Twitter Writing 101: RTs, Hashtags and More

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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.

Here are the Twitter basics that you need to make the most of the platform – and avoid any snafus.

Character Length

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 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 characters. With this limit you have to boil down your message to the essentials.

Good

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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.

ReTweeting

Keeping your updates to around 100 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.

Asking for a retweet may work for your brand, or it may not. There’s a bit of a debate going on about asking for retweets. While the statistics show that adding Please RT or other requests to your Twitter updates can improve your chances for actually being retweeted, many social media experts consider it to be a cardinal sin of social. Your best bet is to run some tests and see how the results turn out for you.

Hashtags

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.

Keywords

Twitter updates can’t optimize your site, but using keywords is still important in social media. 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.

Final words…

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.

Your turn! What are some of your “must follow” rules for crafting Twitter updates? Have you trained yourself to write in 100 character chunks?

Courtney Ramirez
This monthly Social Media Writing column is contributed by Courtney Ramirez. Courtney is the Director of Content Strategy for Endurance Marketing, where she helps take B2B brands from boring to breakthrough. She creates strategies that helps businesses tell their story, increase their prospects and convert more customers. She manages content marketing creation and implementation so clients can see the best results from their inbound marketing efforts. She geeks out on content marketing metrics and cat memes. +Courtney Ramirez
Courtney Ramirez

@CourtneyRami

Content Strategist, B2B Copywriter, Biz Blogger, mom of 2 geek girls, loves Doctor Who, GTD & green smoothies, Socially Awkward Penguin is my spirit animal
Courtney Ramirez
Social Fresh West

Comments

  1. says

    ITA on not going overboard w/ hashtags, really takes away from the tweet. Another basic is probably scheduling; everyone time shifts in their own ways, but I think it’s helpful to stagger and pace tweets so followers aren’t hit by a barrage.. then crickets. Another writing basic: KISS; leave the long, SAT words at home and use simpler, shorter language when possible. One other thing: it’s work and business, but it’s also social. Have fun w/ tweets, show some personality with follows/followers, helps humanize your brand, make people want to engage w/ you. FWIW.

  2. says

    I can’t agree more on not to overuse hashtags. I’ve seen many users starting to use multiple hashtags for any generic keyword that is related to their tweet, which is totally unnecessary. There are already many branded hashtags out there that are dedicated to certain discussion topics so to get started, a marketer can start looking for these hashtags via Google or http://wthashtag.com.

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