22 February 2009

Blogging Tips : A Secret to Writing Posts that Go Viral on Twitter

There are many reasons that a blog post might get spread widely through ‘ReTweets’ (when one person passes on the tweet of another) but one fairly obvious, yet often overlooked one, has to do with the length of your blog post title.

Yesterday on TwiTip I published a post with a formula for getting ReTweeted on twitter. You can read the full thing for yourself but the author of the post (@louisedoherty) proposed that to increase the chances of one of your tweets being ReTweeted that you need to keep your own tweet shorter than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter so that the person can include other information (your username, the @ symbol and the letters RT).

I’ve seen the wisdom of theory of Louise many times in my own use of Twitter. If I tweet something that is the maximum of 140 characters it make it more tricky for followers to retweet - they either have to change my tweet or don’t do it.

OK - so this applies to bloggers how?

Twitter can send you a lot of traffic if a link to one of your posts gets spread around via ReTweeting. Just look at the Top 100 Retweeted Links on Twitter at the moment - as I write this the top one has been passed on 331 times which means it is a link that could have been viewed on Twitter by many thousands of people.

To help the ReTweet thing along a little keep your titles short. They don’t need to be 3 words long - but keep in mind that when someone is going to tweet a link to your post that they will usually include:

1. The title of your post

2. A URL (often shortened using tinyurl or some other shortening service which means it’ll be anything from 20 to 26 characters)

They may also want to include a comment about your link.

That’s not all you want to think about - you then should consider that for the link to be ReTweeted it will include all of the above information plus:

1. The username of the person being retweeted with the @ symbol (usually 5-12 characters)

2. The letters RT and sometimes a : as well as a space after it (3-4 characters)

You can see that the number of characters is starting to add up so shorter Titles can definitely help.

Lets workshop it:

* The title of this post is ‘A Secret to Writing Posts that Go Viral on Twitter ‘ - that’s 52 characters (with space at end)
* Lets say that the URL is shortened with Twurl - that’s 22 characters
* Lets say that the person tweeting it adds the words ‘Reading: ‘ at the start of the tweet (9 characters with space) and ‘ - cool post’ at the end (12 characters with spaces).

So far the original tweet is 95 characters long.

And would look like: ‘Reading: A Secret to Writing Posts that Go Viral on Twitter - Cool Post’

Lets just say it was @chrisbrogan who made the above tweet. As Chris has a lot of great followers at least one of them is bound to retweet it.

At the very least their retweet would read:

‘RT: @chrisbrogan Reading: A Secret to Writing Posts that Go Viral on Twitter - Cool Post’

We’re still under the limit of 140 and with 29 characters to spare could have added a few words to our title.

This is not something that I would spend a lot of time on and I would not compromise my titles too much to get them down in character length - however as someone who has seen significant traffic from Twitter over the last 6 months it is definitely a factor that I keep in the back of my mind as I blog.

PS: another reason to keep titles down in length is that Google has a cut off of 70 characters when it displays page titles in search results. A title over 70 characters gets chopped off mid title which could decrease the chances of someone clicking it. I’m told that other search engines cut off titles at as little as 65 characters so perhaps that is a better cut off point.

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