Anatomy Of A Successful Tweet

Charles Bell: Anatomy of the Brain, c. 1802
Image by brain_blogger via Flickr

Leo Dirr is a freelance writer. Follow him @UtahNewsGuy.

When I began using Twitter a short time ago, I had no idea how much strategy could be involved in a simple tweet. You only get 140 characters, for crying out loud. How much thought could go into that, honestly?

A lot. And once I started to figure that out, my tweets got a lot more traction. I’d like to tell you about my most successful tweet to date and the strategy behind it.

Let’s begin with the tweet itself:

Will newspapers survive? Interviews with @typeamom, @pgillin, @standardex, @atompkins, @pottsmark #journchat

Pretty sweet, huh? Now, let’s break it down:

Headline: Will newspapers survive?

That’s a decent headline because it conveys the story’s meaning in a small amount of space. It leaves me enough characters to accomplish my other goals.

Retweet bait: Interviews with @typeamom, @pgillin, @standardex, @atompkins, @pottsmark

In this story about the newspaper industry, I interviewed several industry experts. Many of them have Twitter accounts. How convenient! So, I included their Twitter handles in the tweet.

This improves the odds of three things:

1. The people named in the tweet will read the tweet.
2. The people named in the tweet will retweet it to their followers.
3. Their followers will read the tweet and possibly retweet it.


The link is essential if you want anybody to read the content on your blog or web site. But it’s also worth noting that I used a tiny url. Tastes great, less filling.

Hashtag: #journchat

I added that hashtag mostly for fun. It accomplishes two things, really.

1. It might help the tweet get found by somebody who does a search specifically for that hashtag.

2. It helps define the Twitter community the tweet belongs to. People interested in journalism-related discussions might be more inclined to pay attention to a tweet marked #journchat.

Or they might not.

But again, this was my most successful tweet yet.

Strategery! That’s just fun to say.


  • April 10, 2009

    Thank you! I have just started learning about how hash tags work, so this article is very useful.


  • April 10, 2009

    How did you measure your success? Link presses, how many? Compared to other tweets?

  • April 10, 2009

    I once read an article that the most talked about things on is about twitter.

  • April 10, 2009

    good to put some thought into a tweet especially for strategic purposes, never thought of it being that structured.
    I have been applying those parts of the structure a lot of the time just not the hashtag so much or in that order.
    interesting indeed.

  • April 10, 2009

    Just curious. How did you measure results? By tracking clickthroughs on your site or did you use another measurement tool?

  • April 10, 2009


    I’m definitely no expert on structure. I’m not sure if I formatted this tweet in the “right” order. I did what I felt made sense.

    I think hashtags are HUGE and are only getting HUGER as more people become aware of their usefulness for categorizing tweets by relevancy.


  • April 10, 2009

    I’ve been thinking about using hashtags more often in my tweets. I suppose that they make sense for some topics more than others.

    These and the @replies will help bring more focused attention to your tweet. I find that having a link is not really something that makes a tweet stand out and the headline is only good if something grabs the reader’s attention enough that they’ll see it.

    I wrote a series of articles on What I Hate About Twitter and this is one of the topics that I am struggling with. This post is helpful in answering some of the questions on being heard.

  • April 10, 2009

    How did you determine it was your most successful tweet?

  • April 10, 2009

    Great article, it made me stop and think about all the “throw away” Tweets that i have posted. I have one question: how do you know it’s your most popular Tweet? Are you judging it by web page hits or is there some tracking device I am not aware of? Thanks for your article and your advice!

  • April 10, 2009

    You’re right. There’s an art to writing a punchy 140-character post; it’s almost copywriting.
    And I like the namechecking, but eats up valuable characters. Clearly works though…

  • April 10, 2009

    Always be linking!!

    The more people you talk about, the more you put your name out in front of people and the more chances they have of checking out your content and following you!

  • April 10, 2009

    hello again, friends.

    Lots of people want to know how I deemed it my most successful tweet.

    Two Factors:

    1. Google Analytics: Of all the stories I’ve promoted on Twitter, this story got the most traffic directly from Twitter.

    2. Advanced Twitter Search: By typing in the exact phrase of my tweet, I could clearly see how this post spread from one twitterer to the next. It was the most retweeted thing I’d ever done, until now. (This TwiTip post is blowing it away.)

    Incidentally, Advanced Twitter Search is also good for helping you define which communities your posts naturally belong to.

    Hope that answers your questions. Keep asking them.

    And please, follow me on Twitter. I’d like to connect with others who care.


  • April 10, 2009

    Good advice. I think it helps people to know what they are clicking on when you share a link. I started a new hashtag #getmikeajob to better track the velocity of my tweets. Thanks for the great post!

  • April 10, 2009

    Have to admit, I like this post but I don’t think it’s appropriate to misuse a hashtag just to get other people to read your content. It’s ok to tag it, but you don’t want to abuse or mislead communities formed around terms like #tcot or #journchat

  • April 10, 2009


    Brandon, thanks for your comment. I appreciate you pointing that out.

    If I misused the hashtag, that was simply a mistake and a misunderstanding on my part. I’m definitely not a pro at this yet. I’m learning my way through things.

    I noticed that people who used #journchat tended to discuss journalism-related topics. So, I thought the tag would apply.

    I would never knowingly advocate that anybody do anything misleading to attract eyeballs.

    Thanks again for your insight.


  • April 10, 2009

    Interestingly, I saw this tweet when you tweeted it then I saw it again …and again as it spread in the twitterverse. The “title” was intriguing and the topic was very relevant–another key to a tweet that goes viral. Congrats!

  • April 10, 2009

    Nice post.

    I’ve found that “TwitPic” links tend to gather a lot of attention as well. Last Saturday I posted a pic of my 10-year-old daughter at softball practice. The next week in school, one of her classmates told her that he saw her picture “on the internet”. His dad is one of my followers.

    Sometimes I’ll post a pic, stating that it’s “where I am right now” and I’ll click through to it a minute later and find that there were already 30 people who viewed it (and I don’t have a ton of followers).

    Picture links work!

  • April 10, 2009

    Nice job explaining how you crafted the Tweet and how it became successful.

    One question for you, what about answering The Question?

    Yes, I’m talking about the one that asks: What are you doing?

    While not always successful, I find it challenging to try and figure out how to say what I

    want, while still answering The Question. It takes some creativity but after awhile it

    becomes a sport in itself.

    In your Tweet dissected above, adding “Writing..”, “Thinking…” or “Asking…” would have

    answered The Question. And, by using

    (instead of it would fit too!

  • April 10, 2009
  • April 10, 2009

    Yeah… I have seen that the most popular tweets are about Twitter!

  • April 10, 2009

    Brilliant. Twitter really forces you to think. I once read that constraints increase chances of innovation (in students).

    I have one question about hash tag – Would #journalism be a better one? Was it the space constraint?

    I like these meta-Tweet discussions. I have already retweeted it, of course :)

  • April 10, 2009

    Nice analysis of a tweet!

    One suggestion. If the hashtag doesn’t have a specific purpose, leaving it out may give you room for RT – because it must accomodate the @YourName too. One of my Twitter tips is to keep your ‘retweet-worthy’ tweets under 120 characters to allow this.

    All success
    @drmani on Twitter

  • April 10, 2009

    Oh my gosh, guys! You’re going to make me cry. Seriously.

    I can’t believe how much interest you have all shown in this simple, little piece. It’s nothing special. And some have even pointed out, kindly, that there are probably mistakes in it.

    I really appreciate your interest. I consider you all my friends. I hope to get to know you better. So much wisdom, so much camaraderie.

    Thanks a million,


  • April 10, 2009
    Tisa White

    Great post! Lot’s to think about. Right now I’m new, and the link are what it’s all about. I love to browse my twitter stream looking for interesting links. If they pan out, I RT. I’m just starting to very cautiously build a few “relationships.” One thing new twitterers need to understand quickly is that to refer to another twitterer, you need to put and @ in front of their name, and to post a link, you need to use the www in front, unless you’re using one of the shortening services, like tinyurl or

  • April 11, 2009

    Hi Leo, great and simple post at the same time. Your strategy is awesome. Here’s some thoughts about tracking results. You know the Tiny URL that you created. Regardless of the analytics package you use on your blog or web site you can tag a URL with tracking codes that will allow you to see exactly the traction your getting on that specific post, rather then just seeing the overall Twitter traffic – Your “specific” results are completely measurable!

    Example: Suppose for instance that your using Google Analytics… at the end of the URL you could add the following string: “?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=online&utm_campaign=newspaper_survival” Then convert that full string into a tiny URL and in Google Analytics you’d be able to see the exact results in black and white :-) . -t

  • April 11, 2009

    I believe a GREAT tweet is also one that transmits the energy of the person!

    Have you ever read someone’s writing and just been able to pick up on who they are just because of the way they write?

    I don’t know how it works exactly! but I also don’t know how electricity works, but I believe in it!

    If you’ve seen the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, you’ll understand that energy is transmuted through everything….

    …Even electronically!

    “Whoa! Sean, are you nuts? dude, get a life!” — Hey chill out for a second. Suspend disbelief. Go rent yourself the movie What the Bleep Do We Know. It’ll give yourself a complete mind f**k if you’re new to the concepts.

    Trust me, it’ll feel good.

    –Sean Patrick Simpson
    **The Mindset Apprentice**
    Twitter ID @vpsean

  • April 12, 2009

    Hi Leo,

    Interesting write up, but your example fails on very one important aspect, it is 134 characters long. That means there is little space for people retweet your post. Great if you have half a million followers but bad if you need to RT to leverage other networks.

    Furthermore, if anyone is going to RT your tweet, they will have to manually edit it, and most people who have the attention span of 140 characters is not going to bother.


  • April 15, 2009

    Very interesting.
    Obviously this has more success if you are linking it to people who are most relevant and importantly, have a large number of followers themselves.
    Twitter has obviously picked up steam over the recent months, but it will be interesting to see how many of those new users will continue to use it once the honeymoon period is over. You only have to click on any random user and discover that that have joined recently, are following a couple of people and have only made a couple of tweets themselves and then gone quite.
    Still, I’m sure that for every casualty of twitter there will still be a new twitter addict.

  • April 15, 2009

    This is a topic I care particularly. I wrote a post about “conversion” on Twitter last week. Check it out:

  • April 15, 2009

    Than you for the cosul, great.

  • April 20, 2009

    Great tips. I’m in a roundtable discussion blog and this is the PERFECT way to increase our presense on twitter, along with helping to boost each others blog readership by re-tweeting.

  • March 11, 2010

    Interesting spin on the use of twitter. Yeah, you have limited characters and really, you simply need to be creative in conveying your message with the least possible characters.

    Thanks for sharing and I look forward to more “out of the box” analyses!

  • June 17, 2010

    Soon, we’ll find dictionaries with text shortcuts commonly used with tweets and dare I say texting. The world is getting shorter and shorter.

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