ZOMG! Writing for Twitter
Ian Lurie Mar 30 2009
Brevity is good.
OK, I’ve always wanted to do that. But I do have some real advice for writing on Twitter.
I get a lot of of new Tweeple (That’s Twitter slang for ‘people’. See? You’re already becoming One of Us.) asking me: “What should I write?” or “How should I write?”
Here are my quick guidelines:
Kill the adverbs. You don’t need that “Obviously”. That’ll save you 9 characters! 10 if you include the comma. When you only have 140 characters to write, that’s a lot of extra room.
Write in active voice. “I washed my car” is easier to read, and shorter, than “My car was washed by me”. Twitter is no place for passive voice.
Use shorthand sparingly. OMG your last TWT had me ROTFL. If that made no sense, that means you still have a life. If it made sense, I’m sorry for you. Either way, avoid using too much shorthand, or your online BFFs may run away.
Notice how a lot of these tips are just good writing habits? It’s almost like writing well makes you a better communicator. Makes ya think, doesn’t it…
Use hashtags. Don’t worry about what hashtags are in a technical sense. Consider them keywords or tags for your Tweets. Use them whenever possible. You can get a list of popular hashtags at Hashtags.org.
Be pithy. Don’t write about your trip to the coffee shop, unless something profound happened. Answer a question someone asked you at work. Provide a brief tip in whatever field you work. Give an opinion on the day’s events. Example: “Put your keywords first in the title tag. Search engines care about that stuff.”
Be amusing. Everyone appreciates it when you make them laugh. Example: “Did you know I’m 99% organic? I had no idea…”
Be controversial. Use sparingly. No one likes a troll, and that’s what you become if you constantly write outrageous stuff in a desperate plea for attention.
Don’t be dull. There are enough of us on there writing stuff like “I’m tired. Going to bed.” That’s my line, OK? Don’t steal it.
Variety is the spice of life. Mix it up. Be funny sometimes, pithy others.
Don’t dig for ideas. Write if and when something springs to mind. That’s the nature of Twitter and other ‘microblogs’ like it. You don’t need to set a goal of writing 5 Tweets a day.
Promote sparingly. It’s perfectly OK to post an occasional link to a blog post or a special deal on your site. However, if all I get from you is an endless stream of links to your web site, I’ll click ‘nofollow’. I will. I mean it.
Reply. If someone else wrote something you really liked, or really didn’t, or that you just wanted to answer, then reply to their Tweet. Twitter is the world’s largest chat room. So chat!
Moderate. Don’t be mean on Twitter. Unless you’re already famous and have 5,000+ followers, being mean only drives people away. After you have 5,000 followers it’s apparently funny. For now, though, be nice.
Consider. Once you write a tweet, it’s out there. You can’t delete it. So consider how you’ll feel when your boss/potential boss/spouse/mom/child reads about your latest debauchery.
Enjoy. If every second on Twitter is like being strapped over growing bamboo shoots, stop. Readers can tell when you hate your surroundings, and they don’t like it. Unless they’re sadists. So why suffer?
With that, I leave you to Twitter.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More