Composing the Perfect Tweet

by Megan Sullivan

6 min read

Twitter has become as important a marketing and advertising tool as any other form of social media. Some brands use it wisely, like Oreo during last year’s Super Bowl blackout, and some use it unwisely, like Arby’s on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (read on to learn more about these incidents).

The factors that set these two examples apart are at the heart of what makes the perfect tweet. How can you compose better tweets that engage your Twitter followers on a daily basis? Here are some of the key factors to keep in mind.

1. Be timely.

In both examples mentioned above, timeliness was key. When an unexpected power outage struck during the second half of the Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers last year, topical tweets flooded the Twitter-sphere. But it’s widely accepted that Oreo won the battle by tweeting a picture of an Oreo that said “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark.”

On the other end of the event-tweeting spectrum is Arby’s. The fast-food chain joined other businesses to send out tweets celebrating Martin Luther King’s legacy on Monday, January 20, 2014, but Arby’s tweeted a picture that said “Our hat’s off to you,” probably a play on Arby’s iconic ten-gallon hat logo.

What do these tweets have in common? They were timely. These tweets would not have made any sense or garnered any real attention had they been tweeted at a different time.

However, while Oreo’s tweet was clever, the Arby’s tweet seemed particularly self-serving and not all that appropriate. It’s more than acceptable to celebrate a public figure like Dr. King, but using a pun or grasping for a connection to your brand at the same time is bad form.

Lesson: Being timely is the key to generating attention. Being trite or forcing a connection to an event or trending topic might turn people off.

2. Capitalize on the small space.

Twitter is famous for its small text space. You have only 140 characters to get your message across. However, there are ways to expand your message without violating the magic 140 count.

  • Add a picture: Something that both of the examples above had in common is that the tweets included a photo that accurately illustrated the point. Twitter’s seamless integration of photos in newsfeeds makes it easier than ever to attach a photo to a tweet; plus, studies have shown that images can increase site visits and engagement among users. Keep in mind that if you link to a photo on another site or social network (e.g.Pinterest), that will show up in your tweet as a hyperlink requiring people to click to view. If you want the immediacy of a photo directly in someone’s feed, you’ll want to embed the photo directly to the tweet.
  • Add a linkTwitter is a great way to send out links to your latest blog posts, images or articles you find interesting. This helps to establish something of a dialogue with your followers and encourages them to interact with you and, most importantly, retweet. Keep in mind that links do take up space in your post, but Twitter will automatically shorten the link to 22 characters for you, leaving you well over 100 to get your message across.
  • Add a video: Recently turning a year old is Twitter’s video client, Vine, which allows for six-second videos to be recorded and shared via a tweet. Six seconds may not seem like a long time, but check out some of theseexcellent examples of Vine video marketing for inspiration. You can also link to a video that lives on another website. Vine is simply a proprietary app created by Twitter specifically for use within its network.

Lesson: While the common perception is that saying anything of merit within 140 characters is difficult, Twitter does give you shortcuts to help you extend your message and really get your point across.

3. Don’t forget good grammar.

It’s easy to assume that since you’re working in a limited space, grammar is an acceptable loss. Not true. While Twitter is a great platform, it is rife with followers who will look for any reason to discredit you, and bad grammar is often their first line of defense. Simple things like the correct spelling and usage of homophones (words that sound alike, such as your/you’re and they’re/their/there, etc.) can save you from a world of mockery. Granted, Twitter does make it pretty easy to delete tweets once they’ve been posted, and a rumor has been circulating that Twitter may also be looking to include editing capabilities in the future, but grammar is still something you should never overlook.

Lesson: Ask a colleague to look over your tweets before broadcasting them to the world.

4. Ease up on the hashtags.

While hashtags are fun to devise, too many can land you in Twitter jail. It’s widely accepted that any tweet with more than two hashtags is spam, and you don’t want your tweet to get reported or blocked by a lot of users who maybe just don’t understand your sense of humor. However, it is a good idea to use hashtags to help connect your tweet to trending stories or events.

Twitter maintains a running list throughout the day of trending topics by region. This list normally includes some hashtags, so you can choose to use an already existing hashtag if your message or sentiment lines up. It can be more fun, though, to create your own. The key to a good hashtag is to keep it specific and relevant. Think of it almost like a search term you would use in a search engine. If you’re searching for dress shops in your area, typing in “dress shop” will get you the kind of targeted results you want. But if you type in “dress shops East Los Angeles,” your results will be much more relevant.

Lesson: Keep hashtags relevant, and wield their power wisely.

5. Ask for help.

It’s been cited that people who judiciously ask for retweets are twelve times more likely to get one. While this isn’t a trick that will work all the time, if you have something truly important to say or feel that your message would best serve a wider audience, asking for a retweet isn’t a bad idea.

Additionally, you can direct message certain followers or friends via a tweet and ask for their help in spreading a message. Keep in mind that the user you are direct messaging must follow you in order for this feature to work.

Lesson: Asking followers for help in the form of a retweet can be powerful, but it’s a favor that must be asked sparingly.

Composing the perfect tweet has a lot to do with context, appropriateness and timing. By following the rules above, your tweets will be more effective in acquiring and engaging a wider online audience.

If you’re still uncertain regarding how Twitter might help you and your business, online sources abound that can help you make sense of this social media platform. Take a look to determine if it’s right for you.

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