Why I like some tweets more than others–and the lessons for you

How can you write tweets that attract readers, retweets, and clicks? If you’re like most folks on Twitter, you’ve wondered about this topic. Here are lessons from some tweets I recently enjoyed.

1. Deliver content that helps the reader.

Everybody’s looking out for themselves. If your tweets deliver content that helps people, they’ll attract attention.

The following tweet from HootSuite caught my eye because I haven’t always been successful in getting help from companies on Twitter. The tweet made me click and share. The words “get what you want” caught my eye. The words “kicking and tweeting” made me think this might be a fun tweet to read.

Tweets that promise tips also appeal.

2. Start tweets with keywords that interest the reader.

Readers’ eyes tend to fix on the first two words of a line, so that’s a powerful position for keywords that appeal to your readers.

As I contemplate publishing more books, the term “e-book” caught my eye in the following tweet.

3. Ask questions and engage with readers.

My tweet of “How Do You Measure Success And Quality In A Financial Planning Firm?”—the title of a blog post by Michael Kitces—sparked a multi-person conversation. Much of this was probably due to Michael’s posing a question in his title.

Don’t forget: If people respond to your tweets, it’s important for you to respond.

4. Promise interesting links from reputable sources.

Tweets with links get shared more often than those without. I think it’s because there’s the promise of more content than can be squeezed into 140 characters. It helps when the tweets are shared by reputable sources. It’s even better when those reputable sources have written the material at the link.

5. Write sensibly.

Here are some rules that should help.

  • Write tweets that run 120 characters or less. This means I don’t have to edit or rewrite your tweets to share them. (2018 update: Now tweets can run 280 characters instead of 140. So now I suggest 240 characters or less.)
  • Write grammatically, within reason. Terrible typos will distract your readers and undermine your credibility. However, readers will forgive a little fat-fingered keyboarding. They can also handle an abbreviation or two. However, you’ll lose readers like me if you spew a series of the abbreviations that seem common in texting.
  • Give your reader a reason to read. It could be a download, a question, or simply your lively personality. Referring to “you” can help, as in the following tweet from Vanguard.

Some Twitter tips that I mostly ignore, but you may find helpful

  • Use hashtags—The right hashtag can increase the number of people who find you. I’ve found this especially helpful when I’ve live-tweeted conferences that have hashtags specifically for the purpose of following the conference.
  • Ask for retweets—Asking for retweets reportedly boosts the number of retweets. This is okay in moderation, but I generally prefer to see which tweets take off on their own. What I don’t like is when people repeatedly send tweets that mention my Twitter name solely to get me to see their tweets. This seems spammy.

 What have I missed?

I’m curious to learn your best tips for writing powerful tweets.

Note: In January 2014 I edited this post to delete a reference to my Twitter webinar, which was cancelled. In June 2018 I updated the post for Twitter allowing longer tweets.