If you’ve ever wondered what makes something go viral, hopefully this blog post will uncover some of these hidden characteristics. Last Friday, viral scientist and author of The Social Media Marketing Book, Dan Zarrella, gave a webinar on The Science of ReTweets. He collected over 100,000,000 retweets and observed almost every element possible within its 140 characters. He looked at everything from word choice to punctuation to the time of day – all in his quest to discover what makes something “retweetable.” In the end, he came up with a collection of tips and tricks to make your tweets go viral.
1. Use the most retweetable words
Of the millions of tweets in his database, Zarrella identified 20 words or phrases that are more retweeted than others. These include (in order): ‘you,’ ‘twitter,’ ‘please,’ ‘retweets,’ ‘post,’ ‘blog,’ ‘social,’ ‘free,’ ‘media,’ ‘help,’ ‘please retweet,’ ‘great,’ ‘social media,’ ‘10,’ ‘follow,’ ‘how to,’ ‘top,’ ‘blog post,’ ‘check out,’ and ‘new blog post.’
While it’s unsurprising that the most retweeted words are those relating to Twitter or social media, it’s interesting to see that the phrase “top 10” makes the top 20. Zarrella explained that people, on average, like to see “chunked content” or readings that are easy to skim and digest. Seeing words such as “top 10” or even “how to” are signals to people that the link is easily readable and, therefore, sharable.
2. Avoid the least retweetable words
Here’s some words you should probably avoid using in your next tweet (also in order): ‘game,’ ‘going,’ ‘haha,’ ‘lol,’ ‘but,’ ‘watching,’ ‘work,’ ‘home,’ ‘night,’ ‘bed,’ ‘well,’ ‘sleep,’ ‘gonna,’ ‘hey,’ ‘tomorrow,’ ‘tired,’ ‘some,’ ‘back,’ ‘bored,’ and ‘listening.’ In other words, don’t be boring! Ask someone why they’re not on Twitter and you might hear: “why would I want to know when you’re eating breakfast?” Well now there’s proof of the unattractiveness of these status updates.
3. Include a link in your tweet
It’s hard for something newsworthy and sharable to be self-contained within only 140 characters. That’s why the most retweetable tweets include a link to something interesting. Also, the use of URL shorteners (especially bit.ly) leaves enough room in the tweet for others to add a short comment. Don’t miss this opportunity. Link to the story and keep it short!
4. Tweet the news
Another unsurprising tip, but important nonetheless. Breaking news, in particular, is one of the most sharable types of content. And again, guess what’s not sharable: small talk.
5. Use longer and more unique words
The average tweet has about 1.58 syllables per word, while retweets have 1.62 syllables. Also, retweets often contain words that are uncommon in average tweets. In other words, be unique and interesting in your choice of words and you’ll be the social butterfly of the Twitter Party.
6. Use colons, not semicolons.
In general, Zarrella proved that tweets with more punctuation are more retweetable. While you would think that the opposite would be true given the focus on rationing your characters, it turns out proper punctuation is a more attractive characteristic. And the use of colons makes for great “Headline: Sub-headline” news stories. Semicolons, interestingly, actually make it less likely for you to be retweeted—perhaps given the ambiguous nature of when to use it properly.
7. Write entertainment tweets for women, opinion tweets for men.
This tip is actually more dependent on your particular audience. But if you’re unsure what kind of content your followers would be willing to share and you skew a particular gender, use this rule of thumb.
8. Avoid the self-reference
Even though Twitter previously asked its users to share “What’s on your mind,” it turns out that the self-referential tweets are the least retweetable. In fact, this goes for every sensory experience that just involves you. Instead, your tweets should focus on social experiences, focusing more on “we” instead of “me”
9. Time your tweet for Friday 4-5pm EST
Like every good comedian knows, timing is everything. And it’s no different in the world of twitter. Zarrella identified that people are more likely to share another tweet on a Friday and anytime from late afternoon to evening. But the sweet spot is definitely from 4-5pm EST.
10. Ask for it!
They always say the simplest solution is the correct one, but on Twitter this is especially true. Adding “please retweet” to your next tweet makes it 5x more likely to be retweeted! (Just remember to use this tip sparingly since it can become a bit annoying).
So Why Should I Care About Retweets?
It may seem a bit geeky to focus so much attention on just one of Twitter’s features, but in reality, learning to craft better tweets can have a great impact on your bottom line. The more your message is retweeted, the more other followers will notice you. And the more followers you gain, the more traffic you can convert on your website! Even more, learning the rules to go viral on Twitter can help shed light on other ways to make your other content more viral. So with that said, I’d like to craft the perfect tweet given our tips on retweets:
“Please Retweet: Top 10 Ways to Write Retweetable Tweets on Twitter!”