Twitter CEO on What Makes a Great Tweet

Before I get to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo (@dickc), let me tell you about Willy O’Sullivan who owns the Irish pub in my neighborhood. Willy is quite worldly on social media matters and a savvy business person overall, but Twitter confounds him. “I have Twitter, but I have no idea what to do with it,” he says.  “You open it up and it asks me who I want to follow, and I have no idea about that either.”

And Willy, in fact, is a proxy for millions of local business owners who grasp the importance of social media but simply don’t have time to experiment with using it for business purposes.  As new products and platforms are devised to help business owners use social media effectively, the balance will shift, given social media’s power for cost-effective marketing.  While Twitter remains a mystery to many business owners, its popularity is skyrocketing based in part on how simple it is compared to Facebook or Google+.

Costolo is the man leading Twitter’s charge.  He became CEO in 2010 and previously launched and ran several smaller businesses, so he knows what it’s like to take risks, meet payroll and wear multiple hats.  I just met Costolo at a UCLA/Anderson School of Management leadership seminar, courtesy of Dean Judy Olian (@DeanOlian) and entertainment mogul (not to mention owner of NBA’s GS Warriors) Peter Guber (@PeterGuber).   Costolo is super articulate and has great passion for what he does as well as the confidence to lead Twitter to the Promised Land called IPO.  

What Makes a Tweet Great

Since the price of a seat at the table in Olian and Guber’s seminar is a confidentiality pledge, there’s much that can’t be said here of Costolo’s behind-the-scenes revelations, but a couple of things are up for grabs.  In particular, Costolo’s take on “What makes a great tweet” is something everyone business person should know, as it describes effective communication in general.  Costolo didn’t even need 140 characters to say it:  Here it is in a mere 47 characters:  “A great tweet is a caption for something bigger”

Hmmmmm.  “Something bigger.”  That’s where millions of tweets fail every day to pass the greatness test.  If you only have 140 characters to say something, too many tweeters fall into the trap of saying essentially nothing.  You need a “backstory” as they say in the entertainment biz – something that entices people into thinking or looking further. As we’ve said often here at 140Main (our name, of course, derived from Twitter’s 140 character length limit on tweets), the art of tweeting well is to entice and engage followers with useful information.

By thinking of your tweets as “captions” you can stay focused on the bigger “picture” behind what you are saying.  Is there something else you can offer as a link? An idea, tip or thought that can help others see that bigger picture?  If so, your tweets will rise above the noise and gain more attention.

Embrace the 140 length limit. To Dick Costolo, Twitter’s inner beauty lies in that simple constraint and it’s unlikely that will change. In fact, the latest studies show that slightly shorter tweets in the 120-130 range generate the best response.

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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.

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