Monday, August 3, 2015

Social Media Basics for Writers—Tips for Composing Effective Social Media Updates

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Twitter, as many of you already know, is my Social Media Sweet Spot—my easy button, if you will. It’s my go-to place to send and receive information. Because of that, I compose all my social media updates from a Twitter mindset. So no matter where I'm sending the update, I compose it with Twitter in mind.

I know that Twitter is NOT the sweet spot for many of you reading this blog.

Part of that is because you’re not really sure what constitutes a good tweet. You’ve heard just enough about hashtags and twitter etiquette to make you cringe at the thought of composing your own tweet. So rather than failing, you either stick to retweeting what others share or just pass on the whole thing.

Today, I’m going to break it down for you and share my tips to composing the (almost) perfect tweet every time.

Twitter Basics
I have four types of updates I share on Twitter (and all social media).
  • An insightful quote or thought.
  • A question to get the conversation started or make us think.
  • Something funny, because let’s face it, we all need to laugh.
  • A link to information I find valuable and think will enrich your life.

But What IS a Perfect Tweet?
The definition can vary widely, depending on who you ask. But since you’re reading my post, I’m going to give you my definition.

A perfect tweet makes someone’s life a little bit better, and does so in a way that’s easy to share with others.

Components of a Perfect Tweet
There are certain things that good tweets have. Not every tweet will have every one of these, but here are the list of things that make a tweet good.
  • An attention grabbing headline—this is the main focus of your tweet and can be a statement or a question. It makes others what to learn more, take action, join the conversation and/or share what they’ve read.
  • A clear attribution—I’m a writer, so authorship is important to me. If someone says something brilliant, I really want them to get the credit. So when possible, I include the person’s name and/or twitter handle. (A twitter handle is your Twitter user name. My Twitter handle is @EdieMelson).
  • Hashtags—stop groaning! You knew I was going to include this one. A hashtag is a number sign (#) that’s put in front of a group of letters and/or numbers. This makes that particular topic searchable anywhere within the Twitter universe. There is a specific number of hashtags that’s ideal. For the highest number of shares, use two. One is good, two is best, three or more is not so good.
  • A link—if you’re referencing something you’ve found online, you’ll want to include the URL. Be sure to shorten the link. Hootsuite will do it for you, but if you don’t use Hootsuite or a scheduling program, I recommend If you’re just posting a question or a quote, there’s not always a reason to include a link.
Format Your Tweet
There is a general order in the way you arrange the components of your tweet.

Do NOT start your tweet off with an @ sign (Like @EdieMelson) unless you are replying to something I said. A reply tweet will only be seen by those who follow BOTH you and the person you’re replying to.

Hashtags can be used at the beginning, middle or end or your tweet. But the best way to use them is organically, within the body of the tweet. Second would be toward the end. Lastly, at the beginning.

Finally, we all know Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters. But I do NOT recommend you use all 140 characters. For one, if someone retweets your update, something will get lopped off the end of the tweet because the retweeters info will be added to the beginning of the tweet.

So ideally, keep your tweet to under 120 characters. But remember, this is just a guideline, not a hard and fast rule!

Here's the order I tend to like best:
  • Headline
  • Attribution
  • Link
  • Hashtags

Example and Explanation
Here is a tweet I composed for this post:

Tips for Composing Effective #SocialMedia Updates – via @EdieMelson #writing

Breaking it Down: 
Tips for Composing Effective Social Media Updates—is my headline, my attention grabber.

#SocialMedia and #Writing—are the two hashtags I’ve chosen to use. They reflect the focus of the tweet and are popular hashtags.

@EdieMelson—is my attribution. I used it in this tweet because I’m composing the tweet for ClickToTweet, which means someone else will be sending the tweet out. If I was just sending this out, I would NOT use @EdieMelson because the tweet would originate with my Twitter account and everyone already knows it’s me.—is my shortened URL or Link. This URL will take the person clicking on it directly to this post.

Common Questions
1. What if the blog post I'm referencing is a guest post, which attribution do I use - the author of the post or the owner of the blog? If possible, it's good to use both attributions. Here's how I would handle that:

Is Your Manuscript Written to Death? - via @VaughnRoycroft on @WriterUnboxed #amwriting 

2. What if the person I'm referencing doesn't have a Twitter handle or I don't have time to research it? People who don't include their social media info is a big pet peeve of mine. If it's not easy to find, or you can't find it, just use the person's name. 

3. What if I don't have room for everything? This happens frequently with Twitter. After all, we only have 140 characters. If I don't have room to include the author of the post and the blog name, I prioritize and use the author's name. If I don't have room to use two hashtags, I only use one. The key is to stay flexible and don't overthink this.

4. Do I have to always use two hashtags? No, use the hashtags that make sense and what you have room for.

Now it's your turn. What questions do you have about composing updates? Do you have format you like to use? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!



  1. Thanks Edie, I always learn something when I read this blog. I have suggested it to all the writers for Almost an Author . I usually use a @ to begin my tweets. Now I will not. Great information.

    1. Cherrilynn, thank you for the recommendation!. A lot of people don't know what an @ at the beginning of the tweet signals. Blessings, E

  2. I'm going to print out the 4 things and make sure I do them right! Thanks, Edie. I already did one wrong this morning. :o(

    1. Ane, I'm always glad to know if a post is helpful! Thanks & Blessings, E

  3. Edie, I always enjoy reading your blog and appreciate the wealth of information you provide. I do have a question, which is a tad bit off the subject you addressed here. How do I add the "click to tweet" feature to my blog posts? Thanks!

    1. Patti, that's a great question! And I have a blog post about that:

      I wrote this blog in 2013, but it's still accurate (although some of the interfaces have changed). I'll be updating it and posting instructions again during this series. So stay tuned!

      Blessings, E

  4. Edie,

    I usually read blog posts and schedule tweets for the afternoon at the same time. The second I read this post, I realized I was doing somethings incorrectly and changed them.


    1. Carrie Lynn, It's not wrong, but it might not net you as visibility as some other ways. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! Blessings, E

  5. As always, great info, Edie. Clear. Concise. Applicable. Thank you!

  6. What about when you're adding a pic with a blog link? Which goes first? Thoughts on pics with links.... Thanks!

    1. Julie, I'm not sure I understand the question. On social media, images show up above the text that contains links and hashtags. If you're referring to add a pic by link (like for Twitter - when we do that there ends up being two links within the tweet), then I would just make sure the pic link is somewhere in the center of the update, so it doesn't get cut off when it's retweeted. I hope this helps. If not, leave another comment with more details and I'll try to do better. Or you can always email me Blessings, E

  7. Great post! Thanks for you insight and sharing it with us! I like this blog and I will be here again.
    social media professional in mississippi