead =/

  4. Walter Latty

    Excellent! This is really an eye-opener for me. 411..imagine that! Must try it.


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