Eight tips to craft a message that Twitter followers will retweet.
1. Include links. Tweets that included a link were three times more prevalent in retweets than those without, according to Zarrella’s researcher. That means you don’t tell your Twitter audience, “We conducted some great research.” You show them the research by sharing a link to where they can find it (your blog, ideally).
2. Opt for timely news (most of the time). Zarrella found that tweets mentioning news were the most shared. Rest assured, however, that if you can’t share breaking news—and 99 percent of the time a new “solution” is not breaking—evergreen advice will do the trick. The most shared tweets beyond news were instructional in nature, followed by entertainment, opinion, products, and small talk.
3. Share tech news (or maybe mention a celebrity). This won’t apply to everyone with a Twitter account, but the researchers at UCLA and HP Labs said tweets about tech news were the most shared. Health news and “fun stuff” were Nos. 2 and 3 in terms of popularity. The study also said that mentioning a celebrity, such as @LadyGaga, will probably result in a popular tweet.
4. Use “you” instead of “I.” Specific words can spark retweets, Zarrella deduced. Among the words most commonly found in heavily shared tweets are “you,” “Twitter,” “please,” “retweet,” “post,” and “check out.” Another term found often in these tweets is “please retweet.” Despite these findings, asking someone to “please retweet” is a practice you should avoid. It’s tacky—no matter what science tells you.
5. Calm down. With all the noise online, especially in the Twittersphere, it stands to reason that a frantic tweet with a healthy dose of hyperbole would stand out. For example: “INCREDIBLE photo. You MUST check it out IMMEDIATELY!” Not so, say researchers at UCLA and HP Labs. Objective language performs as well as subjective, they discovered.
6. Embrace verbosity, to an extent. Zarrella found that as the length of tweets grew, so did the number of clicks for a link in the tweet. Once the tweet reached 130 characters, the number of click-throughs fell, so don’t go above 130, if possible. You’ll probably want to shoot for fewer, in case someone wants to retweet you and include his or her own comment.
7. Use punctuation, especially colons and periods. Nearly all retweets have some form of punctuation, according to Zarrella. Colons and periods were by far the most common. Surprisingly, question marks weren’t common in retweets, nor were semicolons. The latter isn’t surprising; most people misunderstand this handy punctuation mark and therefore tend to avoid it.
8. Drop a brand name. “Brand, even and especially on the Internet, matters,” Garber writes in The Atlantic. She’s referencing the UCLA and HP Labs data, which determined that reliable sources—such as media outlets and brand names—led to more commonly shared tweets. That doesn’t mean, however, that established media brands only will garner retweets. UCLA and HP Labs found that in some cases the opposite was true. Stories shared by popular traditional media—Reuters, AP, Christian Science Monitor—received fewer tweets than upstart media such as Mashable and AllFacebook. Even corporate and marketing blogs, among them Google’s blog and Seth Godin’s blog, sparked more retweets than many “old” media sources.