As silly as it sounds, there’s an art to Twitter. Combining a call to action with useful information all inside 140 characters is something that takes practice. The same way journalists had to learn to use the new medium of blogging, tweeting is a new skill that must be mastered. It’s more personal, it’s more succinct and it’s real-time. But just because the information passes more quickly and in fewer characters doesn’t mean it’s less important. In fact, incorrectly tweeting can be a recipe for total brand disaster and each word counts.
Below are some tips on how to write better tweets to help reach your audience and also to keep your foot out of your mouth.
Think before you tweet: Before you tweet that link, publish that twitter comment or get into that heated debate, ask yourself if what you’re about to put out there is meaningful. Is it something that adds value to your community and to the conversation? If the answer is ‘well, no’, consider not saying it. Because tweeting requires such little effort, users are forced to sift through a heck of a lot of noise in order to find a tidbit or two of signal. When possible, try not to add to the clutter. Save your tweets for when you have something worth sharing. You audience will come to appreciate it.
Own your account: If you’re tweeting on behalf of a company, make sure you disclose that both in your tweets and in your profile. If you try to hide it, it will be found out. If you’re a marketing assistant for Dell tweeting about how much you love Dell computersand then someone puts together that you actually work for Dell, that’s going to be an online reputation management nightmare. Most Twitter users understand that people have agendas and motives for what they’re putting out, and they’re okay with that – as long as it’s disclosed. Trying to hide who you work for is a bad idea. Your true identity will always be revealed. Just own it.
Learn to tease: Much of good Twittering is tied to the ability to write great engaging headlines and get people wanting more. With 140 characters there’s only room for the set up. All you can do is learn to write better and master the types of headlines to learn how to get more from fewer characters.
Watch your grammar: Just because Twitter is only 140 characters doesn’t mean that spelling, grammar, and clarity don’t matter. In fact, they matter more because you’re trying to communicate in such a compact space. Before you publish a tweet to the world take some time to read it over and make sure it makes sense. You don’t need to perfect, you just have to not distract people with messy grammar and spellings.
Be personal: Don’t be afraid to throw in the occasional splice-of-life tweets. The ones that say you’re hanging out with your kids, what you’re making for dinner or the concert you’re about to check out. Yeah, you’re using Twitter as a business tool but these casual tweets help break down that wall between owner and client and offer the stuff that everyone can relate to. It shows your customers that you’re ‘just like them’. Sometimes that’s all we’re looking for. People prefer to do business with other people. If you’ve ever checked out my Twitter account (if you have, I really do apologize), I throw in quite a bit of personal material.
but not too personal: While getting a little personal is good, do remember that people are reading your tweets and perhaps using them to decide if they want to do business with you. Leave the swear words for the bar and don’t tweet about anything you wouldn’t tell your mother. It’s just safer that way.
Use appropriate hashtags (or make up your own): Hashtags are probably my favorite part of Twitter. They allow you to be part of focused conversations, to track events, and really, just to show your silly side. If you’re participating in a tweetup, make sure you use the appropriate hashtag to go with it so that people can follow. If you’re at a conference, find out what official tag they’re using and tack it to the end of your tweets to show you’re part of that group. Personally, I like making up my own hashtags, however, I think Twitter technically classifies that as “spam” so I can’t officially recommend it. That said, it’s fun and I have no plan to stop doing it.
Leave room for retweets: There is nothing that validates you as a good tweet writer more than being retweeted by your followers; however, if you make your tweets too long you actually lower the chances of people retweeting you. Since Twitter only allows tweets of 140 characters that means your tweet needs to be short enough to still allow [RT @username] to be added to the front of it. Even then, the shorter the better as RTers often like to add their own commentary to the end of it. Yes, Twitter’s new RT feature allows you the option to retweet even the longest tweets but, a lot people don’t like it.
Check your links: This is huge. If you’re using Twitter as a way to direct people to your blog, your Web site or information about you, make sure the link you’re including works. Often because people are using URL shorteners like bit.ly or tinyurl, they’ll often grab the wrong link or forget to copy part of it, causing the link to 404 when someone tries to click on it. Make sure you double check all your links so that users are being sent to the right place.
Edit your tweets: Before you hit publish, read that tweet over just one more time to catch any obvious flubs or grammar mistakes. It just takes a second and ensures you’re sending out a professional-sounding message. Your followers will correct you if you mess up. Not that I know this from extended personal experience.
Those are my rules for writing better tweets. Any I missed?More in: Twitter