Mom was right, appearances do matter. She couldn’t have anticipated a world with social media when she said it. But it applies there too. Each tweet in your Twitter stream is a 140-character snapshot of your brand.
There are other important factors to your Twitter success like sharing great content, optimizing your profile and engaging with others. But how your tweet looks makes an important first impression. And on Twitter, you only have seconds to make it.
Think about how you scan your Twitter feed. Do you spend more than five seconds looking at any one tweet? Not likely. That’s why I make a point of dressing up each tweet before I send it on its way.
My primary goal for each tweet is easy readability and consistency. If your tweet stands out in the stream as easy to read, it can help influence the split-second decision to click, retweet or follow.
Readability tips for clickable tweets
I follow the readability guides I learned in my days as a newsletter publisher, with a notable exception. The AP style guide calls for headlines to use title case, which is capitalizing the first letter for most every word. When you share from a post, it will pick up that formatting in the tweet.
That’s not ideal.
Upper case letters slow down readers. On Twitter, I strive for less friction for easy scanning. So I use sentence case, which only capitalizes the first word and proper nouns or some abbreviations (like SEO). Most of my tweets follow the same format:
Headline » link » by or via handle » hashtags
The ‘by’ handle is for the author of the post. The ‘via’ handle is for the publisher. I use the same format for retweets except for the ‘RT + handle’ at the beginning. So they look like this:
— John Gregory Olson (@digitaljgo) November 4, 2013
— John Gregory Olson (@digitaljgo) November 9, 2013
I always put the link after the headline so it is easy for the reader to find instantly. If there is a video, Infographic, chart or study, I note it in brackets after the link.
Also, when there is enough space I can add a comment. I usually like to put it at the beginning of the tweet, but it can also work at the end. The key is to be consistent. Here is an example:
— John Gregory Olson (@digitaljgo) November 7, 2013
WINNING WITH HASHTAGS
When used effectively, keyword hashtags can expand your reach beyond your tribe of followers. Most studies have found that tweets with more than three hashtags get fewer click-throughs. I cut myself off at two. A couple other guidelines I follow:
- Never put a hashtag at the beginning or end of the headline. It looks spammy and makes the link harder to spot.
- Avoid using keyword hashtags in the main headline for the same reasons
Write Twitter headlines that get clicks
Most headlines can be improved for Twitter engagement. Here are a few tweaks you can make to get more clicks and retweets:
- Make a promise of usefulness
- Make it newsworthy or timely
- Pique curiosity by focusing on a unique or surprising assertion
- Use emotion words that appeal to the interest of the reader
- Use specific language that highlights the core idea
- Use the word ‘you’
Taking a minute to do this can create some fun interactions. This is an example where it happened with me. The original headline read “The bra tree – a new way of thinking about evergreen content.” Not bad. For my tweet I shortened it a bit, added a promise to the element of curiosity, and a call to action: “Looking for ways to spruce up evergreen content? Consider the bra tree”
It resulted in this interaction.
Is all of this fine tuning necessary? No. But taking a few extra steps for the sake of readability and brand consistency it is a differentiator. It signals to your followers, customers and prospective customers you want to make it easier for them to consume information you have to share. It makes it easier for them to find it in the Twitter stream.
The real benefit is in winning the favor of your audience.
Your tweets are like a symphony. Each tweet is part of the orchestra that plays your brand concerto. Hitting the right note pleases your audience. Why not strive to be a concert tweetist?