You know the basics of Twitter, but now you want to boost the number of people following your 140-character missives.
We asked a dozen social media experts the best way to do that, and all of them recommended taking time to write readable - and, by extension, retweetable - tweets. What follows is their best advice for increasing your followers' engagement with the content you share on Twitter and other social networks.
Short And Sweet
Twitter lets you post up to 140 characters in each messages, but pros shoot for tweets in the sweet spot of 100 to 120 characters. The reason is simple: that lets people add their own quick comment when they retweet your message to their followers.
"Twitter's limit may be 140 characters, but the most-read Tweets are even shorter," said Greg Hakim, a senior account executive with the Boston-based public relations firm Corporate Ink. "Typical users scan Twitter's feed pretty quickly, and Tweets that are too long consistently get lost in the shuffle."
Three Things To Include In Every Tweet
Columbia Journalism School professor and social media guru Sree Sreenivasan says every
tweet should include three elements to increase its chances of being retweeted. In his popular social media training sessions, he advise people that every tweet they write should include:
- One @ mention: Mentioning at least one Twitter user in each tweet insures that at least someone will read it and, hopefully, share it with their followers. If you're not sure who to mention, Jasmine Davis of the Content Factory recommends mentioning the author of the article, which can encourage engagement.
- One hash tag: Hash tags make your tweets more searchable, which increases the chances they'll be found by someone not currently following you.
- One link: Links are love. Whether its an embedded photo or video, or the url of the article you're sharing, a link is a way to give your followers something useful. Recent studies, according to Internet marketing consultant Steve Webb, show that tweets with links are up to three times more likely to be shared.
It's important to note that Sreenivasan, who writes a social media blog for CNET, acknowledges that most of the people who follow you on Twitter will not see most of your tweets. It's even more important to note that Sreenivasan spend five to seven minutes composing each tweet he sends out in hopes of increasing its chances of connecting with his audience.
Know When To Tweet
Webb said the general rule of thumb is that Fridays are the most popular days for retweets, and posting after 3 p.m. ET on any given day increases your chances of getting someone to share your tweet. But for anyone but the greenest Twitter users, those general rules of thumb don't come close to solving the problem.
There are dozens of free and paid services that will scan your Twitter followers and figure out when most of them are online, cluing you in to when you'll have the biggest audience. Our favorite service is SocialFlow, which increases click-throughs by up to 60% by automatically sending your tweet when your followers are already discussing the topic of the message. But the service is expensive - about $100 per month - so we've been increasingly relying on SocialBro. The handy, do-it-yourself analytics tool (shown below) is also available as a Chrome extension and offers free and paid plans.
Be sure to check out our earlier review on four free tools for better tweeting.
Putting links at the end of a tweet is almost by default practice (and in social media management platforms like HootSuite, links are automatically placed at the end of the tweet when you shorten them).
But it's also wrong.
In January, HubSpot's resident social media scientist Dan Zarella put together an infographic for increasing Twitter click-through rates. One of the more interesting findings was that tweets that placed the link about a quarter of the way through the tweet had higher click-through rates.
Chart by Dan Zarella showing link placement for best click-through rates on tweets.
The experts we interviewed for this post had loads of great tips on how to compose your tweets. Yet, perhaps most interestingly, they almost all agreed on a single "don't" for composing tweets: Never simply retweet the headline of the article you're sharing with your followers. The headline is trying to connect with as broad of an audience as possible: your job, when you share it, is to make it relevant to the people who follow you.
Instead, try some of these tricks and tips for composing your tweets:
- "The content must be worthy of engagement," said Albert Qian of Attention Era Media. "A tweet asked as a question for example, will get more responses because people can answer and have a model to go off of."
- The Content Factory's Davis tries to make sources transparent when she shares links. "Particularly on Twitter, people are hesitant to click on links if they don't know where they're going," Davis said. "URL shorteners are fine and dandy, but you have to make sure to tell people where that tiny link is going."
- Social media writer Linda Arroz writes tweets like headlines, complete with teasers like "10 ways to..." without repeating the original headline.
- "Taking a controversial stance on a topic will be more likely to encourage comments," said Jeremy Goldman of Iluminage inc. "An offbeat funny comment will encourage RTs."