The Secret Formula for the Perfect 280 Character Recipe on Twitter

By: Kathleen Procek, communications coordinator

Much like grandma’s homemade apple pie, there’s typically one recipe that stands out above the rest. A winning one can be found in many different aspects of life; sometimes they’re recipes, other times they’re algorithms, or formulas that do the trick. Social media platforms have their own formulas for finding success.

New Character Limit
Late in 2017, Twitter changed its character limit from 140 to 280, prompting many to wonder why the social media giant changed its tune. At first, the new limit was exclusive to a select number of accounts, but it has since taken up more permanent residence on the platform known for its cheerful blue bird. While many think the new character limit signifies more freedom to express, best practices for how to use it have not changed. These best practices make for the perfect recipe for Twitter success.

1 cup clarity
1 tablespoon concise wording
1 pinch conversation and 1 dash friendly tone
1 heaping teaspoon visual imagery
¼ cup engagement
½ cup quality content
Sprinkling of hashtags, to taste

1 cup clarity
When you only have 280 characters to work with, you can’t afford to mess around with wording. Clarity is critical to the success of a tweet because tweets need to capture and retain attention. As soon as any type of message begins to be unclear, your audience loses interest. When a message is simple and clear, it’s easily understood and appealing to the masses. Especially with Twitter being a rapidly-updating, real-time platform, tweets need to instantly catch your reader’s attention. If a tweet is too difficult to understand, the user will move on to the next one.  

1 tablespoon concise wording
Tweets are short by nature. However, doubling the character count to 280 allows a lot more expression than 140, but that doesn’t mean that all the space should be used. Avoid using longer words just because you have the flexibility to do so. Remember how frustrating it can be to read old English? Don’t be the person that pulls out your SAT vocabulary list because you can. Remember, no one likes a rambler. Get to the point in your tweet.  

1 pinch conversation and 1 dash friendly tone
Twitter is a rapidly-updating, real-time platform. As a result, it’s structured like a conversation. So participate in it! A conversation is great, but it needs to be engaging. One of the best things to do on Twitter is make sure your tweets have a friendly tone. I don’t want to talk to someone who is boring and has no personality, and I’m sure you don’t either. The same rules apply on Twitter.

1 heaping teaspoon visual imagery
Ok, admit it, everyone likes pretty pictures. Visual elements catch people’s attention and instantly make any post more appealing. Twitter is one of those social media platforms that’s inherently text-based, but why not catch more attention by including a photo? We do.

¼ cup engagement
Engagement is critical to Twitter success. While most think the engagement comes after the initial posting, engagement can be embedded within the preliminary message. Writing “Wow! We aren’t sure what to think of this, how about you?” is one example of a message that invokes engagement from the start. When you engage with users, you can build relationships and work to create a loyal following. A rule of thumb for Twitter: people go to social media for an informal, online place to engage in conversation – be the one who starts that conversation.

½ cup quality content
Quality is key. You could write the longest book ever or give a million speeches, but if they have no relevance or are not interesting, no one’s going to pay attention. This may seem like a “well, duh” point, but it’s true and more people are guilty of this than you may think. If your content stands out, that’s great, but another way to stand out is with your tone (i.e. sass, sarcasm, wit, humor). Comical accounts take the cake – people love them, but brands that participate in good-spirited banter also deserve a slice. Some of my favorites: Wendy’s, Oreo and Kit Kat.

Sprinkling of hashtags, to taste
You’ve undoubtedly seen #TBT, #FlashbackFriday and other hashtags. Maybe you pay attention to them, maybe you don’t, but you should. A hashtag lets you tag a topic, place, trend or just about anything else. Users can click on the hashtag and be taken to any post that has used the same hashtag. Hashtags are important because they enable a tweet to gain more traction and followers. Not to mention, coming up with hashtags can be fun. On top of it all, creative hashtags can earn you brownie points from your followers – and who doesn’t like brownies?

Baking Directions
Just as with grandma’s apple pie, it doesn’t taste very good until all the ingredients are mixed together and baked at the right temperature. For Twitter, all of these elements should be mixed and posted (baked) with patience. Success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes practice and patience, but with every tweet you create, you’ll be well on your way to Twitter success.