7 things I learnt from reading Twitter co-founder @dom’s book ‘140 Characters’.

Title: 140 Characters – a style guide for the short form

Author:  Dom Sagolla (@dom on Twitter)

Twitter Dom Sagolla Book 140 CharactersI purchased this book after seeing it recommended on a Squidoo lens.  I enjoyed parts of the book, but found others a little too abstract to apply to everyday Twitter use.  The author clearly has a love of language, but the idea of using Twitter to write poetry in 140 characters or less seems a little outlandish to me.

However, I did fall in love with the idea that ‘everybody is a writer.’  The book was trying to reinforce that the platform has the scope to be used for any creative output you desire; it is not just a tool for trivial and senseless updates about ‘what you’re having for dinner.’

Below are seven tips I’ve extracted from the book that should help you add value to your tweets, gain more followers and generally improve your updates.

1) Lead the conversation

When writing tweets, always lead people to reply to you. Don’t just assume they will.

Take this tweet for example:

In my CNN column this week, I ask if there’s a formula for viral YouTube videos -what do you think? http://bit.ly/4UOsJw


Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore has asked specifically for the reader’s opinion, instead of simply plugging his CNN column to loyal Mashable subscribers.  He’s leading a conversation, which is far more likely to obtain a response.

2) One thought per tweet

If you write web copy you’ll know that it’s best to stick to one point per paragraph. It’s the same with tweets too.

140 characters isn’t much – so don’t overcomplicate your tweets by trying to describe more than one idea at a time.

3) Would you write your tweet down and pass it to a friend?

With mobile phones hooked up to the Internet it’s pretty easy to tweet every inane thought.  So before tweeting, stop and think.  Is this worth writing down on a piece of paper and passing to a friend?

If you would write it down and tell a friend you can probably bet it is of value to your readers and worth tweeting.  If you only tweet valuable content, it’s going to earn you more followers!

4) Never demand attention, just politely request it

Follow Pete Cashmore’s example in the tweet I quoted above and only ever request attention politely.  Never demand your reader clicks the link you’re pushing into their feed.

Cashmore was plugging an article he wrote on a CNN to his Mashable readers.  He didn’t say ‘Go and read the article I wrote at CNN,’ he simply asked for the readers’ advice and slipped it into the conversation politely.

5) Stop counting your followers!

Stop worrying about your follower count and start thinking ‘how can I better serve my audience?’

Who is your audience?  What interests them?  What content are they retweeting the most?

Never automatically follow hundreds of people and hope they’ll follow you back.  It’s not about numbers; it’s about tweeting messages that your audience will value.  Your count will automatically grow from there.

6) Happy, fun tweets will get you more followers

People are naturally lured towards fun people, so boring and depressing tweets will lose you followers.

If you’ve got something negative to talk about, follow Hemmingway’s rule and try to turn it into a positive.  Estate agents do this all the time: a small house in the middle of the nowhere magically turns into a cosy rural dwelling.

7) Study your Twitter heroes

Is there somebody you’re following that you really admire?  Ask yourself what it is that draws you (and hundreds of others) to them.  Is it their style, or the content of their tweets?  Perhaps it is both?  Study the people you respect and emulate their good points.  You’ll soon have your own army of followers!

Final word:

If you’re a twitter user I really do recommend the book.  These are just seven tips out of hundreds more ready for extracting!