Six Tips to Writing Tweets That Generate Traffic

People will read great content if it’s written on butcher paper (much to the dismay of visual designers and user experience professionals everywhere) but that takes talent and practice. And great  content is great content, no matter its length.

I know that some of this seems repetitive because Twitter’s been around for a while, but sometimes it’s good to get back to the basics.  Just because it’s only 140 characters doesn’t mean it has to be boring; some of the best content ever has been clever, clear and concise.

One of the truths of about writing copy is that the shorter it is, the harder it is. That’s one of the reasons Twitter is so compelling — great, short copy is hard to find, and there’s so much of it there.

Be  140 Characters 110 Characters or Less

Just because you have 140 characters doesn’t mean you should use them.

Services like Klout  look for retweets to gauge influence, and the best way to get that is write content that’s short enough so the retweeter can keep your @username in the message.

For example, “RT @usabilitycounts ” is what my handle looks like in a retweet when someone passes along content.  That’s 20 characters.  For the lazy twitters out there, I have to write tweets of no more than 110 or 115 characters that allow for easy retweeting.  TweetDeck is a great tool for this. It’ll give me a character count as I type. When I get to 30 or less, it’s getting long.

The last thing people want to do is edit a retweet. That’s an extra 20 seconds, and if it already takes less than a second to capture their attention, they might just forget the retweet altogether or delete your username, which is worse.

Retweets should be a frictionless, one click like an impulse buy, except it’s free.

Be Relevant

There’s nothing better than useful, relevant content.

I don’t have time to look for it and RSS Feeds take too much time (sorry @davewiner). Twitter users are the news ticker because they collectively curate content that helps the masses filter what they want to read.

One of Monday’s useful tweets was shared by @rsarver:  Twitter and Facebook share  statistics.  I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. Ryan Sarver’s opinion matters because he’s on the Twitter API Team. Every once in a while he’s going to send something across that I find very interesting.

There’s another 280,000 users that feel the same.

Be Clever

Twitter is for business and pleasure. It’s OK to be clever.

Just recently, I started a thread called the  #uxdrinkinggame.

It consists of silly and/or fun situations that happen in my every day work (My favorite: “#uxdrinkinggame #ux if a client says they can get a better design off of @99designs, do a drink”). I saw interest from the feed in the form of retweets and comments.

Silly, but when you’re staring at the same wireframe for hours, it’s good to take a break.

I love following user experience folks that are both informative and funny (@semanticwill comes to mind, even when he talks about testing his hair cuts).

I have  a list of people I follow that’s separate of the general feed (the best 50 or so), and each one of them says something funny at least once a day.

Be Sensational

Twitter is the modern equivalent of a tabloid newspaper cover.

You have less than a second to catch the reader’s attention before they’re catching the next tweet,  similar  to a  newsstand  in a subway station.

Which gets more traffic: “Man Murdered in a Bar” or “Headless Body in Topless Bar?”

Clever and thought provoking headlines get the user to click. Remember A/B testing? Tweets should be descriptive and interesting,  so readers know what they are clicking on and that it’ll be a good read.

Not every tweet is going to be a winner, but every once in a while, you’ll write the right headline that will get over 100 retweets.  The best way to get there is to learn from other sources.  I would look to the New York Post or New York Daily News for ideas, because they are the class of the business.

Be Tagged

People also follow search terms.

When I started reweeting the #uxdrinkinggame with the #ux tag, I instantly saw an increase in traffic.

Don’t forget to use tags that will have a large enough audience for retweets, but small enough where your tweet is broadcasting by an attentive audience. (Justin Bieber’s tag is probably not going to get a lot of traffic.)

Occasionally if you use a tag that’s related to a search term, you’ll get a bot retweeting — Sunday one of my posts about Radio Shack got picked up and replied by two separate bots.

Be Conversational

Tweeting shouldn’t be a one-way conversation.

The best users I follow include something that’s about their personal lives (sometimes good, sometimes bad). They reveal information about themselves that shows they are real people versus auto-follow bots.

What’s better is if you reply to them, they reply back.

Twitter channels should be treated as a true feedback loop. View comments as a positive way to interact with your audience. It’s a public forum, after all.

You don’t even need a lot of followers to generate conversation.  Alan Cooper is a good example, because he has a higher measured influence than fellow user experience expert Jared Spool, even with only one-fifth the followers.

That’s because Cooper has more retweets than Spool, even with 20 percent of the following.

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