This blog has previously explored at length what a tweet on Twitter actually is, along with other pieces examining ‘retweets‘ and what it means when someone ‘favorites’ one of your tweets. It has yet, however, to examine what actually makes a tweet ‘good’, and this article intends to address this concept.
The purpose of posting anything online, especially on a social network such as Twitter, is to either provoke thought or a response. The latter is of particular importance to online marketers, as a response in whatever form equates to engagement, which is critical for assessing the impact of your online marketing activities. Engagement also increases the chances of the brand you are promoting online getting more exposure and more followers on different social networks.
Given all of this, it’s therefore important to give some thought to what you tweet and not just treat it as a throwaway adjunct to your other marketing activities. Here are 7 different things that I believe help go towards making an individual tweet a useful part of your wider marketing strategy:
1. Does it inform or engage?
In other words, does a tweet have an inherent value? As with so many aspects of social media marketing, value is something that’s completely subjective depending on the audience you are trying to engage and what they want from their experience on Twitter.
However, there are some fundamentals that will never change. Your tweet should be intelligible, coherent and accessible for its intended audience. Your tweet should also have a purpose for having been posted; in other words, it should be clear as to what it is for, whether that is informing your audience, asking for their response or merely making a statement of intent or of brand values.
There is little to no point in just tweeting for the sake of it. Over-posting regularly with nothing to really impart is both pointless and counterproductive, and it will make your audience disengage with what you have to say. Each tweet should therefore have an inherent value in itself as well as in any wider marketing context.
2. Does it direct people to an associated source of information?
A tweet, by its nature, is constrained in what it can convey due to the 140-character limit. Often it is better to use Twitter to point to a more expansive and detailed post elsewhere on the internet, rather than just trying to convey what you need to say in a series of individual tweets.
This requires an insertion of a URL (a web address) within the tweet, which itself takes up some of the character limit (see below). However, it is better to have an individual tweet that acts as a headline or a call to action with an associated URL than to have one that is trying to cram too much information into 140 characters.
I wish I'd included a URL in this tweet, as I simply don't have the space with 140 characters to tell you my very important news which is…
— Nick Lewis (NLC) (@NLCuk) May 28, 2014
This approach requires more thought for the composition of the tweet, as you want it to give a clear incentive for people to click on the link within the tweet. Unfortunately, this can lead to a form of ‘tabloidese’, slightly sensationalist tweets that overstate an issue so people feel compelled to click on the associated link.
Such sensationalism used for online marketing purposes is known as ‘clickbait’, and while blatant overstatements should be avoided, everyone should try and embrace their inner Piers Morgan just a little and compose a tweet that will be read and acted on, rather than one that will just anonymously merge in with others’ posts in your Twitter followers’ Home Timeline.
3. Does it use a Tiny URL?
Web addresses are long and unwieldy, and while Twitter itself does its best in trying to reduce their length within a tweet with the use of social media share buttons on webpages and other means, you’re best off creating a ‘Tiny URL’.
This can be done for free by using a search engine and using the term ‘Tiny URL’, which will take you to a selection of free online converters that will truncate the long URL into something compact which you can use for that particular webpage in other contexts, not just on Twitter.
However, these free converters are a bit of a wasted opportunity and are not entirely transparent in how they use your data. You are better off using the same facility in a third-party social media application such as HootSuite, TweetDeck or Klout. Not only are these programs widely adopted and above board, they also use the Tiny URLs generated within them for analytics purposes.
For example, by using HootSuite’s own analytics I can get information on how many click-throughs I have had on any one particular Tiny URL it may have generated for me. In social media marketing terms, this is really killing two birds with one stone, and you’d be foolish to overlook the added value such platforms can give you when it comes to shortening the web addresses you wish to share on Twitter (and elsewhere).
4. Does it use hashtags in a sensible manner?
This blog has previously explored at length what a hashtag actually is on Twitter, how they are widely used in marketing away from Twitter itself and how they can be abused and hijacked by others, so we are not going to repeat all that information here. However, hashtags remain a vital part of Twitter’s ecosystem, and a good tweet would still use them, albeit judiciously.
A hashtag should connect a tweet into a wider conversation that is happening elsewhere on Twitter. A good, sensible hashtag will find a new audience for an individual tweet beyond your established followers, so find and settle on one that seems to be used by others discussing the same topic or subject and add it onto your tweet.
— Nick Lewis (NLC) (@NLCuk) May 28, 2014
Words within sentences can be turned into hashtags, or you can add a hashtag at the very end of a tweet (character limit allowing); it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the legibility of the tweet, and this can be severely hampered if every single keyword in a tweet has been turned into a hashtag.
Be sparing with the number of hashtags you use in each individual tweet (I would advise no more than four), and think very carefully as to which words should be turned into hashtags, as you may find that some hashtags are actually of very little benefit.
5. Does it credit other people where or when appropriate?
As already mentioned, Twitter is ultimately about engagement, and what better way of engaging people than using their own Twitter handles within your own tweets? This is particularly appropriate when you are citing their work or news about them through an external link in your tweet.
There is a bit of an art to this, and I have previously written a Nick Lewis Communications blog article on the subject that I recommend you read after finishing this article.
6. Has the tweet been posted at the right time?
You may have written the most profound, most important or most informative tweet of all time, but it will be of little consequence if you have decided to post it on Twitter at a time when your intended audience is not online.
Given that most Twitter users are not really familiar with filtering techniques such as Twitter Lists and do not realise that hashtags get overly appropriated by others, your tweet needs to be posted at just the right time to be seen so as to have the effect that you intend it to have.
You do not have to be on Twitter yourself at that ideal time to post your perfect tweet, however; there are many third-party platforms available to social media users (including but not limited to the aforementioned HootSuite, TweetDeck and Klout) that allow you to schedule your tweet in advance.
This advance scheduling facility in turn begs the question of when is the optimum time to post your tweet(s). Luckily, a lot of these third-party applications provide recommendations as to when to post, many offering an auto-scheduling functionality that will automatically pick the next ideal time for you to post your tweet (based on the past performance of your tweets and the online activity of your own Twitter followers).
7. Does its tone accurately reflect either yourself or the brand you are trying to promote?
“’I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
– Mark Twain
With only 140 characters, it is easy to get slapdash when writing a tweet, especially if you are trying too hard to cram information into it. Writing less is often a lot harder than writing more, so don’t be too dismissive of the difficulty of good tweeting.
This is particularly important when it comes to the tone of the tweet, as it has to reflect the values, perceived sensibility and character of the person or organisation tweeting, and it has to be consistent with the tone and style of the other tweets coming from that account.
Is your or your organisation’s online persona formal or informal? Are you chatty and familiar, or are you authoritative and aloof? There’s no right or wrong tone or style with a tweet as long as it is consistent with who you are or, more specifically, who you would like to be perceived to be.
A good marketer will be able to advise you on what tone will work best for the audience you are trying to cultivate on Twitter, but make sure that your tone or your persona on Twitter is well thought out and remains consistent.