Promoting your Open Source Project and Building Online Communities with TWITTER!

This March, I had the amazing opportunity to present at UpSCALE during the Socal Linux Expo  SCaLE16x in Pasadena. If you don’t know SCaLE, it is the largest community-run open-source and free software conference in North America, held annually in the Los Angeles area.

This conference was a great conference! It had the usual suspects of exhibitors (150 of them!), sessions (130 and they were so informative!), and special events – such as inviting and welcoming kids!

UpSCALE was a set of lightening talks held at SCaLE in partnership with “Open source deliciousness” to quote I was invited to speak and had 5 minutes and 9 slides.

You can see my slides here. You can also see a video of the full UpSCALE session here. Below is the narrative. I welcome your comments, questions, and invitations to talk about Twitter and social media in open source!


Building Online Communities and Communicating in Open Source

Communicating in open source is about sharing information, engaging, and building community. How to reach our audience is something we all think about! In this blog, I will focus on techniques and best practices for Twitter – whether you are just starting or have been playing around with Twitter and need some new ideas.





Amanda Katona and I were talking about the open source community and the actions successful people and organizations take. We came up with this meme. Basically, you have to be part of the community – participate, go to events, engage on Twitter, meet people. So when something is shared, it’s seen. You become known and are part of the community.

So, the number 1 rule in open source marketing – you have to be a member of the community. You have to participate.


Starting with a Goal

Starting with goal helps you stay focused and not do a lot of different things or jump on the latest “good idea”. Since this is open source marketing, following the good tenants of open source help keep the communications focused on the community, transparency, and openness.

Goals can range across a broad spectrum – all depending on what you are trying to accomplish for your community, your organization, or you. Some ideas:

  • In general – grow the open source community.
  • Create awareness of the different open source projects going on and talk about them – bring attention to them.
  • Create a community around a new open source project.
  • Find things the community shared and share further.
  • Talk about open source technologies.
  • Grow brand awareness of projects you are working on.
  • Get your project into a foundation.
  • Awareness of your project so you can get lots of contributors.
  • As a person, maybe it’s for you to be seen as an expert.
  • Take your existing community and grow it.


Whatever it is, know WHY you are communicating and what you hope to accomplish. If you don’t you could end up with a laundry list of things that spread out your focus, ultimately slowing down progress towards your goals.

Goals help you stay focused, doing the most impactful things, and actually work less. All super important!


Mix of Tweets

Twitter is a great form of communication to reach a broad audience. Using a combination of original content such as blogs and videos, 3rd party content from the community, and engagement such as Retweets and Quote Retweets, there is a lot of content available that can help drive your goals.


When working in open source and the community, weighing your Twitter posts on engagement and community content is a good practice. It shows your expertise while being a good community member.


Number of Tweets a Day

I did a lot of research on how often to Tweet. There were a variety of suggestions:

  • Up to 15 times a day
  • Minimum of 5
  • Maximum of 5
  • 5-20x a day
  • 3-5 Tweets a day
  • More than 3 and Engagement drops off
  • Engagement does change whether you do 4-5 a day or 11-15 a d


And on and on and on!

I decided the “Magic Number” was 5-8 tweets a day for the {code} account and a little less for me personally – 3-5 tweets a day. I looked at my engagement stats and how often the influencers I follow tweet to come up with this number.

There are definitely some days that I tweet more – especially if there is a lot of good community content to share! Some days are less, especially if I’m busy and don’t have the time to find good content to share. On those days that I find a lot of good content to share and more than I want to share in one day, I store those web links in a spreadsheet so I can share them throughout the week.

Twitter Best Practices – just some ideas

Tweeting, monitoring engagement, and looking at what others in the community are doing, I came up with a bullet list of “best practices”.  

  • Consistency: Be present on Twitter daily or at least a couple of times a week.
  • Write your content to lead with what the community will find most interesting. For example, if you are sharing something about yourself and a community member, they come first in your Tweet.
  • Whenever possible, give credit to the source by using their Twitter handle.
  • Use hashtags (#) as it makes sense to help the community find content.
  • All tweets have an image.
  • Tweet like a community member or a person and not like a business. Let your personality show!
  • Put interesting part of the content at the beginning or a Tweet.
  • Monitor Twitter for engagement opportunities.


Twitter Engagement

Knowing who the influencers are help you find engagement opportunities and good content to share. Influencers can be technical, business focused, inspirational, or people posting pictures of dogs. 🙂  The important thing – figure out who influences YOU.

How do you find your influencers?

  • Ask your team and other people in the community!
  • Don’t pretend like you know where to start… have someone point you in a direction if possible 🙂 (And feel free to contact me – I’m happy to brainstorm with you!)
  • I did a little snooping. For inspiration, I looked at the Twitter handles that the industry people I respect follow on Twitter.
  • I follow hashtags, especially event hashtags. People who are into the event, and pretty knowledgeable too, are tweeting and sharing using the event hashtag. I always find someone who has something interesting to say!


When I manage Twitter for companies, I create an Influencer List with is basically a spreadsheet that lists Twitter handles and hashtags. This feeds Twitter lists. For myself, I create Twitter lists to help keep the people you follow organized and find content to share. Creating this influencer list and Twitter lists takes some time, but it’s so worth it once you are done!

Need some inspiration? Check out my Twitter lists. Feel free to subscribe to them, copy them, and use them. They are always a work in process (I’m adding or removing people) and if you have suggestions, let me know!

I mentioned earlier that my goal for Twitter was 50% of the Tweets were engagement Engagement – isn’t that what it’s all about? Engaging with the community?!

What I do and strive to do it daily is:

  • Check Notifications Tab in Twitter
    • This was super important to me! If someone takes the time to respond on Twitter, I want to be prompt and respond back to them. I love interaction and questions on Twitter!
    • From there, I Like the Tweet and then set up a Retweet, a Quote Retweet, or a Reply – whatever is the most appropriate.
  • Review Lists for Engagement opportunities
    • I want to see what the Community is saying on Twitter. I review tweets from my Twitter feed and look at the tweets on the various lists.
  • Check Hashtags
    • I have a list of hashtags I check – hashtags people in the community were using. This was another way to see what people were talking about.


I then set up Retweets and Quote Retweets to go throughout the day, using Twitter best practices, and hashtags and Twitter handles as it makes sense.

Tips, Tricks, and Being Effective

There are a lot of things you can do to get started. As you choose the things you want to do to promote your project, company, or yourself, think hard about the available resources you have. You don’t have to do it all – having the time to be consistent with your communications and with a community first message is what is needed to being successful.


Participating in the community whether it is with your online presence, your outbound communications, or at events is what makes the difference. This is what helps you build your community!



  • Set Goals: This doesn’t need to be a monumental exercise and full marketing strategy – but do set some goals for your online presence.
  • Resources: Know your resources and the limits of you and your team’s time.
  • Audience: Define your audience – who you are talking with.
  • Content: Choose the content types that fit your goals and available resources.
  • Community Content: Excellent place to start – finding good community content to share.
  • Twitter:
    • Have a good profile.
    • Decide on the number of tweets a day and the type of tweets.
    • Draft tweets using best practices.
    • Allot time for engagement. Consistency is more important than the amount of time you spend.
    • At a minimum – check your notifications tab and respond.
  • Metrics: The most time consuming thing to set up. Once it’s set up, it’s easy to keep up. You can also use the open source dashboard.

I hope this gives you some ideas for your Twitter strategy and helps you get started. I welcome any conversations to talk about Twitter – what you are doing, what I am doing, sharing ideas!


Happy Tweeting!