Twitter – that endlessly-updating powerhouse of opinion, gossip, wit and rapport – is famous for the brevity of its updates. In fact, tweets have become a kind of short-form copy discipline in their own right.
Fitting your message into 140 characters (110 if you’re including a link) is often tricky in itself. Your writing has to be clear, concise and focused to get the most out of that punishing character count.
Then there’s the reading environment to think about – your tweets don’t have the luxury of imagery, design or other copy to give them context: they’re tossed helplessly into a babbling stream of other voices from all over the world, to sink or swim on their own merits.
Oh, and they’re often being read on smartphones, a medium known for commanding drastically less attention from its audience than desktop.
So how can you write copy for the web so that Twitter not only navigates these obstacles, but comes through at the head of the pack, winning you followers, re-tweets and general social media glory? Well, we can’t promise miracles, but these 5 tips are a good place to start.
1. Be self-contained. As mentioned above, you don’t really have any control over where and when your tweets are read. Syndication and feed software, as well as Twitter’s own setup, which allows users to curate their own streams of followed users, mean your tweets can pop up just about anywhere. Make sure each tweet makes sense out of context, is self-contained, and gets its message across without ambiguity.
2. Be grammatically correct. A tweet is similar in length to a text message, but that’s where the similarity needs to end. Tweets are publicly available and they’re explicitly linked to your brand or company. That means they need to be credible, authoritative and professional. Leave text-speak and telegraphic abbreviations out of the equation – although the odd smiley here and there probably won’t hurt. It’s social media after all.
3. Give value. Don’t fall into the pit that many early corporate adopters stumbled into – thinking that being on social media is enough reason for people to talk to you. It’s not. “Follow us on Twitter” is not going to cut it, but “Follow us on Twitter for offers, news and customer support” might prick up a few more ears. Make sure your stream has a mix of content that gives value and adds interest as well as promoting your company.
4. Express some personality. You don’t have to produce an endless stream of bons mots and witty asides to succeed on Twitter. But corporate accounts that express a bit of humanity and deal with crises using humour have tended to do pretty well. Just look at o2’s highly-praised handling of 2012’s service outages.
5. Set expectations. Twitter’s become a customer-service channel as well as a marketing and promotional space. Your audience needs to know what they can expect from you, and when. Putting details of when you’ll be available to answer questions about customer service somewhere prominent on your account is a good idea – we recommend stating this in your Twitter bio.