Twitter tips from experts


Editors note: many of these tips are outdated in 2023.

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@BBCMatthewPrice, chief correspondent @BBCr4today

For me, Twitter style should definitely be informal, chatty and lively, bearing in mind that I’m a BBC journalist and all that entails. How informal can I be? Very, within the bounds of BBC impartiality and independence.

Style and construction also depend on the purpose of the tweet. Promoting content, I’d do a dropped intro style – one that doesn’t give away the main thrust of a piece but does give subject matter and hopefully intrigues.

I often simply ask a question, or find one that’s been asked by a follower and then retweet it, if I want to canvas opinion. But often the style depends too on the nature of the subject: quick, short, punchy facts for rolling news; more considered statements for more analytical content. I find it often generates a lot of interest if I can tweet lines from a particularly interesting interview.

Remember, people want to see things. The best tweets usually include photos, videos and links. The Costa Concordia, for instance, was a must-photo story. As was this migrant rescue.

Inevitably there are pitfalls. Tweeting too much of one side of the argument, even with the ‘not my views’ caveat, can build up an impression that some followers will then attach to you. When you shorten an argument too much, to within 140 characters, you can write something that can be misconstrued. It’s worth being aware of that. See, for instance, the reaction to this tweet from May 2014.

And sometimes you need to engage with critics to explain yourself better, as in this exchange where people were fed up with me for photographing relatives of the MH17 victims.

@annadoble, the assistant editor, learning online @BBCNewsbeat

There are many ways to write a bad tweet. Using too many hashtags drowns your message at birth. Writing clickbait questions annoys your audience. Trying to make too many points in 140 characters lands you in a swamp of abbreviated gibberish.

There’s probably no such thing as the perfect tweet because it all depends on who you are trying to talk to and what you want from them. That said, here are five good rules to follow:

  •     Make one point. Make the most of the strongest fact/stat you have
  •     Avoid clutter. Use as little punctuation as possible and use specific hashtags, not speculative ones. For example, for events and known discussion points, check what’s trending.
    Emojis are getting into lots of tweets.  They’re fine and can be funny/cute, but it can get a bit tedious if they’re in every tweet
  •     Pictures: attaching a good image or graphic can really raise engagement, but only if you’ve got a good one or a behind-the-scenes image that’s exclusive to you (no bland stock images here, please)
  •     Timing: think about what your audience is doing; make sure your tweet chimes with their routines and doesn’t demand too much of them. If you want responses, keep it simple; don’t confuse them by asking for lengthy hashtags
  •     Be funny. It’s not always appropriate with news but social media is not called ‘social’ for nothing. We communicate best when we are friendly and funny.

And don’t forget there are loads of useful tools to give you a better sense of what worked and what didn’t work with your chosen Twitter audience. The three free ones I’d recommend are:

  •     TweetDeck for scheduling tweets and monitoring lists
  •     Bitly for seeing your click-through rates and which tweets made people want to know more (just add a + to the end of any Bitly link URL to see how your link performed)
  •     Twitter itself – check out your analytics tab to see which tweets reached the widest audience and which links were the most clicked. Think about (and save) the ones which did well: it will help shape the success of your future tweets. Warning: if you have a nerdy side this can soon get *very* addictive.

@suellewellyn, journalist and social media trainer


  •     Be helpful, open, honest and authentic. Social networks are just that – social
  •     Share interesting content – links to good stories, photos and videos; tweet and retweet regularly. Share exclusives and ‘news you can use’. Add insight and comment
  •     Give credit where credit is due when retweeting, and acknowledge the original creator or source.


  •     Just broadcast – no one wants to see one-way traffic. Your tweet stream should include a mix of links, conversations and retweets. Think dialogue not monologue
  •     Retweet something without reading it first. Is it accurate or unsubstantiated and offensive? Remember, a retweet could be seen as an endorsement
  •     Try to cover a mistake by deleting the tweet without explanation. Be transparent and, if you slip up, own up and apologise.

@mightyscoop, social media producer @BBCSport

  • Choose the right tone for your show/audience. If people feel you’re talking at them rather than to them, you’re likely to alienate people rather than involve them in a conversation.
  • The same goes if you speak to them in too formal or informal a way. Use humour at the right time, but know when to be serious.
  • Use a photo whenever you can – pictures average a 35% boost in retweets. They stand out, catch the eye and are instantly more shareable.
  • Engage your audience by giving them something to do – for example, ask them to reply with their own thoughts/read this/click here for more.

Read the rest of the expert tips here

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