What makes a good tweet

by Morgan Siem on January 27, 2011

in Social Media

Post image for What makes a good tweet

What is a good tweet worthy of being retweeted and gaining followers?

This is a question that I am often asked. The real response is that the good tweets are the ones that provide the most value to your followers, whether in the form of humor, sage advice, insightful statistics, etc. If your tweet is something that your followers gain something from reading, then it’s a good tweet.

However, here are some of the trends that I’ve seen to help you craft more retweetable content:

  • Lists (top 10, top 5, etc.)
  • Requests for RTs (don’t do it frequently, but if it’s really important, then asking people to RT usually boosts their inclination to do so)
  • Snarky comments that ring true (the thing that everyone is thinking but is too afraid to say aloud)
  • Hashtags
  • Stats
  • Case studies
  • There are definitely more, so leave ‘em in the comments for everyone!

To answer the second part of the question, the types of tweets that help you gain the most followers vary a little bit from the ones that help you get retweeted. Certain keywords trigger an onslaught of followers, but be careful, because often they’re bots and not valuable followers. For instance, if you tweet using the hashtag #SEO, you’ll see a spike in followers, but most of them are bots. You can also experience a spike in followers if you mention a celebrity name. Beware using the name “Justin Bieber” in a tweet!

For me, the most effective way that I have learned to gain valuable / relevant followers is by live tweeting at events that have a hashtag. If you attend a conference, join the twitter conversation happening at the conference by following the event hashtag. The event doesn’t even have to be in person for you to join a hashtag conversation and gain followers. For instance, last week I was a panelist for an online discussion about branding and journalism. The discussion took place entirely on Twitter using the hashtag #SPJchat. Participating in that conversation brought me a lot of new followers – and ones that are interested in similar topics as I am.

Students: #SPJchat is a fantastic way for you to network and get great advice. Follow the tweets using that hashtag on Thursday nights at 8/7C.

What other advice do you have for crafting retweetable content and writing tweets that attract new followers?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Reilley January 27, 2011 at 10:56 am

Thanks for the mention of #SPJchat, Morgan. We appreciated all of the great input on the discussion and by all means join in for future ones!

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Morgan Siem January 27, 2011 at 11:02 am

Absolutely, Mike. I was impressed with the level of interests and interaction. I’ll definitely join again. Thanks for hosting.

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Phil Buckley January 27, 2011 at 11:23 am

Good article Morgan, the only addition I would offer is a little bit of curiosity.

Sometimes a tweet that makes your followers think, “what the heck does that mean” can work as a catalyst for clicks and RT’s. The problem comes when they think that whenever you tweet and there’s no payoff, then they just stop clicking and RTing.

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Morgan Siem January 27, 2011 at 11:27 am

Good point, Phil. You also make an important distinction between clicks and RTs. I’d give you a completely different list for what drives clicks vs. what drives RTs. Same with interaction. As an example, questions drive interactions and @mentions, pictures drive clicks, stats or funny facts drive RTs.

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Jeff Tippett January 27, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Great post, Morgan. Can’t remember ever asking people to RT–though I see it work every day. Definitely my least favorite. Phil, great point about curiosity. And I agree–has to be relevant content behind the curiosity.

I’ve also noticed people using questions to get retweeted. Often people will retweet and include the answer.

Great list here. Thanks for sharing.

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Janet M. Kennedy January 27, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I have used the RT but it has been to promote non-profit events that locals might find interesting, important or personally valuable.

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Morgan Siem January 27, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Good point, Janet. Requesting RTs can get you in a lot of trouble unless used very carefully. Great recommendation to reserve that tactic for non-profit events and similar community-building tweets.

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Christine Seib January 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Morgan, as always, this is a great post. You are very on target with it. The point you make early on about providing value applies to everything in social media and marketing. A great blog that gets views is about a subject that brings value to the reader, and a great Twitter feed gives something people want to get. Excellent point that bears repeating (and retweeting).

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Jeremy Smith January 27, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Very well written Morgan. I really like the one about snarky comments that people are too afraid to say. Comes back to that level of transparency that people are afraid of, but typically once they become comfortable with that and themselves, it yields the results they were after in the first place (retweets).

Also, the tweets that you tend to think won’t get any traction, usually get much more than the tweets you thought long and hard. You know, the tweets that you feel deserve more attention and are sure that they will be engaged and retweeted. It’s funny how that works sometimes.

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Morgan Siem January 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Haha, I laughed reading this because it’s so true. Sometime I send things off just on a whim and am shocked by the response, when other times I put a lot of thought into a tweet only to find (much to my disappointment), that no one cares. It’s funny what ends up getting wings. Since it often defies our expectations, it’s what makes measuring & reporting so important, especially when doing social media for businesses. There’s always a learning curve.

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Viji Iyer January 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Great post Morgan! Thanks for sharing, end of the day I think all about what value you bring to your readers. Is it about building awareness, educating them about something, sharing an aha moment or bringing out an emotional reaction from them after reading it. Bottomline, you have to project who you genuinely are & people will gravitate to you if they find you interesting!

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Karl Sakas February 1, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Maybe I’m just contrary, but when I see “please RT,” I’m *less* likely to retweet it — content should stand on its own.

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Morgan Siem February 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

Karl – I find that I’m put off by requests for RT when they are abused, over-used or self-serving. However, I’m usually happy to RT if it’s something that supports a greater cause.

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aburtch February 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Hashtags are very important. I’m often surprised by the retweets I get from folks that don’t follow me, but saw my tweet because of a specific hastag I used that they do follow.

Also the snarky comments one is very true. Sometimes I’ll say something that I’m not sure I should have or wonder “was that too much?” but then those are the ones that get retweeted. It’s important that it be true and not just seem mean spirited. Just like Chris Rock comedy…you go “I can’t believe he just said that!” but then when you examine the statement you realize it’s completely true and thus OK.

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