Twitter Essays: Are They For You?
When Twitter was invented, it was never meant to be used for most of the things it is used for now. Every day people send millions of tweets using hashtags, stock tags, and in different formats, which are all user inventions.
The latest of these is getting a lot of buzz lately: Twitter essays. Twitter essays are long-form, connected tweets that attempt to achieve the same goal as writing a long-form opinion piece on a blog. Twitter essays solve the problem of the 140 character-limit when you need to elucidate on a complex idea.
Key Components of a Twitter Essay
There are some key differences between a normal series of tweets and a Twitter essay. The most obvious is the introduction, which usually primes the audience for what’s to come. The next difference is numbering the tweets. Some essayists use numbers at the beginning of each tweet, others put them at the end. The final differentiator is the lyrical nature of the tweets that sometimes are dependent upon other tweets to complete a thought.
Advantages of Twitter Essays
If it’s possible to simply write an opinion blog post, why wouldn’t you just do that? Because Twitter is a conversational medium, and as such, people can give you immediate feedback on your points, which can help inform your content.
Similarly, unlike a blog post, a series of tweets can lend themselves to piecemeal retweeting of certain points, and can help show you after the fact which parts of your essay resonated with your audience (through favorites and retweets). It’s like running a real-time focus group to better tailor your message to your audience. You can also crowdsource your ideas and messaging for future campaigns.
Disadvantages of Twitter Essays
Some followers might not want to come along for the entire ride or complain about you “crowding their timeline.” Be mindful of this type of feedback, and plan accordingly. Make sure you’re disclosing that you will be tweeting a series to give followers the option to mute you for the duration.
How to Successfully Deploy Twitter Essays
Just like a normal essay, Twitter essays need a defined introduction, thesis, supporting statements, and conclusion. We’ve already discussed that in addition, you should have a preceding message to notify followers what is to come.
The most important thing to keep in mind when planning your twitter essay is how each tweet will “hit.” Think about standup comedians. They time their jokes appropriately so that there is a setup and a punch line, and there is usually no interruption between the two. Plan out how your tweets will land. Try to eliminate important statements being “gapped” by a person’s timeline due to the tweet being split in two. Make the leading tweet shorter and the follow-up tweet longer, if necessary, so as not to break the flow of the narrative. Consider whether some of your tweets may be misinterpreted if one of the tweets is retweeted in a vacuum. Try to improve on the clarity of your message as much as possible.
Try to keep to the fewest number of tweets as possible to help you stay on track. Keep the tone as conversational as you can, so you can reflect the medium in which you are working.
Once you deploy, it’s a stylistic choice whether you reply to responses in real time, or whether you sidebar those replies until the end of the essay. There’s no advantage to choosing one style over another.
When your essay has deployed, you can give it second and third lives by using a site like Storify to save the messages in their original condition, or you can rewrite your essay as a cohesive blog post, while disclosing the original medium and linking to it.
Don’t forget to look at the metrics once you’ve deployed to see the reach of the individual parts of your essay and gain insight into exactly what resonated with your fans. You can build campaigns around these ideas later, or repurpose messaging for promotions.
Using a tool in the way it may not have been intended is a very common occurrence in modern media. It’s important to note when your brand engages in any new format that there may be some fallout from people who are following your brand for different reasons, but this shouldn’t deter you. True fans, the ones who will sit through your essays as well as retweet and comment are worth their weight in gold and help you spread your messages in an organic way.
Twitter essays require a little bit of message editing and some planning but could gain your priceless insights on your messaging.