500 million tweets are sent out a day by more than 300 million active Twitter users.
That’s a lot of tweeting.
Part of Twitter’s appeal lies in how effective and concise it is. Twitter bios are 160 characters, maximum, and tweets are 140 characters, maximum. When it comes to your bio, you definitely want to take full advantage of the space you’re given (use it up, optimize it with hashtags, and make sure it has a great image for the profile picture!) but in individual tweets, we’ve found that shorter than 140 characters is actually better! Studying the data reveals that top tweets average around 70 characters (with spaces) and include images and links.
Of course, the length of the tweet isn’t all that matters—although Twitter favors brevity, and by that we don’t mean the kind of artificial and hard-to-read forced brevity that’s simply the result of idiosyncratic abbreviations and an alphabet soup of insider acronyms. Those kinds of tweets are off-putting and hard to read. Something like “The worst mistake college applicants make” is short, to the point, and attention-grabbing. Coupled with strategic hashtags, appropriate images, and links, these are often the most effective kinds of tweets.
As with every social media platform, on Twitter you should strive to understand your communications strategy as entering an existing conversation. “Listen and observe” is advice that Twitter itself gives to business users. By using search.twitter.com, you will be able to find comparable institutions and people, and keep your finger on the pulse of conversations on Twitter that are relevant to your own work. It’s much easier to jump into a conversation when you’ve been listening for a little while! Notice what tweets get a lot of likes and retweets and responses, and go and try likewise with your own followers.
Speaking of followers, it’s a good idea to follow influencers in your field and thought leaders in related fields and demographics. You’ll want to engage what they have to say about college marketing, student recruitment, the college application process—whether that’s to agree, disagree, or add something to the conversation—in order to be ‘seen’ on Twitter. When you’ve engaged people well, they are likely to return the favor.
Remember, no platform should be used as a bully pulpit. Twitter offers the 80/20 principle: eighty percent of your Twitter time investment should focus on interaction with your followers: retweeting them, replying to their tweets, favoriting their tweets, tweeting things that are fun, interesting, useful and engaging, with hashtags and images. The remaining twenty percent of your Twitter use can focus on promotion— that is, on getting your followers to take a particular action: clicking a link, sharing a post, contacting a representative. These kinds of call-to-action tweets should also be engaging, of course, but are best made clearly, concisely, with a sense of time-urgency and without a lot of extra fuss about hashtags and images.
By mixing it up, you avoid the impression that you’re a pushy salesperson—which will only lose you followers.
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