Anatomy of a Tweet

This post was originally written for Campbell Ewald.

“But I can’t say anything of value in only 140 characters.” Then you cannot write. I suggest you study billboards or Web banners. Master brevity and a few simple concepts and you’ll have no trouble fitting vast concepts into a tweet.

Do a search for “What makes a good tweet?” and you may be disappointed. Sure, you’ll get millions of results (42,000,000 as of this writing), but the articles are not terribly informative. They all seem to offer the same advice: “Be interesting.” “Be useful.” “Be helpful.” “Use a short URL.” “Add Plz RT for more RTs!”

Fair enough but, what if your conception of “helpful” is different than the writer’s? I know a fair few PR professionals and marketers who feel that constant brand mentions are helpful and useful. Hint: No, they aren’t.

Another problem I have with these articles is they fail to use actual tweets; just “ideal world” examples. I will break down a real tweet, written by me, that was successful and why. I will also visually break down the tweet to show you why this tweet worked so well.

The Event Tweet

I speak at several conventions, universities and businesses on social media every month. I use Twitter to mention my appearances and ask who’s going. I used to make the fatal error of ending an event tweet with “Hope to see you there!” That doesn’t invite conversation and is as dismissive as a “Howyoudoin” in the office lobby. Now I end event-based tweets with the question, “Are you going?” or “Will I see you there?” Even better, I will @ reply some of my friends or lists that may be attending. This opens it up for dialogue and gets it on other tweetstreams. Here’s an example:

I’m speaking this Tues. 7PM @ the 1st SMCD event of 2011 @ CE.
Are you going @chasingsecrets? #SMCD #fb

This tweet is packed. Let’s break it down.

Anatomy of a Tweet

Not one word is wasted. And guess what? Twenty characters left for a retweet. Did it perform well? We had a packed Social Media Club meeting. Ran out of seats! Arguably, I could have put the SMCD hashtag in the first sentence and saved an additional six characters (#SMCD+space after).

What do you think? Any other improvements you’d offer, or do you have any tips I missed? Share them with the class, please!