How much more effective would you be at expanding your presence on Twitter if your updates were not only seen as useful, interesting, relevant, or entertaining—but also stood out in a crowded Twitter stream as unique, refreshing, and memorable?
And I’m not just referring to your avatar. Sure, an interesting pose or graphic is going to draw attention initially but if there’s no personality in your bio or character in your Twitter stream, many won’t follow you back. So, beyond the shiny avatar there must be some memorable substance.
In his best-selling book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell introduced the concept of The Stickiness Factor. In essence, he identified the qualities that enabled ideas, concepts, products, etc. to be memorable or “sticky.” The Stickiness Factor is often generated by things that are unconventional, unexpected, and contrary to popular notion.
Later, brothers Chip and Dan Heath devoted an entire book titled Made to Stick to addressing the question: “What makes some ideas stick and others disappear?”
So how can the principles of “sticky” ideas and concepts be applied to Twitter in order to transform typical, bland, and ordinary tweets into “sticky” ones that are unique and memorable—and stand the best chance of being shared (or retweeted) on Twitter?
Studies of the brain have revealed certain traits or characteristics that contribute to something being memorable. Here are some of them:
- Sensory: involves the five senses
- Intensity: exaggerated, absurd, or outrageous
- Outstanding: remarkable, awe-inspiring
- Emotional: contains high-emotion
- Personal importance: interests us, personal significance
- Unexpected: surprises us in some way
By intentionally incorporating these characteristics into your Twitter updates, you will be creating unique and interesting posts that stand a better chance of being noticed in a crowded Twitter stream. And you also increase the odds of expanding your presence on Twitter by having your updates shared and remembered by others.
Here are seven ways that you can incorporate the above characteristics to create tweets that stick:
1.) Express genuine interest: This goes beyond the predictable, “Nice to meet you on Twitter. Have a nice day.” @DrMollieMarti does a great job of expressing genuine interest and conveying authenticity. As a result, she’s made many great connections on Twitter. Here’s an example of one of her updates that showcases her tendency to get real: @DrMollieMarti “Want to make a real difference? Make a continuous choice to be fully YOU, not who your social mask helps you pretend to be…”
2.) Offer sincere and specific compliments: When the opportunity presents itself, compliment others. From time to time on Twitter, you’ll see endorsements of others in the form of #FollowFriday recommendations, retweets, and other props. I’ll use @rmolden’s approach to #FollowFriday as an example. Every Friday on Twitter, users have a chance to recommend Twits they follow to their Twitter communities. The typical #FollowFriday update consists of a string of Twitter @names that are either preceded or followed by: #FollowFriday. What’s different about some of @rmolden’s #FollowFriday recommendations (and why they’re memorable to me) is that he tends to add a bit more substance. Here’s an example: @rmolden “I recommend #followfriday @suzannehih Engaging, positive, perceptive, housewife (with an edge) and theme-maker with a great site http://bit.ly/juX1C” Well done @rmolden.
3.) Share unique knowledge: Twitter offers access to a wealth of diverse backgrounds and expertise. The key is to offer unique knowledge that adds value. @guykawasaki has a reputation for sharing a steady stream of interesting articles from his Alltop website. Many of these posts are memorable for their substance. Others, like this one, are remembered (and retweeted) for their absurdity: @guykawasaki “Fried squirrel, anyone? Live off the land — in the city http://adjix.com/46ub” Another twit who adds value is @KevinZraly. He freely shares his expertise through interesting posts about wine that increase the wine knowledge of his followers. Here’s an example: @KevinZraly “As white wines age, they gain color. Red wines, on the other hand, lose color.” While Twitter users appreciate friendly twits, they value knowledgeable ones. And the more unique knowledge you can share, the more value you add to the Twitter experience for others.
4.) Convey authentic enthusiasm: Just check out Jen’s avatar: @JenChicago. To me, Jen personifies authentic enthusiasm. Love her avatar. Enjoy her updates. She’s a breath of fresh air whenever she surfaces in my Twitter stream. Here’s an example of an update that captures her authentic enthusiasm: @JenChicago “I just bought the song ‘Go Cubs Go’ from Amazon. I am SO Chicago.” You don’t have to live in Chicago to appreciate Jen’s authentic enthusiasm. She is genuinely filled with enthusiasm and authentically conveys this enthusiasm to others in a way that is unique, perhaps even singular, and matches her style and personality.
5.) Use appropriate humor: This doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party. It does mean opening yourself to the comic relief that daily life provides and cultivating the ability to not take yourself too seriously. The funniest twit I know is @badbanana. His updates usually relate to current events. Here’s one that followed a recent stock market rally: @badbanana “There’s cautious optimism on Wall Street. Now stock brokers are only jumping out of first floor windows.” And another update that came the day after Earth Day: @badbanana “Sure enough, Al Gore came down the chimney last night and unplugged all of our appliances.” Unless you’re at home recovering from abdominal surgery, you should be following his updates.
6.) Provide pleasant surprises: #FollowFriday recommendations, retweets, and other forms of public recognition fall into this category. Also, some twits offer books and other prizes associated with trivia contests or other promotions. @JeffreySummers, for example, provides the book Tribes by Seth Godin to every 500th follower he receives.
7.) Deliver service heroics: A few weeks ago, I posted this blog about how @ComcastBill delivered service heroics. The illustration was even picked up by the national media and provided Comcast with some positive customer service recognition—not something you generally associate with cable service providers.
At the time of this writing I was following about 1,500 people. With more than eight million users now on Twitter, I’ve only “met” a fraction of them. Everyone reading this post can think of people from your own Twitter communities whose updates are memorable. The fact that you can recall these people, out of the hundreds or thousands you may follow, illustrates my point: memorable twits share sticky tweets.
By Steve Curtin (@enthused)