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Tweets – The Mayflies of Social Media Posts

Gary Smith Social Media Leave a Comment

The primitive aquatic insect known as the mayfly have been renowned throughout history for their brief life-cycle of around 24 hours. Philosophers and poets alike have noted on this brief lifespan and comparisons have been drawn between it and everything from newspapers to the relationship between Heaven and Earth.

I hope that you forgive this brief entomological introduction, but a new metaphor related to the lifespan of the hapless mayfly if now entering the lexicon – Tweets.

A Twitter account with 1,000 followers can expect their tweets to have an approximate lifespan of around 18-20 minutes. This means that if you are going to get favourited or retweeted then you have just shy of half an hour before it disappears from view. There are exceptions of course and some tweets go viral and stay in the public consciousness for a significant amount of time – however these rare birds are far from the rule.

This leads to the assessment that Twitter is network of high volume and low traffic and its rating as one of the most competitive of all of the social networks.

Retweets are the key to extending this lifespan. Your tweet may get seen by your 1,000 followers before it evaporates, but if another Twitterer retweets it to their 1,000 followers, well then your post just gained another 20 minute stay of execution.

So, it is retweets (and @replies) that we are looking for, but how to get them? What are the ways in which we can craft of 140 characters or less to ensure maximum engagement?

Well, fear not, intrepid reader, as we present our guide to making sure that your little social mayflies are hitting the mark and giving themselves the very best chance of cheating death – at least for another 20 minutes.

Story Telling

People love a good story. They draw us in and take us on a journey to faraway places – both temporally and spatially. If your business has reached an important milestone, then you can use Twitter to tell people about it and link to a larger article about it. Be sure to include an image and a call to action to further your chances of catching people’s attention.

Know your Audience

marketing audience

As with much of social media (and of course marketing in general), knowing and catering to your audience is a key component of maximising your impact. If your business is mass market and aimed at the general public then you want be using a more friendly and personable style of communication. However, if you are catering to professionals and businesses, then they might appreciate a more direct and straightforward tone.

Create a buyer persona to help you to identify the sorts of people that you want to be targeting and speak in a manner that befits them. There is no hard and fast rule however, so experiment a little to find a good fit.

Know Thyself

It is not only important to communicate in a style that befits your audience, but also in a manner that befits yourself. To achieve this your posts should make it clear to your audience what your ethos and opinions are.

By remaining consistent and true to yourself, you are more likely to attract likeminded people to follow your Twitter feed. Because they are people who share your views, they are more likely to engage with the things that you post.

Use Effective Calls to Action

Research by Twitter themselves looked at the ways in which different calls to action affected the level of engagement that over 20,000 tweets received when compared to their call free kin.

The most effective calls to action involved asking users to download something. People love a freebie, so by linking to a free app or PDF etc. can be a great incentive to get them engaging with your posts.

A retweet request was the second most popular. You can run contests or sweepstakes to incentivise these or use brand affiliation to encourage users to retweet.

Also consider using the full word “retweet” rather than the more popular “RT” as this has been shown to make a difference when it comes to engagement. Obviously this won’t always be possible thanks to Twitter’s strict 140 character limit, but do it as often as you can.

Calls to follow are also effective. Make sure that you include some of the benefits of following when asking users to so. Draw attention to daily competitions or free content etc. to make sure that people understand that they have something to gain by hitting that follow button.

Resurrect Your Tweets

zombie tweets

It is incredibly unlikely that all of your followers are going to be online every time that you post a new tweet. Invoke a little necromancy to your little mayflies by sharing the same tweet multiple times.

This should not be interpreted as constantly spamming the same post over and over again. Instead consider posting each tweet maybe two of three times over a couple of days. There are tons of scheduling tools out there that will make this process more or less automatic, so there is really no excuse.

Use Images

This point has become more or less moot by this juncture in time I hope? People respond well to images… brain processes them faster… more likely to share etc. etc. Use images to get your message across and add some text – meme style – to help to hammer it home.

Use Numbers

Not just any numbers you understand, but statistics. If you are trying to make a case for something then using statistics is a great way of lending credibility to your argument.

Point out percentages (90% of people love our product), ratios (9/10 cats prefer…) or other statistics are a great way of persuading people of the benefits of your brand and to increase your authority on a topic.

Use Quotes

quotes on twitter

Leverage the legendarily short attention spans of internet users by distilling content down to a catchy or inspiring quote. As I’m sure a quick glance at your Facebook feed will tell you – people love to share quotes. And one share could lead to many more, which increases the chances of people linking back to your pages and engaging with your content on a deeper level.

Use Influencers

Identify and engage with key influencers in your field and your tweets will have a lot more potential for stardom.

Influencers will more than likely have access to many more followers than you do and buy building a relationship with them, you may be able to leverage this to increase the reach of your tweets.

Write a blog article about them or reference their ideas in an article and give credit. Include them on a ‘Top Five Influencers’ type article and send it to them. We all have egos and they all enjoy a little massaging. You don’t want to come across as sycophantic, but do things right and you can build a relationship that will pay dividends in the long run.

And always thank them whenever they share something of yours.

There you have our guide on trying to help your tweets to avoid the same fate as our poor little mayflies. Anything you can do to optimise or extend that 20 minute window of exposure that your tweets have is time well spent. With a little practice and by following some of the tips that we have laid out here, your tweets should see an increase in engagement that will keep existing followers coming back and draw new ones in.

Please let us know if you have any top tips for maximising the potential of your tweets – or even if you know something else interesting about insects.

Have fun.

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Gary’s academic background is in psychology and research, but he has always been drawn to the world of technology. From games consoles to smartphones, he finds himself drawn to most things with a microchip. Never missing an opportunity to stick the boot into shady practices and pseudoscience, Gary understands that tough love is often the most sincere form that there is

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