Tip: When writing tweets

I’m on a bit of a roll with the tips, so it’s time for one about Twitter. Unlike LinkedIn and Facebook, there are no additional fields added when you share a link on twitter. There is just you and 117 characters…

Wait, did I write 117 characters, not 140 characters? Why yes.I.did…

In post, I am going to cover limits, writing tweets for different outcomes, best practices, and link placement as well as a couple of conventions that are in place (but which can be hard to find out about).

Tip: When writing tweets

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Tweet limits

Obviously, most of us know the 140 character limit: a tweet can contain 140 characters.

However, as of early 2013, if you include a link in your tweet, that limit drops to 117 characters.

But wait, there’s more…

You don’t have 117 characters (or 140 characters without a link) if you want people to RT your tweet.

If they RT with a comment, you need to allow space for [their comment] RT @[your username], depending on how long your username and how many characters in their comment. Without that allowance your amazing tweet could be truncated (which gets worse if you included a link at the end of the tweet, but we will come back to that later).

So, assuming you are including a link in your tweet: you need to allow ~20-30 characters for the possibility of a RT with comment (…plus you could consider ensuring your username isn’t terribly long and also hope that neither is your RT-er’s commentary)…

This means you should probably aim for a tweet about 87-97 characters long (with link) or 110-120 characters long (without link).

Writing tweets for different outcomes…

There are different best-practices for different outcomes, Dan Zarrella (data scientist extraordinaire) compiled a Social Calls to Action infographic looking at outcomes of different writing styles, timings and words/phrases included, based on alot of research across alot of tweets.

To summarise for Twitter:

  • If you want people to ReTweet (RT) your tweet, use the phrases “Please ReTweet” or “Please RT” in your tweet
  • If you want people to click on your link:
    • Put the link 25% of the way through your tweet
    • Use the words: “please”, “RT”, “via”, or “Check” in your tweet
    • Tweet late in the day or on weekend

Think of the links

1) First and foremost, use a link abbreviator (e.g. ow.ly, bit.ly, tiny.url).

Anyone who includes an unabbreviated link is either an amateur (more likely) or needs to build brand awareness about a specific URL (in which case, dependant on how they do it (see point 3), they may actually be smart)

It is preferable to sign up for one, so you can measure outcomes (you can usually get statistics for clicks and other things), but that is entirely up to you. There’s probably a pseudo-Aristolean question in it:

If an abbreviated link is included in a tweet, but no one measures it…was it really there?

2) Be careful where you place your link

Try as much as possible, to not place the link at the end of your tweet. If you can find a natural break in the tweet, or you can re-write the tweet to build a natural break into the tweet…do so.

If you place it at the end, and someone RTs it…there is the possibility that the link will be truncated. In which case, the link will likely be broken. So all the good work you put to writing a compelling tweet that interests people enough to click on the link (and builds the momentum for them to share so that other people can also click on the link)…will be lost.

This is especially important where you are using link abbreviators, but is general good practice.

3) Cases where you need to build brand awareness about a specific URL

There may be cases where, for whatever reason, you need to build brand awareness about a specific URL or domain. In which case, you may want to include a link to the actual domain rather than abbreviating it using a link abbreviator.

Twitter works a lot like YouTube, in that you need to include the “http:// ” or “https:// ” in the tweet otherwise, the link: it will not work. So…if I wanted to tweet about my blog’s domain to build awareness of that domain, I would have to tweet ‘http://ellipticalpointofview.com’ and not “ellipticalpointofview.com”.


Use MT instead of RT, when you have modified a tweet that you are reposting, e.g. you are sharing someone else’s tweet but you are not sharing that user’s tweet verbatim: MT @natachasuttor

The random full stop: If you mention or reply to someone “@” and you want more than just the people who follow you and them to see it, put a full stop before their name: .@natachasuttor

The two different RT types:

  • You can RT with little effort and no commentary by hitting the RT button (these tweets show up as if from the username of the original tweet, with a note underneath saying you retweeted it
  • You RT with a little more effort and the added bonus of commentary, by pasting the tweet and username into your tweet field and adding RT @[username of the original tweeter]: RT @natachasuttor. This is the old skool method, platforms like Hootsuite make this option easy by letting you choose to RT by opting for the new skool way (previous point) or Old Style RT
Screen shot of the same tweet retweeted in old skool and new skool style (Taken 18 September 2013)

Screen shot of the same tweet retweeted in old skool and new skool style (Taken 18 September 2013)

Etiquette tips

This is a really good post containing twitter technical tips and etiquette suggestions, read it: Five Common Twitter Mistakes (FYI – it actually includes 7 tips and. as someone who has to do a lot of online monitoring of brand terms of twitter, some gold).

Pertinent points from the article:

2. Being too informal

Oh guys. I know, there are some really hilarious people out there who tweet nothing but filth and libel all day. But those people are either professional comedians tweeting in a persona (see Rob Delaney, Megan Amram) or they’re unemployed no-marks. If you tweet that you’ve just had a wank, hate your job or are mashed off your tits while kicking in someone’s wheelie bin, people will judge you and you may even get into trouble. Potential collaborators, employers and friends can find everything you say, and you can’t control how they will react. So, be funny, be filthy, be controversial if you wish, but just be clever about it.

3. Retweeting endless praise

Oh yawn off. Retweeting someone suggesting you in a “follow Friday” is lame. Retweeting someone saying “Oh babes, you look so gorge in your pic lol. Love ya babes ;-)” is lamer than a two-legged cat in a lawnmower. Just have a little bit of self-restraint.

Don’t get all whiney, passive aggressive and rude if someone doesn’t follow you back. That’s just like pissing on someone’s shoes after you’ve smiled at them in a bar. It’s not going to endear you to anyone.

(Source: NellFrizzellIdeasTap, Five Common Twitter Mistakes on IdeasTap.com accessed 18 September 2013)


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