The Biggest Mistake You're Making On Twitter

Don’t just tweet the headline. Comment on the article. Explain why you’re sharing it.

Tweeting has never been easier. Just click that turquoise bird alongside nearly every kind of content on the web today, and a ready-to-go message presents itself. All you need to do is click “tweet.” The whole thing takes less than five seconds!

But using the default text, which is often generic and devoid of any shout-outs, styling, or personal commentary, is a big mistake. What you tweet has your name and avatar on it, so it behooves you to stamp it with your own style.

What’s more, if you want to stand out, you can’t just put out what everyone else is typing. You need to offer up something new. Here are several ideas to infuse your tweet with personality:

Consider this post, “Facebook: I Want My Friends Back,” by Richard Metzger of the Dangerous Minds blog.

Bad

Here’s what happens if we click the “tweet” button:

FACEBOOK: I WANT MY FRIENDS BACK http://dangerousminds.net/comments/facebook_i_want_my_friends_back via @dangermindsblog

While the essentials are here, this tweet typifies the bare minimum. This is an opportunity lost.

Better

Now let’s tweak a few things:

HEY, @FACEBOOK! I WANT MY FRIENDS BACK! - http://dangerousminds.net/comments/facebook_i_want_my_friends_back via @DangerMindsBlog

Notice:

  • We used Facebook’s handle to ring its bell.
  • We added text before the @ so that everyone will see the tweet (not just those who follow @DangerMindsBlog and @Facebook).
  • We separated the link by way of a hyphen.
  • We capitalized @DangerMindsBlog in accordance with how the blog stylizes itself.

Great

And if we overhaul everything…

Is Facebook scamming you? Check out this eye-opening post by @RichardMetzger - http://dangerousminds.net/comments/facebook_i_want_my_friends_back (via @DangerMindsBlog)

… our followers benefit from:

  • a teaser (“Is Facebook scamming you”?) in sentence case
  • a call to action (“Check out”)
  • a shout-out to both the writer (“by @RichardMetzger”) and the blog (“via @DangerMindsBlog”)

In other words, we’re no longer mindlessly broadcasting. Instead of repurposing a headline written for a blog, we’re now issuing a call to action tailored to Twitter. In short, we’re explaining why whatever we’re sharing is worth reading.

Alternatives

As usual, sometimes you need to break the rules. Consider these alternatives, which play off key points in Metzger’s post:

How Facebook killed more than 50% of @DangerMindsBlog’s page views

Don’t let Facebook get away with the biggest bait and switch in Internet history

Best

So which publishers embrace the great model? Unfortunately, not many--with a few exceptions.

Here’s how Upworthy, the website known for making serious subjects go viral, masters the medium:

Similarly, as documented by Laura Hazard Owen of paidContent, Slate has woven this twin-titling into its content management system. A few examples:

The bottom line (in less than 140 characters, of course):

Don’t be afraid to change the prepopulated, default text. Those 140 characters are yours—own ‘em. Make each tweet count.

--Jonathan Rick is the president of the Jonathan Rick Group, a digital communications firm in Washington, DC. Tweet him your biggest Twitter pet peeve at @jrick.

[Image: Flickr user Mendhak]

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