What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social network which allows users to share “tweets”. Tweets are short (140 character) posts that can contain text, images and links amongst other things with people in your social circles (followers). Twitter’s popularity grew very rapidly, amassing a user base of over 100 million users in just 6 years following its launch. It has since grown further with a base of 500+ million users (of those around 271 million are regularly active).
For an online merchant this potential reach is a great opportunity. You can speak directly with potential customers, join in on conversations about topics related to your products, run competitions and post interesting content that users may want to share. Other advantageous aspects of Twitter are hashtags and trending topics. Hashtags group together tweets of relevance using a hashtag on keywords in a tweet. For example, during the Fifa World Cup users would tweet with the hashtag ‘#FIFA2014’ and their tweet would be visible alongside thousands of other tweets regarding the same topic. This way users can see other people’s views on a subject and how to interact and join in with conversations. If a hashtag gains a lot of popularity it soon becomes a trending topic which is visible for users to see as illustrated below.
Any of these topics can be expanded further to view all topic related tweets. We’ll take a look at hashtags in more detail in one of the next articles, but let’s jump straight into structuring your tweets.
Structuring a Tweet
Tweets have a maximum character limit of 140 characters so when you’re structuring your tweet you need to bear its length in mind. You may have an awful lot to squeeze into those 140 characters but you also need to account for links, hashtags and space for a retweet.
When other Twitter users see value in your tweets, there’s a good chance they’ll want to share it with their followers by ‘Retweeting’. Tweetdeck (As discussed in the first guide) gives users the option to ‘Edit & RT’. When a user does this the original author’s tweet is published with ‘RT @username’ in front of the original Tweet content. This can be problematic as illustrated below:
As you can see, the original Tweet consumes almost all of the 140 character limit. In step two we’ve attempted to ‘Edit & RT’ the Tweet which inserts ‘RT @username:’ before the Tweet we’re looking to share. Because of the Tweet length we’re 20 characters short.
Therefore, if you’re structuring a tweet (with the aim of getting engagement) you should follow a few simple rules:
- Take the 140 characters and subtract the number of characters in your own handle.
- Subtract another 3 characters for ‘RT’ and the gap between it and the handle.
This should give you an idea of how many characters you actually have to play with.
Things get even trickier however if you are going to add images to your Tweet, which is very much recommended. The image will probably take up around twenty characters of your tweet so you also need to factor this in with everything else. You might lose text, but you will add significant value to the Tweet by adding the image.
If you follow the structure outlined in this post and you bear everything in mind that we suggest then you are well aware of the basics that you need to know to become successful on Twitter! In the next post we will have a look at the sort of content that is particularly popular and the hashtags that you need to be aware of and using. We will also delve further into post scheduling and anything else that might be Twitter related.