You’ve got 140 characters. Sure, you could use them to tell your followers what you had for breakfast, but you probably know better than that. And if you’re using Twitter to generate new business and strengthen old relationships (you know you should be, right?), the pressure to say something smart, savvy and, dare-to-dream, “retweet-worthy” can be pretty daunting. Here are five tips to use those 140 characters wisely.
1) Be provocative.
No, I’m not talking sexy provocative — although that might get you a whole bunch of attention, too. I’m talking about the kind of tweet that poses a thought-provoking question. Your goal with Twitter is simply to get a conversation started. If nothing immediately springs to mind, see if you can find a news story that is at least tangentially related to your industry and pose a question about that.
2) Do a “how-to” or list.
People are suckers for both. “How to Navigate a Roomful of Strangers in Five Easy Steps,” ”Top Five Tips for Writing Effective Tweets,” etc. Even if you didn’t write the blog or article you’re linking to, you’re still positioning yourself as someone in the know.
3) “Retweet” something you found interesting.
Unless you’re a completely boring person, if something was interesting to you, it probably will be to other people, too. This isn’t plagiarism. This is information sharing and this is what Twitter is all about. Keep a list of go-to interesting people on hand so “you” always have something to say. And yes, if you aren’t simply clicking “retweet,” you do need to give them credit.
4) “Reply” to that something interesting and add your two cents.
Related to #3: Add your own two cents by replying to a tweet that caught your attention. In fact, regardless of how many provocative tweets you can generate on your own, it’s a good idea to reply to other tweets you read so you don’t seem like you’re just out there to promote yourself. (Even though that’s exactly what you’re doing.)
5) Remember you’re writing a headline, not a story.
I know you only have 140 characters, but tweets filled with abbreviations and lingo not only look awful, they turn off all but the most extreme Twexperts. (I may have made that word up, but probably not.) If you find yourself relying on abbreviations, maybe you’re trying to say too much. With Twitter you’re a headline writer, not a novelist.
Bonus advanced tip: That said, if you know what you’re doing, Twitter can be an effective way to tell longer narratives. This is particularly effective if you have a news story that needs to be told in real time. Master of the engaging “mini narrative” is NPR’s David Folkenflik, who regularly tweets about unfolding events and uses a “(more)” at the end of tweets. For example:
- Fmr NPR SVP for fundraising Ron Schiller caught on tape criticizing Tea Party & GOP as he lunched w fake prospective Muslim donors (more)
But David still follows the golden rule of good tweeting: Say one thing and say it well.
Final word of warning: Don’t be that guy.
Twitter is a great business tool, but use it wisely. If you’re constantly self-promoting, you’re going to turn off your current followers and have no chance of getting new ones. Here’s a good rule of thumb: For every post you do to promote your business, have two that promote something someone else says or does. Remember: Twitter is a conversation, and we all hate the guy whose favorite topic is himself.