In last month’s social media writing column, we took a look at perfecting your message for each of the “Big 3” social networks. Now it’s time to turn our attention toward Twitter.
Twitter has been called many things – from a waste of time to an online cocktail party. No matter your personal feelings about the platform, the fact remains that it’s an excellent way to target and connect with potential buyers.
140 280 characters at your disposal, you’d think that writing for Twitter would be easy. It’s not.
Some of these rules will become second nature the more that you write for Twitter. But if you want to up the impact of your tweets, or you’re brand new to using Twitter for your brand, they are important to review and keep in mind.
As with all things social media (and life for that matter), your mileage will vary depending on your brand and your approach.
Here are the Twitter basics that you need to make the most of the platform – and avoid any snafus.
If you ever had to come up with a Haiku poem in English class, you know how tough it can be to get your point across with a small number of words. The
140 280-word character limit can be challenging, and even more so when you factor in leaving space for retweets.
In order to make the most of your updates, and make it easier for followers to spread the word about your brand, you need to keep your updates to around
100 200 characters. With this limit you have to boil down your message to the essentials.
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Although the first update is under 100 characters, the second update gets to the point in fewer characters and uses a headline style that is clickable and interesting.
If you’re sharing your own post, you can make Twitter sharing easier by creating a clickable headline to start with. Writing a descriptive, enticing title for your blog posts will make it simple for you – and others – to share your posts on Twitter with impact. Since most followers aren’t going to take the time to re-title your post or craft something of their own, you can boost your Twitter sharing capabilities by starting with a great title.
If you’re sharing someone else’s post, review their title and see if it will make a clickable update. You can always create your own title or summary of the post by borrowing from one of the subheadlines or pull out quotes.
Keeping your updates to around
100 200 characters, including your shortened URL, will make retweeting easier for your followers. Retweets or RTs can increase your influence, spread your message and gain you more followers. In short, they’re valuable.
What can you do to increase the likelihood of retweets? In addition to creating shareable tweets and developing your relationship with your followers, you can try asking for retweets directly. But as with many social media tips this one is firmly in the “Your Mileage May Vary” category.
Don’t be afraid to ask for retweets.
As long as you’re not hounding your audience with RT requests, there’s no reason why you can’t throw in a request or two. Not surprisingly, asking for a RT increases the likelihood that you’ll actually get a retweet. Just don’t go overboard!
Mind your hashtags! Although these Twitter specific features are helpful for categorizing and labeling your updates, don’t go overboard. Your brand probably has a handful of hashtags that are relevant and specific to your ideal followers. Make sure you find them and use them regularly.
Where should you find them? There are a few different ways to approach your hashtag hunt. First you could try following hashtags that your competitors and followers are using to see their relevance and importance. Try creating a dedicated stream in your favorite social media tracking tool to monitor its use and then jump on the bandwagon.
In addition, you can use one of the many hashtag directories – like Hashtag.org or Twubs.com to find relevant hashtags that will open up your posts to more ideal followers.
Don’t stuff your tweets full of hashtags.
Hashtags can help you classify information and get in front of the right audience – but just because five or six hashtags might fit your message doesn’t mean that you should use them. Use a maximum of two hashtags per tweet – or it looks spammy. Select a short list of hashtags that fit your brand, and experiment with them to find the one or two that you’ll use consistently.
Twitter updates can’t optimize your site, but using keywords is still important in social media as it is in Twitter writing. Many Twitter users follow conversations by using keyword searches. If you want to catch the attention of a specific group or engage a particular type of follower in your conversation, try using keywords in your updates.
Just like with hashtags, it can be helpful to keep a short list of keywords at the ready to integrate into your blog post titles and Twitter updates.
Do follow the basic rules of English.
You have limited space to work with – but that doesn’t mean that spelling, grammar and punctuation go out the window. Always start out your sentences with a capital letter. “Ur not helping ur brand” by using text speak – spell everything out. Triple check your tweets for incidences of its vs it’s, their and there and other common flubs. Here’s a list to pay attention to – or you can laugh at other people’s mistakes at the Bad Grammar and Bad Spelling Too twitter account.
Don’t publish before you proofread.
Grammar and spelling errors aren’t the only things that can plague your tweets. You could use the wrong word, have a lack of spacing or convey the wrong message. Even though tweets are just a sentence, you have to proofread them as carefully as you would a long essay. As part of your proofreading process, you should also click links that you are sharing to be sure they work.
Do share tweets with links.
Tweets that contain links are statistically proven to be more retweetable. Although conversations on Twitter are important, sharing information from other sources is essential to building your brand and helping your audience.
Don’t publish long unwieldy links.
Each character is precious space that can’t be wasted, so a URL shortening tool is a must. Since I use Buffer for most of my updating, I use buff.ly to shorten urls. If you don’t use a service like Buffer for Twitter, bit.ly is a good all around shortening tool.
Do tag sources of your content.
It’s easy to get swept up in sharing without giving credit where credit is due. But don’t be “that guy”. Tag the sources of your content either with RT @name at the front of a tweet or with @name at the end in your Twitter writing.
Don’t just share an article heading.
Be creative! Everyone else is sharing the same article with the identical title. Put on your copywriter cap and create something new based on the existing article title.
Do try out images.
In a world of 140 characters, pictures speak a thousand words. The addition of images to Twitter opened up a whole new dimension for marketing. Try cross promoting your Pinterest pins or infographics on Twitter, or just sharing a slice of life from your company.
Do test multiple headlines.
You’ll improve your Twitter writing over time, and a great way to do that is to track your results on the same article or topic but use different headlines. Look back to your statistics with your URL shortening tool and identify the phrases, words or length that work best for your audience.
Final words on Twitter writing…
Double check your spelling and grammar before you hit send. Even though Twitter is a fast paced social medium it doesn’t mean that basic English skills are thrown out the window. Give a quick read before you share and you’ll make a better impression for your brand.
What are your do’s and don’ts when it comes to Twitter?