Twitter is a microblogging platform that consists of concise snippets of communication. Each snippet generally consists of 140 characters or less, which leaves little room for error when it comes to clarity and depth of expressing an idea. In this way, Twitter is a little like communicating by fortune cookie! Twitter has a number of advantages to promote engagement with a public health message, as well as provide important information upon which to assess public health needs.
But what happens when your message doesn’t fit neatly on the little slip of paper Twitter provides for your “fortunate cookie”? This post discusses how to microblog effectively on Twitter in a “>140” world.
1. Think about what you want to say, then say it calmly and concisely.
Be patient! Rapid engagement with your target audience can be a double-edged sword. It can be tempting to just dash off a few words and hit “send.” Take some extra time to consider how what you’re composing on Twitter fits in with your overall brand message, tone, and goals. Does the tone and spelling of your tweet align with your marketing message? Does your “fortune” express a complete thought? Is your “fortune” sarcastic? This is particularly important if you’re responding to another Twitter user Sometimes short-term gains in engagement with particularly controversial posts just aren’t worth the potential negative effects on brand image and messaging in the long-term.
2. Know where your audience is located and make sure your message finds them!
Find your Tweeps! Putting your message out there is the first step. But just because your “fortune” is out there doesn’t mean the Twittersphere will find and engage with it. Teach that elephant to dance! Hashtags are a fantastic way to organize your “fortune cookie” missives and ensure people know where to find them.
Remember the tabs in file cabinets? Uh, yeah…me either…I mean, who’s seen an actual file cabinet recently?
Well, anyway, people may click on a hashtag to identify tweets that are organized around a theme or a thread. Public health hashtags are a good way for people interested in public health to find content. The American Public Health Association, Surgeon General, and Allied Health Professions organization in the UK are top influencers of #publichealth, so they are definitely worth a follow. Mentioning some of these influencers in your tweets is also an easy way to raise the profile of your message. High profile Twitter users might retweet your content, and users who scan “@ mentions” of high profile users can find your content easier.
3. Link to other content, such as a website, blog post, Facebook page, or other social media platform.
Sometimes the best strategy in #publichealth Twitter is to link back to a “>140” medium, like a WordPress blog, Facebook page, or webpage. In this manner, your “fortune” serves as a way for a Twitter user to learn more about your organization. Many organizations use this strategy to drive traffic to these other, more information rich sources. This function is supported by third party apps that can integrate your Twitter feed with your other social media accounts. Sharing links can increase user engagement by 86%.
Participate in the conversation! Imagine that person at a cocktail party who’s constantly talking about themselves. Yep, that’s the organization that just uses their Twitter feed to advertise what’s changed on their blog or website. It’s important to balance this strategy with adequate real-time user engagement. Twitter users could be less likely to engage with your content if it’s perceived you’re using your Twitter account to advertise your website.
4. Twitter may only give you 140 characters, but a picture is still worth a thousand words.
Get more cookies! A great way to express a complete thought with your “fortune,” and to boost engagement with your brand or message, is to include a photo or video. Research done by Twitter suggests an increase in retweets and clickthroughs with inclusion of a photo, resulting in up to 200% engagement with content. Compose your visual media carefully, obtain proper releases from subjects, and ensure your visual media is on message. Photos can be uploaded directly to Twitter. Think about the use of Vine or other hosting service for concise snippets of video that can support your message.
With these tips, you’re now ready to take on the #publichealth Twitterverse. Have fun composing your “fortunes” and engaging your audience!