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Updated 18 Mar 2016

Attention Grabbing Tweets

What makes a tweet appealing? How can you leverage what you know about human nature and twitter to craft tweets that grab the attention of followers and strangers alike? There's no magic formula for excellent tweeting, but there are some best practices and methods that you can use to ensure that your twitter feed is as high-quality and attention grabbing as possible. Let's discuss what makes a high-quality tweet in general terms.

Unique

A great tweet tells potential followers why following you in particular would be worth their while. What thoughts, perspectives and content can you offer that almost no one else can? What is your voice, your quirks, and your personality? This question should always be on your mind when crafting tweets.

screenshot of Louis Tomlinson tweet

Relevant

Whatever your areas of expertise, your tweets should reflect your interests and the interests of your followers, but don't be afraid to stray outside your comfort zone from time to time. People who follow basketball players expect to see some tweets about basketball, as well as have a small glimpse into the player's personal life. Give the people what they want.

screenshot of Ellen DeGeneres tweet

Quality

Do yourself a favor and avoid tweets that are written like the texts of a 12-year-old from 2004. Twitter's 140 character limit can be restrictive, but use this as an opportunity to improve the conciseness of your tweets, not an opportunity to see how many abbreviations you can cram into one tweet. This poignant tweet from Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek's Spock) just before he passed away shows how much you can get across in one short tweet.

screenshot of Leonard Nimoy tweet

Headlines

Headline writers have spent decades refining the art of writing eye-catching headlines. It started in print and has well and truly moved over to digital. It has unfortuantely also created a new problem called clickbait, where every article headline promises to "reveal the shocking top 10 amazing secrets that the experts don't want you to know".
Please don't become part of the problem by writing tweets that can't possibly deliver what they promise just to get people to click them. But do give some thought to writing better headlines in your tweets. Use power words, keep it short, and try using a tool like Headline Analyzer to test ideas.

screenshot of copyblogger tweet

Images

Ever since twitter added the option to attach images to tweets, tweets featuring pictures have been showing strong engagement whenever they're used. In fact, tweets featuring images have overall been shown to receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and an amazing 150% more retweets than those without them.

screenshot of Obama hug tweet

Obviously overdoing it won't lead to the results you're craving, but nothing grabs attention more immediately than a great image. So, what makes a great image?
  • Visually appealing: This should go without saying, but your pictures should be nice to look at.
  • High-quality: Please don't tweet low-resolution pictures thinking it will lead to higher engagement. Nothing screams I'm-new-to-the-internet than sharing low-res photos. The only exception is if the image itself is central to the dialogue.
  • Relevant: Your images should relate in some way to the tweet they're paired with. If you need to use stock images then make sure they apply in some way.
  • Straightforward: Busy, distracting images with lots of elements can be frustrating and unappealing to the eye, leading users to keep on scrolling by. Avoid overly packed pictures with lots of visual details in favor of those with a simple, straightforward narrative and a limited amount of compositional subjects.

When selecting images for a tweets, relevance and interest are key - the image should relate to the tweet itself in a way that's easy to follow and not manipulative. Also, clean and professional images are the most effective.

Stock Images
Most people have cottoned on to the fact that adding an image to a tweet boosts engagement, which means that stock images are often the quickest and easiest way to accomplish this. Custom images will of course be more original, but if you do not have the means to obtain them then use high quality stock images instead. Be wary of using images that might have 'done the rounds' already, and work extra hard to make sure that the stock image actually relates to the topic of the tweet. I like to use Pexels to find them and Canva to customize them.


Text Image

Another potent mix is an image that features words as part of the image. These are used most often with quotes and headlines, and work very well over solid color backgrounds.

screenshot of text image tweet

For a variety of reasons, these kinds of images have been shown to be extremely effective in grabbing attention, with one caveat - an image over packed with words is visually ugly and will turn off potential followers.

Animated GIFs

For the uninitiated, GIF stands for graphics interchange format. But you don't need to know that - all you need to know is that GIFs are those animated, constantly looping files you see popping up all over the internet. And in case you haven't noticed, animated GIFs make for shareable tweets.

animated gif of photocopier

Their short and looped nature makes them easily accessible when scrolling through a news feed, and the fact that they're animated allows for more content than a simple image. That being said, not all GIFs are created equal. Some subjects aren't made more interesting simply by animating them. Go with interesting, funny, or exciting GIFs.

Memes

Internet memes are usually pieces of media or activities that are mass-replicated online. The media usually shows a scene or activity, and the act of reproducing it usually has a creative and humorous slant. It might involve people trying to depict something that someone else did, or editing a picture to mimic an idea. Remember the Harlem Shake, and planking?

screenshot of mcdonalds planking tweet

Charts

I love chart tweets. There is nothing better than getting a titbit of useful data backed up with good looking chart. Whether it's about social media, or declining algae levels in sub-tropical oceans, I can't help but study the chart for a few seconds. If you find a great chart online then take a screenshot and share it with a link back to article.

screenshot of cool chart tweet

Infographics

Users love informative and interesting infographics. If you'd like to use an infographic as part of a tweet, make sure you have the proper rights to its use - usually a link to the original will suffice. With twitter providing the ability to expand an image you can fit small infographics entirely into one tweet now.

screenshot of infographic tweet

Videos

In addition to photo sharing, twitter also allows you to embed videos that will autoplay as users scroll past them on their news feeds. This is a powerful attention-grabbing tactic, as a video that immediately starts can often stop a quick-scroller in their tracks out of pure curiosity about where the video is headed.

screenshot of video tweet

Choose videos that are interesting, relevant to your followers and to-the-point. The most sharable videos are short and interesting from start to finish. Videos featuring a great deal of waiting for a comparatively short payoff will usually lose the interest of anyone who might have begun to invest their time to watch it.

Polls

Twitter Polls are a newish feature, offering a built-in mechanism for you to create multiple-choice questions which your followers can vote on and then immediately see the results of. These polls are excellent for increasing engagement, as users not only want to make their opinions known but also see where everyone else stands. When creating a poll, aim for subject matter that's engaging, relevant to your area of interest or field, and timely.

screenshot of poll tweet

Also remember that running polls is all about gauging opinions and activating passion in those opinions. Stay away from extremely controversial topics, but look for poll subjects that people will feel strongly about. When creating a poll, twitter will offer the option of selecting how long you would like it to last and what the question and answer will be. As with all tweets, proofread everything you write to ensure that you're coming across as professional in each and every post.

Quotes

There are few tweets more shareable than those featuring a great quote. Properly attributed quotes by well-known and respected authors offer multiple angles for engagement - those who simply read the quote and are inspired by it and want to share it with their followers, and those who recognize and adore the author and will engage with any tweet featuring their name or likeness.

screenshot of quote tweet

This brings up another point - combining tweets featuring quotes with an image of the speaker is a potent combo for an attention-grabbing tweet. Just remember to always attribute quotes to their proper sources, and if the source has their own twitter account be sure to link back to it as well.

Humor

One of the purest uses of twitter is the ability to share and enjoy humor in all of its forms. Users love to find humor on their feeds, and if you can consistently deliver tweets that are consistently funny, you'll be rewarded with loyal followers who will share your content. The nature of humor is such that many individuals define much of their personality by it. You can use this to your advantage, as your funny tweets will leave users wanting to retweet them to their own news feed to give their own followers a sense of their humor and personality.

screenshot of homur tweet

Don't be afraid to be edgy if your target audience will appreciate that approach, but it goes without saying that offensive material has no place on your timeline and will only serve to alienate potential followers. When displaying your own sense of humor, try to find your own unique voice. Generic jokes might initially seem like a good idea, but you may find that you actually turn off users who feel it's tacky.

Announcements

If you ever host a twitter chat or run a contest then you will need to send out an announcement tweet. If these are designed well then they can stop a scroller dead in their tracks while they try and absorb the info in the tweet. They are also very shareable if the reader thinks that their followers will be interested in it.

screenshot of announcement tweet

Questions

These can be used as part of a twitter chat or in your day to day tweeting. They can work especially well if combined with an image, and they are very good at eliciting a response from your followers.

screenshot of question tweet

Summary

Obviously the variety of potential tweets in your arsenal is endless, but hopefully this has provided you with a strong foundation to begin crafting your tweets. Remember that what makes you unique will also make your tweets interesting and worthwhile - don't get too caught up in following the crowd and find your own voice that will make your feed a sought-after and one-of-a-kind destination.
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