Using social media effectively
Creating content for Twitter
Twitter is a good platform to help you send short messages about your organization’s work and events. Whether you are new to Twitter or not, here are some tips to catch people’s attention.
An introduction to Twitter terminology
Because Twitter restricts users to 140 characters per message, they have developed a short-form way of communicating information. When starting to use Twitter, you’ll need to know the following terms (Thanks to the Centers for Disease Control for this helpful list!):
- Message or tweet: messages are composed of text or links – again, limited to 140 characters.
- Username or handle: how Twitter users identify themselves. This is preferably a short descriptive name preceded by the “@” sign. For example, CLEO’s handle is @CLEOlegalrights and the PLE Learning Exchange’s handle is @plelearningX.
- Retweet: this function allows you to forward other users’ or organizations’ messages or tweets to your Twitter network. You can add your own text when retweeting, or simply forward the message as is.
- Mention: if you wish to “mention” or link to another user, you can put @[their Twitter handle] and they will be notified that you tweeted about them. This helps promote “conversation” on Twitter.
- Hashtag: symbolized by the “#” sign, this allows for grouping of tweets by topic or issue. Using a hashtag – for example, #a2j or #PLEI – enables other people to join a larger conversation or find information quickly.
- Follow or Follower: if you follow people, their tweets will appear in your organization’s Twitter feeds. Your followers are the people and organizations that follow you.
Think about how often to tweet
Deciding on and sticking to a regular schedule for tweets will help keep the account active. This will help you keep your readers engaged.
- Studies have shown that non-profits should tweet at least two times a day to build engagement on Twitter. An optimal range is two to eight times per day.
- However, tweeting more than once an hour has been shown to decrease clickthrough rate (the amount of times that users click through to the links you’re sharing).
- You can use free programs such as Hootsuite to schedule tweets in advance.
Keep your content shorter than 140 characters
- Twitter allows for a maximum length of 140 characters – this includes spaces, punctuation, and links
- To allow people to add their own message without editing your when retweeting your content, keep tweet text to around 100 characters – you can use the Word Count tool in MS Word or an online character counting tool such as http://www.lettercount.com/
- The 100 character length will allow you to add a shortened link of 20 or so characters – use a link management program such as Bitly or Ow.ly.
Use abbreviations sparingly
It’s best if you can write concise tweets that don’t need abbreviations. However, sometimes abbreviations are necessary to keep the length of your tweets within the limit. If using abbreviations, use commonly recognized ones that people understand, and avoid “text speak”.
This is important because research and testing conducted by the Centers for Disease Control has shown that their audiences had a strong negative reaction to abbreviations that were not seen as professional. Some examples to avoid:
- “2” instead of “to”
- “4” instead of “for”
- “U” instead of “you”
- “UR” instead of “your”
- “ON” for “Ontario”
- “CDN” for “Canada”
- “info” for “information”
- “&” for “and”
- “2PM” for “2:00 p.m.”
- “IMPT” for “important”
- “thx” for “thanks”
- Research has shown that tweets with links have an 86 percent higher retweet rate
- Include a link to content on your website, another trusted organization’s website, or a relevant news story from a reputable news source
- Shorten the link before posting using a link management resource such as http://bitly.com
- Try to use photos that are close to 525 x 262 pixels so that Twitter does not crop them – or resize or crop them to make them the right size
- If your photo is a different size, consider resizing or cropping using MS Photo, the crop command in Word, or another photo editing program
- Ask a question, highlight a key statistic, or provide a specific call to action.
- Promote your organization’s events and other events of interest.
- Using more than 2 hashtags in tweets makes them #hard #to #read #and #cluttered – this may decrease your retweet rate.
- Consider testing out hashtags by sending tweets with or without specific hashtags to see which hashtags your organization should use, and when.
- When possible, give your users information about something to focus on and follow up on
- Some examples are: an event or meeting you’re hosting, a cause you support, or a petition you have signed
Tip: Some appropriate ways to abbreviate on Twitter are:
Always include a link
Upload photos that complement your content or brand your organization
Make your content engaging
Don’t use too many #hashtags
Include calls to action
Note: Some of this content was adapted with permission from two resources produced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control: “Guide to Writing for Social Media” and “Social Media Guidelines and Best Practices”