So you want to become a successful Web 2.0 marketer? If you’re thinking that all you need to do is sign up for a Twitter account and start tweeting about your exploits, think again. Of course, signing up and staying active with regular tweets (and retweets) is half the battle: just having a presence, with your company or professional brand bouncing around cyberspace, is invaluable. But if you spend two hours each day to effectively manage your social marketing program (the amount of time experts advise), just throwing anything out there (e.g., your trip to the supermarket) may not be the best use of your time, especially if your Twitter followers aren’t responding.
So how do you construct a tweet that hits its mark by getting people to sit up and respond, by retweeting? Thanks to Dan Zarrella, a social media and viral marketing scientist for HubSpot, a web analytics company, there’s actually a method to all that mad tweeting. Zarrella studies how information spreads through social networks, and has researched Twitter’s API (Application Programming Interface for you non-geeks) to profile what tweets get the most retweets.
The goal with tweeting, of course, is to be read. And the more followers who retweet your original post (to their followers), the more you’ll be read, with exponential possibilities. In Zarrella’s study, “The Science of ReTweets Report,” released at the end of September and first reported on fastcompany.com, some 5 million tweets and 40 million retweets were analyzed—looking at what words were used, when tweets were posted and if links were included—to discover the best (and worst) methods for tweeting. Following are nine tips gleaned from the study that will have your tweets reaching maximum results.
1. Add a (full) link
According to Zarrella, adding a link to your tweet will make it three times more likely to be retweeted (19% to 57%), which might elevate your post to near viral status regardless of how clever and pithy (or not) your words. But think twice about using a URL shortener. If you do, choose one of the newer services such as ow.ly, bit.ly or is.gd, which have a much greater chance of getting retweeted than older standbys such as TinyURL.
2. Retweet (pretty please)
Begging for your retweets may smack of desperation and seem to be a wholly ineffective way of soliciting any response, but the opposite is actually true. Zarrella found that the words “please” and “retweet” were third and fourth on the list of the most retweetable words and phrases, just behind “Twitter” and “you.” Other imploring words or phrases include “help” at No. 10 and “check out” at 19.
3. Don’t loaf and tweet
Just because the Twitter prompt asks “What are you doing?” doesn’t mean you need to always answer it, especially when you’re sitting on the couch watching Seinfeld reruns. According to Zarrella, the words and phrases that were least retweetable tended to be verbs with “-ing” endings, such as “watching,” “listening” and “going.” Other words less likely to be retweeted, like “bed,” “sleep” and “haha,” tend to be associated with after-hours idling and chatter between friends.
4. Wise up
Who knew good tweets were so literary? While Twitter’s short format of 140 characters per tweet may encourage you to sprinkle your tweet with cute emoticons and simple abbreviations, Zarrella’s research shows that tossing in a few four-dollar words will get more of a response. Retweets have more syllables per word than regular tweets (1.62 vs. 1.58) and rate higher on the reading scale: retweets require 6.47 years of education as opposed to 6.04 for normal tweets.
5. Semicolons are not your friend
Just as smartening up your tweet with longer words gets more response, so does the use of punctuation. Including a period, comma or colon will put you in league with the 98% of retweets that have some type of punctuation, compared to 86% of normal tweets. The one exception, according to Zarrella, was the semicolon, which he calls “the only unretweetable punctuation mark.”
6. Break the news
If you want to be retweeted, offer something original, especially if it has news value to your followers. Being the first to tweet about a breaking announcement at an MPI event is much more likely to get a response than simply repeating yesterday’s news. According to Zarrella’s research, the more novel the word choice, the more likely it will be retweeted.
7. Proper nouns are most proper
Complete sentences, especially those with proper nouns and third-person verbs are more likely to be retweeted. Which means that news-type headlines with recognizable names, such as “MPI’s Bruce MacMillan speaks with Roger Dow,” has a far better chance of making a big splash.
8. No crying
Even though Twitter’s format seems to invite tweets about your feelings on personal things, keep it professional. Tweets that were most retweeted were on the subjects of work, media and money, while the least retweeted included negative emotions, swear words and self-reference.
9. It’s all timing
Forget tweeting on Monday morning if you want a strong response (the worst possible time in the work week). Retweeting starts to rise most days after 1 p.m. and peaks at around 4 p.m. As for days of the week, retweeting starts climbing on Tuesday and peaks on Friday, which means Friday afternoon is the best time to tweet if you want it to go viral.