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DigitalJournal.com Tip #40: How to make a news tweet popular

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By David Silverberg
Posted Jun 14, 2012 in Internet
If you're on Twitter, you know how great it is when one of your tweets is retweeted several times. It's as if your advice to someone was passed along to others by word-of-mouth, giving you a sense of pride that you offered the world something worthwhile, something interesting.
But how do you get your tweets about the latest news to spread across the social network? This blog post will offer some advice on how to best write tweets your audience will want to share.
According to a new study from UCLA and Hewlett-Packard’s HP Labs, four factors would determine an article’s social success (they studied news outlets mainly): the source that creates and publishes the article, the category of news the article belongs to (technology, health, sports), whether the language in the article was emotional or objective, and whether celebrities, famous brands or other notable institutions are cited in the tweet.
They discovered tweets about technology were retweeted the most often, no surprise if you recognize how Twitter is full of people looking news on the next gadget or website. Health headlines came second, and then lighter more fun tweets placed third.
For me, the big takeaway was language: the study recommends writing tweets in clear objective language. Clarity is valued over SCREAMING and extreme emotional language. It might be tempting to go all OMG over a tweet about breaking news, but readers aren't attracted to those embellishments.
At least when it comes to news, "trust is actually much more important than emotion. Shareability is largely a function of reliability," the report adds. So the source is often a key factor for your audience; are you reliable, are you a "brand" that often reports truthful objective statements?
For a feed like @NYTimes, it's easier for them to establish trust with their followers. But your own feed, from a regular ol' human, requires more time to get that trust from readers, so your tweets should reflect your voice: if you're sarcastic in your tweets about news, let that come through and be consistent. But if you're pretty straight-forward about your tweets, then be clear and objective; readers appreciate that approach and will retweet your messages if they find the news interesting.
My other small piece of advice, if you tweet headlines: It's OK to add how you think about a certain story, but make sure your tweet is well under 140 characters, because if I want to retweet it, I want to share it without cutting off any of your words. I've had the problem of wanting to RT a 130-word tweet with my own statement, but I couldn't because the original tweet couldn't be included in its entirety.
So what other tips do you have for Twitter users? Feel free to share your advice in the comment section below?

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