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Get Your Clicks: Lessons on great tweets from @washingtonpost coverage of the debates

October 4, 2012

I liken a good tweet promoting content to a headline on a supermarket aisle tabloid: it gives you just enough to make you want more. Here’s a great example from the Washington Post from last night’s debate coverage.

“Republicans were so pleased with Romney’s performance, that with 15 minutes to go, this happened:”

I’m probably cannibalizing this very post by including that sample so if you’ve made it this far – or made your way back after falling prey to that tantalizing tweet – well, thank you. There are a few ways that in just 118 characters, this post can teach you how to get clicks on your content.

1) The unexpected — If you’re like me, you were on gaffe watch during the whole debate, secretly hoping Romney would slip up. Republicans were probably trembling in fear of the very same thing. So, if you were one of the five people on Twitter who didn’t actually watch the debate, the idea that the GOP was pleased with his performance might come as a surprise.

2) The expected — Republican pleasure aside, you’re probably still skeptical something didn’t go awry for Romney. So the “with 15 minutes to go” sets you up for what you just knew all along.

3) The colloquial –Other than Jerry Seinfeld’s recent “Really?!?” letter to the editor of The New York Times, there’s little more lingua familiara than “this happened.” You can hear someone say it. You’ve said it. It makes you feel like whoever wrote the tweet, and hopefully the story, is an actual person just like you.

4) The cliffhanger — The other thing “this happened” does is makes you need to know exactly what “this” is. Just like those pictures on the cover of the tabloids of the mysterious formerly svelte celebrities in unfortunate bikinis make you pick up that paper and turn to page 36, you read that tweet and you have to click.

5) The Characters — We hear “140 characters” referenced so often when it comes to Twitter that we believe the character counter when it tells us we have 22 characters left to say what we have to say. Not so, we learn from The Washington Post. By leaving those nearly two dozen letters, numbers or spaces on the table, this tweet ensures its retweets will stay intact, no unfortunate truncation required.

So, kudos to old media for schooling us on getting new media right. I say follow @washingtonpost, if only for the masterful manipulation of a story into a must-click message alone.

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