How and What to Write for Twitter | White.net

How and What to Write for Twitter

By Katharina John / August 7, 2012

It’s only 140 characters, so it should be easy – right?  Well, not necessarily. Twitter’s ‘microblogging’ approach has become well established in the last few years, and many companies are finding it an excellent way to keep in touch with customers, while reducing the administrative burden of doing so. After all, typing 140 characters can be much faster than typing out a full email – as long as you know what you’re saying.

A New Format

Twitter isn’t just about saying the same things in fewer characters – it differs from everyday language in some very specific ways. Back in 2009, Oxford University Press looked at almost 1.5 million random tweets, and found some interesting distinctions between their content and that of text in general usage. For instance, unsurprisingly, each sentence in a tweet is less than half as long as an ordinary sentence, at 10.69 words compared to a ‘normal’ average of 22.09 words.

Each tweet contains an average of 1.4 sentences, or 14.98 words in total, and verbs – ‘going’, ‘getting’, ‘watching’ and ‘eating’ – are particularly popular in the top 100 words used on Twitter. All of this means you need to think carefully about what you type – every character counts, and you’re working in a whole new language, even if the words it uses are familiar to you.

Learning Brevity

Learn to be brief.

That doesn’t mean using text-speak or missing out articles (‘a’, ‘the’), conjunctions (‘and’, ‘but’) and modifiers (such as adverbs). Rather, you should learn to order your thoughts, pick out the key point, and write it as plainly as possible. Don’t just use fewer words – use shorter words – and trim the unnecessary text completely.

It helps to be assertive, as adding doubt to a sentence usually increases the character count too. And if you’re hoping to be retweeted, leave a good 20 characters or so free for retweeters to add their own comments if they wish.

Twit Tricks

Make sure you know about Twitter – how it works, what features you can include in a tweet, and so on. Know that, if you place a person’s @username at the beginning of a tweet, it becomes a ‘mention’ and will usually only be seen by that person, and by anyone who follows both of you. For publicly visible tweets that include a mention, make sure the username is later in the tweet, or add a full stop before the @ sign (be careful with this though, as some users don’t want other people’s mentions littering their timeline).

Spend some time familiarising yourself with hashtags, how they work, what happens when you click on one, and where they usually go in a tweet (almost always at the end, but there are some exceptions to this). The more you learn the tricks and techniques of Twitter, the more you can use them in your own tweets, increasing your arsenal of options when it comes to getting your message across in the fewest characters possible.

Be Yourself

 There are few things more annoying to regular Twitter users than dry, bland, corporate accounts using what is meant to be a social network as a marketing tool. You should try to avoid this approach – instead, make engaging with your customers your priority, and let that boost your sales naturally. Let your customers guide you in terms of what to write – run searches for your company name or industry area, and start replying to people in positive, helpful terms.

Often, Twitter works better as a customer service platform than for direct sales, so if you find it better for customer retention than for acquiring new customers, recognise the value of this and make sure your tweets reflect it on your account’s timeline.

Image credit: Slava Baranskyi

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