You’d think coming up with 140 characters would be easy. Twitter requires us to think differently about how to provide value. In approaching any kind of social media (and you could argue this includes blogging, too), I believe the two winning strategies are to provide value and engage with people. There is no one-size-fits-all tactic to support these strategies, but here’s how I answer the question “what do I tweet about?”
Know what your followers want
I won’t assume that what your followers want are the same things my followers want, but I think it’s safe to say that most people on Twitter want to:
- Get cool links to click on (and distract them from the work they’re supposed to be doing ).
- Get something worth replying to and having a conversation over.
- Get something worth retweeting to their own followers.
- Feel closer to others they like.
In other words, people like to have a good time, have their egos stroked, and be part of a group. If your tweets meet these “Twitter needs”, you’ll grow your followers naturally and accomplish the goals you have for using Twitter (fun, marketing, whatever).
Give your followers what they want
With the above points in mind, here are some ways to do this that really answer the question “What should I tweet about?”
- Share links to cool stuff your followers will like. You’ll know if you’re on the mark because you’ll get positive feedback in the form of replies, retweets, and direct messages. Sometimes these links should be a link to your own posts, but mostly they should be links to other stuff.
- Engage your followers directly: ask questions, throw a statement out there, do something to trigger a conversation. Directly addressing something someone else has tweeted with your own reply is a good way to do this, since the other person is almost sure to reply back to you. Often, tweeting a cool link will do this, but consider tweeting a great quote or an opinionated statement.
- Send direct messages just to say hello or to thank someone who retweeted a tweet of yours. Direct messages bring you closer to your followers. It’s amazing what can be accomplished by simply asking someone how they are.
- Retweet others when they post tweets you like and want to share. The more you help others, the more they help you, so retweet liberally (but not exclusively).
- Use multimedia tools, such as Utterli, TwitPic, or 12 Seconds to bring some variety to your tweets. People love to look at pictures, and short audio clips and videos are not a prohibitive time investment.
Variety is the key
Aim for a good mix of stand-alone tweets, replies, and direct messages. Link to a variety of things (including your own) both on-topic (if you have one) and off-topic. Twitter is a great place where you don’t have to be “on message”. You can relax and be a bit more personable. Too much of any one thing will drive people away, so keep a balance to your mix of tweets.