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A Secret to Writing Posts that Go Viral on Twitter

Posted By Darren Rowse 20th of February 2009 Social Media, Writing Content 0 Comments

There are many reasons that a blog post might get spread widely through ‘ReTweets’ (when one person passes on the tweet of another) but one fairly obvious, yet often overlooked one, has to do with the length of your blog post title.

Yesterday on TwiTip I published a post with a formula for getting ReTweeted on twitter. You can read the full thing for yourself but the author of the post (@louisedoherty) proposed that to increase the chances of one of your tweets being ReTweeted that you need to keep your own tweet shorter than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter so that the person can include other information (your username, the @ symbol and the letters RT).

I’ve seen the wisdom of theory of Louise many times in my own use of Twitter. If I tweet something that is the maximum of 140 characters it make it more tricky for followers to retweet – they either have to change my tweet or don’t do it.

OK – so this applies to bloggers how?

Twitter can send you a lot of traffic if a link to one of your posts gets spread around via ReTweeting. Just look at the Top 100 Retweeted Links on Twitter at the moment – as I write this the top one has been passed on 331 times which means it is a link that could have been viewed on Twitter by many thousands of people.

To help the ReTweet thing along a little keep your titles short. They don’t need to be 3 words long – but keep in mind that when someone is going to tweet a link to your post that they will usually include:

1. The title of your post

2. A URL (often shortened using tinyurl or some other shortening service which means it’ll be anything from 20 to 26 characters)

They may also want to include a comment about your link.

That’s not all you want to think about – you then should consider that for the link to be ReTweeted it will include all of the above information plus:

1. The username of the person being retweeted with the @ symbol (usually 5-12 characters)

2. The letters RT and sometimes a : as well as a space after it (3-4 characters)

You can see that the number of characters is starting to add up so shorter Titles can definitely help.

Lets workshop it:

  • The title of this post is ‘A Secret to Writing Posts that Go Viral on Twitter ‘ – that’s 52 characters (with space at end)
  • Lets say that the URL is shortened with Twurl – that’s 22 characters
  • Lets say that the person tweeting it adds the words ‘Reading: ‘ at the start of the tweet (9 characters with space) and ‘ – cool post’ at the end (12 characters with spaces).

So far the original tweet is 95 characters long.

And would look like: ‘Reading: A Secret to Writing Posts that Go Viral on Twitter http://twurl.nl/qejpzq – Cool Post’

Lets just say it was @chrisbrogan who made the above tweet. As Chris has a lot of great followers at least one of them is bound to retweet it.

At the very least their retweet would read:

‘RT: @chrisbrogan Reading: A Secret to Writing Posts that Go Viral on Twitter http://twurl.nl/qejpzq – Cool Post’

We’re still under the limit of 140 and with 29 characters to spare could have added a few words to our title.

This is not something that I would spend a lot of time on and I would not compromise my titles too much to get them down in character length – however as someone who has seen significant traffic from Twitter over the last 6 months it is definitely a factor that I keep in the back of my mind as I blog.

PS: another reason to keep titles down in length is that Google has a cut off of 70 characters when it displays page titles in search results. A title over 70 characters gets chopped off mid title which could decrease the chances of someone clicking it. I’m told that other search engines cut off titles at as little as 65 characters so perhaps that is a better cut off point.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Good points on retweets, I have always wondered this when some of my posts have been retwittered on twitter. Also a great point about google..

  2. That’s an excellent reminder about Google. Longer titles, of course, allow for a more targeted audience, however, there is a compromise as you point out.

  3. Good points. And for content – I guess the topic ranges, depending what followers you have. I have a Thailand group and a personal development group so if I write something I want retweeted I should target one or both of those groups. Otherwise, fat chance.

    Or, hit them with something universal. Comedy photos and videos is sometimes good for that. Sometimes my humor doesn’t really generalize to anyone else though. :(

    I think I’ve been retweeted about 6 times in 3 weeks. Not stellar by anyone’s yardstick – but, working on it. Great post…

  4. So a short tweet is best for re-tweet. Hmmm short and sweet seems to work in the Twitter world.

  5. I’m already addicted to twitter, and haven’t been using it that long. when shortening links I use the twitfox as my “platform” (it’s free) and also the (free/theoretically someday money-making) service at adjix.

  6. Its the little things that count. Thanks for sharing. Good stuff…

  7. This never occurred to me, now all I need is people to ReTweet!

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