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The Ninja's Guide To Sharing Links On Twitter

Be a Ninja on Twitter

Twitter is a great place to share content, and the easiest way to do this is by tweeting links to the cool stuff you’ve read on your travels around the internet. Being a reliable provider of consistently solid information can take you a long way within the Twittersphere. I would go as far as saying that the majority of highly-followed, non-celebrity accounts on Twitter are users who specialise in not only being on the absolute tip of the information curve but excel in passing this content on to their followers.

We submit links to Twitter because we want our followers to click on them. We want them to read those articles and experience those websites. To successfully do this we must ensure that our tweets contain as much necessary information about those sites as we can fit into our 140-character limit.

Sharing Links The Wrong Way

If you upload a tweet that contains nothing but a link, how many people do you think are going to click on that?

A bad example of sharing a link on Twitter

Answer: very few. Possibly even none. And the reason why is obvious: they have no idea what that link is going to open up within their web browser. It could be anything, and the human mind tends to instinctively associate the unknown with a sense of dread. It’s the same reason why we don’t (or at least shouldn’t) click on vague links in emails and on websites. Our brain doesn’t like it; alarm bells start to go off.

Only slightly less comforting than a standalone link are tweets that say something like, “Here’s a cool site I just checked out…” and include the URL after that. Again, it tells me nothing about what I’m about to see. Many people will shy away from clicking on that link because there is an element of risk involved.

Sharing Links Like A Ninja

Sharing information with the Twittersphere is a great thing. It’s really what makes the entire network tick and of course Twitter is consistently being the place to be when it comes to breaking news. But it’s also important to make the most of your tweets. You only have 140 characters, but if you want to share content with your followers it’s important to let them know what that content is.

One easy way to do this is to make the URL smaller. Websites such as TinyURL (which is built into products like TweetDeck) allow you to submit your links (and some of these can be longer than 140 characters by themselves!) and then crunches them up into manageable, 20-character URLs which will fit snugly into your Twitter update box, allowing you plenty of extra room to describe the content of that link. (Twitter will often do this for you if your link is very long, but sometimes it’s better to have control yourself.)

This is very important. You should take the time to make sure you’re letting everybody know what they’re going to see when they open that link in their web browser. If you’re linking to an article in an online newspaper or magazine, often it’s good practice to simply copy and paste the name of the piece and use that as your description.

A good example of sharing a link on Twitter

If it’s good enough for the newspaper, it’s almost certainly good enough for Twitter, although space-permitting sometimes adding a little extra (maybe a quote or the sub-headline) can be of great benefit to the reader.

A ninja's way of sharing links on Twitter

Other times, you might be linking to something that is extraordinary, vague or even confusing, and this is where it is paramount that you write clear but concise prose about what your followers are about to see. You don’t have to be dry or boring, but you should be accurate and to the point.

Is The Content Suitable For Work?

Is there a possibility that the content is in any way going to cause offensive to anybody? Consider the depth in variation of your followers, and the likelihood that many of them will be at work, in a library, at their folks’ house, and so on. If there is any risk of offense, it is good advice to include closing tags such as NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) or even SFW (Suitable For Work) if the link appears like to might be offensive, but is not. (And whatever you do, don’t mix those tags up.)

Re-Tweets

If you want to increase the chance of your submission being re-tweeted, make sure you leave enough spaces for your followers to easily do this. A good rule of thumb here is to ensure that all of your tweets are no longer than 135  characters less the length of your username.

Tweet length = 135 characters - username

Why 135 characters, and not 140? We need those five for the parts that make up the re-tweet. One for the ‘RT’, one for the space after it, one for the @ sign, and one for the space after your username. Hence, if your username has seven characters (like mine), you need to leave at least 12 characters with each tweet so your total tweet length would be 128 characters. It’s excellent practice to memorise this total and to use it as your limit in all open tweets.

Conclusion

Finally, always make sure you include the http:// in front of your links, as some Twitter clients don’t parse URLs correctly without this, which means your link might not be a link at all. :)

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll not only greatly increase the click-through rate of the links you submit to Twitter (which after all is the point), but in the eyes of the Twittersphere you’ll make yourself a reliable and consistent provider of information, which will improve your level of respect and re-tweets, and increase the numbers of people who want to follow you.

(You’ll have to excuse my avatar in these pictures; it’s all part of the UK’s Red Nose Day. :) )

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