Tips for creating fresh Twitter content

The naysayers like to point out that no one cares what you ate for breakfast. They’re right. So don’t tweet what you ate for breakfast.

For a lot of people, I guess that kills all their content. They leave and never come back… or never start in the first place.

You can do better than that. You just have to think outside the “What’s going on?” box. Instead of oatmeal, share things that are interesting, entertaining, or insightful.

Content types and patterns

Interesting stuff is like “Did You Know…” content, like facts or figures or startling observations you’ve made. The other day, I tweeted, “In the future, we’ll rely on the Internet the way we rely on language.” To me, that’s interesting, if a little nerdy.

Entertaining content is where you just goof around. I like sharing peculiar observations or twisting quotes to mean something different. For instance, a favorite of mine is the classic, “If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.” More recently, I said that I’m pretty sure I want to name my next pet “Peeve.” Whatever… play on words, play on life, don’t be too serious.

Finally, most insightful tweets fall into my general quote form: live, observe, condense it into a sentence or so. To do that, I like contrasts, so you’ll often see these kinds of tweets from me:

  • “The problem isn’t _____. It’s _______.” For example, “The problem isn’t that we trust and then get burned but that we trust, get burned, and then don’t trust again.”
  • “I’d rather ______ than ______.” Like, “I’d rather be hated than forgotten.”
  • “______ is ______, not _______.” As in, “History is pulled by the extremists, not pushed by the moderates.”

After you do this for a while, your own favorite patterns will show up. Then it gets much easier to write new content on the fly. So pay attention to the patterns to work best for you.

Knowing your character limit

Once you know roughly what you’re trying to say, you need to make sure your tweet isn’t using too many characters. A lot of people see 140 and think that’s how many characters they have to work with. That’s not how I see it.

Remember, if you want people to retweet you, then they have to have enough space left. So you need to figure out how many characters to leave at the end of your tweets. You can find that by adding five to the number of characters in your username. Here’s the logic behind this:

  • 140 is the total number of characters someone can use to retweet you.
  • They’re going to add “RT” in the front plus the @ symbol to your username.
  • And then of course you have the characters in your username, which is why shorter usernames, apart from being easier to remember, are better.
  • Finally, you have to factor in two spaces, (because each count as a character), one between RT and @ and the other between your username and your original tweet.

For me, this means leaving 20 extra characters at the end of each tweet. That makes a big difference in the content I can share, but it also makes a big difference in how much my content can be shared by other people. I strongly suggest paying attention to your limit and working within it.

Tweeting within your limit

Now that you know your limit, the trick is keeping your tweets within that. Here are a few hints:

  • Eliminate useless words. For example, “the car that I need,” is the same as, “the car I need.” This is the biggest trick for condensing into Twitter chucks. It’s also a great way to learn to edit yourself too.
  • Trade for synonyms. “Car,” “van,” or “truck” all work better than “automobile.”
  • Drop the first person pronoun. “Saw a great movie…” works as well as, “I saw a great movie…”
  • Use contractions: can’t, haven’t, she’ll, etc.
  • Use the symbols: At = @, And = &, Carrot = ^ (or not) 🙂
  • If you’re really pressed, To = 2, Be = B, You = U, Are = R, For = 4, What = wut, etc.
  • Ditch punctuation. Commas are overused in normal writing, so you can sometimes ditch them. Since the first letter of each sentence is capitalized, you can drop periods in the middle of a tweet, and periods at end the are assumed anyway.

Word of warning: The more you bend the language, the sloppier you look. In some cases, it’s a decent trade off. For others, don’t go there. You’re probably trying to say too much. Fact is, if you’re that far over the limit, try rephrasing the tweet or ditch it altogether.

Assuming now that you’re keeping your tweets under your limit, you can focus again on the actual content of your tweets. Overall, try to make everything you share wonderful enough that other people might want to repeat it. If you can’t imagine anyone else repeating what you’re saying, it’s probably not something you should share.