How to write tweets that go viral! (well, almost viral)

In our eagerness to promote our businesses on Twitter, we sometimes forget what the “social” in social media actually means. If we want people to follow and pay attention to us, then we need to follow the same rules of social intercourse that apply in the real world.

Making interesting, useful and relevant contributions to the conversation, and giving recognition where it’s due, is appreciated by our followers and makes us feel good. Plus, according to research done by Twitter and others, it’s also the best way to get our tweets retweeted and favourited, and build a large following quickly.

Link and cite to grow your following

A simple way to develop an engaged Twitter following is to become a reliable source of high-quality information on a topic. Regularly tweet links to articles, photos, infographics and videos – your own and other people’s – on your chosen topic and watch your follower count soar. According to Twitter’s research, you can get twice as much engagement on a good tweet simply by adding a link.

When tweeting a link it’s a good idea to include the Twitter handle (e.g. “by @username” or “via @username”) of the source. Not only is it good manners, but it will help lift engagement.

Twitter’s research shows people using this tactic grow their following 17% more than average.

Double down with hashtags

One of the easiest ways to improve your engagement is to add hashtags (the # symbol followed by the topic related to your tweet) to your tweets. Adding a hashtag makes your tweet more visible to people who are interested in the topic you cover.

Using hashtags helps you to identify and engage people discussing your topic outside your immediate following.

Twitter’s research shows that using hashtags can increase engagement by almost 100% for individuals.

“Personal story” tweets

Marketing coach Steve Slaunwhite discovered making his tweets more personal, rather than purely informational, produced better results. In a recent Twitter experiment, he used three different formats to tweet a link to an article he had written:

  • “Tip” format: Use opportunities that already exist to reach your target market. But if none exist? Create your own crowd: [link]
  • “Problem-solution”: Can’t get in front of your target audience? Maybe you need to create your own crowd. Here’s how: [link]
  • “Personal story”: A few years ago, I couldn’t find a convenient way to get in front of a new market. So I created a way: [link]

The “personal story” format got more than two and half times as many clicks as the other two combined. It was also retweeted and favourited more. Slaunwhite noticed a similar pattern with many of his previous tweets.

Retweet the right way

Retweeting allows us to curate content on our topic for our followers. It’s also a great way to start relationships with the influencers and thought leaders in our niches.

There are two ways to retweet:

  • You can simply click the retweet button on Twitter. This will cause the other person’s tweet to show up in your Twitter timeline under their name, saying it was retweeted by you.
  • Then there’s the “old-style” retweet, which looks like this: “RT @username: original tweet”.

So what’s the difference and why is it important? 

Well, retweeting is the best compliment you can give someone on Twitter. And if you’re giving someone a compliment, don’t you want them to know about it?

But in most Twitter clients, such as HootSuite and TweetDeck, if you use Twitter’s retweet button, the retweet doesn’t show up as a “mention”. So if the person you retweeted is using a Twitter client, they may not know you retweeted them.

That’s why if you want to get the attention of the person you’re retweeting, it’s best to use an old-style retweet. You can also edit the original tweet for brevity or clarity, and add your comments and hashtags.

Don’t use all the characters

It can be a challenge to limit your tweet length. We used to only have 140 characters. Now we have more. But I’m going to suggest you should try to make them even shorter. Why? Because you have to consider your retweeters.

It’s good practice to leave enough space for an old-style retweet (i.e four characters plus the length of your Twitter handle). Otherwise an old-style retweeter will have to trim your tweet. Also, people who retweet often like to add comments and offer their own take. So, if possible, you need to leave even a bit more room for them to do so.

Over to you

Do you have any good tips or tactics to increase engagement on Twitter? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

12 Responses

  1. I’m on Twitter a lot at time, esp for my personal account and this is great reinforcement of “good tweeting practices”. I particularly loved the tip on “personal story style tweets” – will try that out.

    In terms of Twitter etiquette, it surprises how many people still don’t acknowledge or reply to a tweet when you mention them. But giving the benefit of the doubt, maybe they don’t know to look at the “@ Connect” tab… maybe?

  2. Hi Charles,

    I always say thank you to anyone who RTs one of my posts and try to add an additional comment. It’s amazing what a little gratitude does to the mob following you. It’s also likely to start a spontaneous conversation. For example,

    Thanks for the RT on my post, @ThatContentGuy. I thought that research was really suprising, didn’t you?

    Now, I’m off to try the personal story tweet. Thanks for the great tip.

  3. Thanks Charles – love the blog at text-centric too because it’s practical and detailed. I can apply what you share pretty much straight away.

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