Anatomy of A (Successful) Tweet

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Ever wondered what makes a good tweet?  Let’s break it down.

But first….there are many different reasons to tweet, therefore there are many different kinds of tweets.   Twitter can serve many purposes so before you get started you want to consider all the ways you can use Twitter and determine which ones you want to use now.

Let’s do a quick recap for beginners and then we’ll get into the real meat of it all.

You can use Twitter for:

Personal reasons: For dating, to find friends with similar interests or to keep tabs on the current “chatter” about a topic that interests you.  The possibilities are endless.

Customer Service: You can create a company account and let people know that they can send questions or concerns and you will respond via Twitter instead of by email.  You can update customers on upcoming news or events (sales, problems, news, product recalls, etc).  You can monitor your brand and deal with any reputation issues.

Public Relations: Develop relationships with media reps, reporters and bloggers.

Growing your business: Drive traffic to your website, build relationships, make special offers, promote content.  You can use Twitter to establish yourself as a credible leader in your industry.

So what kind of tweets do people most commonly send?

Retweet (RT): Retweeting (like forwarding) someone else’s tweet.

Thought/Observation/Opinion: Personal commentary tweet.

What you’re reading: People will often tweet what they are currently reading online and will share the link to the content.

What you’re watching: Sharing a video you have watched online (include link).

Events/Plans: Share information on upcoming events or plans.

Promotional: A sales message.

Content promotion: Promoting content that you have written (include a link to it).

Conversations: @Replies or DMs (direct messages).

Quotes: People like to share motivational quotes.

Twitter is about sharing news and information – first and foremost you should be yourself.

Conversational tweets, what you’re watching or reading or sharing quotes are all expressions of yourself.  Communicate in a way that is authentic to who you are.  Just a few tips –

  • Watch the foul language! Most people don’t mind an occasional well placed “choice word” for emphasis but it becomes old quickly and is disrespectful.
  • Don’t use too many abbreviations or jargon people won’t understand.  Communication only works if people understand what you are trying to say.
  • Don’t use Twitter as your personal rant fest.  We all vent a little and sharing information about a company that has wronged you is helpful to other consumers but Twitter is not a place to bemoan everything that is wrong in your life.
  • Review your Twitter profile page regularly – is what you are saying and how you are saying it interesting for people?  Would you want to follow yourself?

Tweeting for business growth is a different animal.  It becomes more important to craft a message that will do the intended job.  It’s copywriting in 140 characters or less and it’s not always easy. Especially for those of us that tend to be very verbose!

Content promotion:

So let’s say your goal is to promote new content – either an article or a Blog post you’ve written.

First and foremost you want to identify the hook of the content.  What does it offer?  Why should people want to read your content?

Once you’ve identified that, you want to write a compelling sentence that will make people feel like they not only want to read the content but like they have to – they will be missing something if they don’t check it out.  Here are some samples…

Top 3 things u must know BEFORE u buy a kite. Check it out now. Shortened URL here

Why most kites DON’T fly (it’s not what u think!) Shortened URL here

Secrets for catching air w/ your kite! Fun for all! Shortened URL here

Let’s look at why these are good tweets.

They are short, to the point, compelling and tell people exactly what they will learn when they read your content.  For anyone interested in kite flying, they will probably want to check it out.

Some things to remember…

Everyone loves lists, so “Top X” lists do very well on article directories and tend to spread virally.

People are looking for solutions to a problem – identifying the problem (many kites don’t actually fly) and then letting people know there is a twist – it’s not what they are thinking, makes them even more likely to check it out.

People always want to be “in the know” – no one wants to miss out.  Promise to share a secret and people want to hear it.  (Just make sure you actually deliver in the content).

Always use a URL shortening service that allows you to track the clicks so you can see what tweets actually get you the clicks and then you can model future tweets after the successful ones.  I like as a URL shortening/tracking service.

So those were good tweets, but how can we make them better?  Let’s take a look:

Top 3 things u must know BEFORE u buy a kite. Check it out now. Shortened URL here  Plz RT

Why most kites don’t fly (it’s not what u think!) Shortened URL here Plz RT

Secrets for catching air w/ your kite! Fun for all! Shortened URL here Plz RT

By simply requesting people to RT your content, you will get a lot more retweets.  Sometimes we forget the basics and it is often as simple as “ask and you shall receive”.  Consistently when I include a “Plz RT” request, I get many more RTs.

Now let’s talk about a sales/promotional tweet.

These tweets are not only dependant on the content of the tweet but also on what comes before and after the tweet.  What do I mean?

If you’ve tweeted nothing but sales pitches and aren’t offering any tips, news or information, people are less likely to follow you for very long.  You need to make sure you aren’t just promoting your agenda but are tweeting useful, helpful information and then you can mix in your special offers and promotional tweets.

So assuming you are doing that, let’s look at what makes a good sales/promotional tweet:

You need to offer something people are going to want (ex: save money, save time, learn this, get a free report, free gift with purchase).

Creating urgency helps – so mention a limited time offer or deadline for them to check it out.

Today only! Off- season sale. 20% off all swimsuits. Shortened URL. Plz RT

This is specific, to the point, offers them a benefit and isn’t obnoxious.

Now, imagine seeing: SUPER sale MUST BUY TODAY great SAVINGS Don’t Miss Out! Fabulous Deals.  – Most people aren’t going to respond, it’s too hype filled, it’s obnoxious and it doesn’t offer any real information about what the special offer is. If I see this more than once from someone, I will usually unfollow them.  (I forgive them one time and figure they were just trying new things out and learning)

Another good example: Free Report if u check out my website. Shortened URL. Plz RT – Not too salesy, tells them what they get and what they have to do and doesn’t SCREAM at people.

Let’s recap the components of a successful tweet:

  • It has a clear benefit stated (ex: you will learn this, get this, know this etc after reading the content or taking advantage of the offer)
  • It includes a shortened URL with tracking
  • It has compelling text that entices but doesn’t scream at people
  • It has a clear description of the topic or special offer
  • It includes a request for RT
  • It’s short enough to be Retweeted
  • It is authentic and useful
  • It uses keywords (a compelling tweet that uses a keyword could land you a click from real time search results) But NEVER stuff with keywords.  When writing tweets, just consider using phrases that are related to your product or service that people may be searching for. A lot of people search TweetScan and other sites for people that are tweeting about certain topics so using a common or popular phrase in your industry may also get you found and get you some new followers.  It is worth repeating: never stuff your tweets with keywords
  • It is relevant to the topic your audience is likely following you for (In other words, don’t promote yourself as a dentist and then send all these offers for your shoe shining business.  Sure, we all retweet other people’s tweets and we all have special things we want to offer from time to time that may not relate to the core topic we usually tweet about, but just remember people follow you for a reason and most often it’s because they are interested in the core topic that you tweet about.  Sometimes it’s an interesting tweet that just caught their attention so they follow but most often people are looking to follow someone that tweets about a topic they are interested in.)

My goal is to keep Twitter a place that interests us, benefits us and to prevent it from turning into a sleazy message board for every sales offer under the sun.  Keeping Twitter real, one tweet at a time.

Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing for Since 1998 Jennifer’s expertise in marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has helped clients increase revenue. Jennifer has been published in many SEO and marketing publications.  Jennifer Horowitz is the author of Twitter Quickstart Success Training System, Blogging For Dollars, Optimization Step By Step: 2010 and more.  For the whole scoop, visit  You can follow Jennifer on Twitter at



Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing for – a full service SEO, Web Design & Development and Social Media Firm. Since 1998 Jennifer’s expertise in marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has helped clients increase revenue. Jennifer has been published in many SEO and marketing publications. Jennifer Horowitz is the author of Twitter Quickstart Success Training System, Blogging For Dollars, Optimization Step By Step: 2010 and more. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter at @ecombuffet. For more information on SEO, Twitter training or killer Facebook Fan Pages, contact Jennifer at
Jennifer Horowitz

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  • Bonnie Burns

    As always, Jennifer provides great advice and examples in an easy to understand way. GREAT READ

  • Jenn

    Thanks Bonnie! 🙂

    I know this one is a little long but I thought these were all really important points to cover. I get asked about what should be in a tweet a lot so I hope this helps people!

    Would love feedback and questions from readers!

  • G

    I disagree on the shortened url… yes, you can track it but I for one won’t click it… nothing personal but the upside of reading what you’ve linked to isn’t worth the risk.
    I may be ahead of the curve but people will catch on to the risk of clicking to places that can’t be seen/trusted…

  • Jenn

    That is an interesting perspective and not one I’ve heard many people concerned about. Since there is URL shortening automatically I think people just accept it. It’ll be interesting to see what others say on this topic. Thanks for sharing. Very interesting!

  • Elizabeth

    This was a nice article. I liked what you said about just asking for the RT – Ask and you shall receive…right?

    I wanted to comment about the shortened URLs too. I think SEJ has a point, but sometimes you have no choice, especially if you have a long URL to include and you want to send people to your site. I have ended up on some sites I would rather not have visited when following shortened links but that was my early naive Twitter self. Now I know better and follow links from those I trust. I think people realize who they can trust and which links will be okay to follow.

    • Elizabeth

      Oops – I meant “G” not SEJ – sorry about that.

  • Bonnie Burns

    I like URL shortners. Heck, even the programs like tweetdeck, hootsuite etc automatically offer it and as I tweet much from my iPhone, it makes it very easy. It also allows for more words to be used in a tweet.

    Yes, you may not know where the link goes to, but one must trust at times that the tweeter is not misleading you to a ‘rick roll’ (a link to something other then what was discussed) Also, as you learn about your followers, you learn to trust what they are providing a link to.

  • Chaibi Alaa

    Really Really great post ! I really all those advices .. What is the main problems about my twitter is that the network where I am is a little limited by targets, then I can’t get real interested tweets !

  • Lana Galileo

    I didn’t pay so close attention when doing tweets, just posted what have come into my mind. Maybe that’s reason why i didn’t get so many traffic from it.

    Thanks for advices, i will test them and see if ic an sale something.

  • Mike Savory

    Thanks for these helpful ideas.

    Regarding the concern about shortened URLs; Hootsuite (and I’m sure others) display a preview of the full URL and destination page title when you mouse over the shortened URL, which helps reduce the risk.

  • Michael

    The short URL debate is interesting, as it underlines the importance of establishing a relationship with your readers. If you don’t trust a Tweeter enough to follow their link, you probably shouldn’t be following them at all.

    From the writer’s point of view, you have to be very clear and consistent about what the people will see in your link to build trust. The link has to be worth their while.

    None of this is possible without shortening services (I used for quite some time).

  • Zenobia

    Jennifer, very helpful and insightful. I am a new Tweeter so I welcome any all wisdom.