Remember back in elementary school when less was more?
Okay, maybe you didn’t exactly say it like that. But remember when your teacher gave out a writing assignment – maybe an essay or a report – and the first detail everyone wanted to know was, “how long does it have to be?”
Back in those days, less was more, and the shorter the assignment, the better.
Fast forward a few years and along comes Twitter with its measly 140 character limit.
All of a sudden, you’re wishing for something a little longer. Because – how on earth can you actually say anything powerful in just 140 characters?
It turns out, as we’ve discovered over past years, that plenty can be said in 140 characters, and that’s not just because of nifty tools like link shortening tools (though they’re nice too).
1. Viral tweets deal with universal issues
In order for a tweet to go viral, it needs to resonate with a lot of people. The best way to do this is to create a tweet that deals with a universal issue. Believe it or not – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a great place start tapping into universal needs. Whether fear of something, lack of something, or the desire for abundance of another thing, connecting with the deepest needs of people can help you find subject matter that will resonate with a whole lot of people.
2. Keep it simple
Brevity can be tough, but it’s of critical importance when you only have 140 characters. This means that you need to get to the essence of your idea – and quickly.
Look at what you’re trying to say. Are there words or phrases you can strip out and still retain your original meaning?
3. Never tell the whole story up front
What keeps you reading a mystery story? What keeps you watching a really bad movie? What keeps you working on a crossword puzzle, even when you’re stumped over some of the clues?
People have an innate desire to solve puzzles and unravel mysteries, and even when a story line is just awful, people will keep watching a movie just to find out how it ends.
How can you make that work in your favor? Use words that generate suspense or hint at a secret you know that your audience can’t wait to find out.
4. Take a lesson from Aesop
Quick – can you tell the story of the Tortoise and the Hare?
You might not be able to recite it word for word, but could you come up with the basic storyline? I’ll bet you could. And I even bet you probably remember the moral at the end. Slow and steady wins the race.
What makes Aesop’s fables so memorable and other pieces of good advice too easy to forget?
Aesop was a master at storytelling to illustrate a point. And within those stories, such as in the Tortoise and the Hare, something unexpected happens, something so out of the ordinary that it sticks in your mind.
The element of surprise or unexpectedness can be a powerful way of capturing people’s attention and creating content that goes viral (think of Ellen’s multi-celeb selfie from the 86th Academy Awards). You can use text only or an image, as Ellen did, but in some way if you can play with your audience’s expectations, you just might create a tweet with irresistible retweet power.
Creating Tweets worthy of going viral isn’t just a matter of luck. With the right elements, you too can create content people can’t wait to retweet.
QUESTION: What was your most retweeted Tweet ever? What might you learn from it to create more viral-worthy content? Leave a comment below!