According to research conducted by Pew, 86% of U.S. adults report they get news from a smartphone, computer, or tablet “often” or “sometimes.” 60% report they “often” do so. One of the most common ways of consuming digital news, particularly with younger generations, is through social media. “Of Americans aged 18-29, 42% use social media as their primary source of news,” Pew says.
While all social media platforms are often utilized for news consumption, the practice of using specifically Twitter for this purpose is commonly known. “As of December 2022, Twitter’s audience accounted for over 368 million monthly active users worldwide.” Knowing this, how should writers adapt? To create consumable content, writers must move with the times, including creating news content for Twitter.
To write successful and consumable news on Twitter two things should be kept in mind: length and style.
While it may potentially be expanded, Twitter currently has a 280-character limit. Sentences must be concise and information-packed to fit within the character limit. Because of this, many writers and news sources have opted for a link to a full-length article with a short commentary or headline.
Another option is to utilize threads. Threads break up the content into bite-sized parts that are linked together in order to beat the character limit. While this is acceptable with a few tweets, it
quickly becomes tedious and confusing to read with a long thread. In such a situation, linking to the entire article would be preferable to slicing and dicing the material. Another option is to both link the full article and include a thread of Tweets.
Facebook notes how quickly readers scroll from one piece of content to the next. “In the News Feed on Facebook, we’re seeing people spend, on average, 1.7 seconds with a piece of content on mobile compared to 2.5 seconds on desktop.” All writing must be incredibly succinct due to the ability to quickly scroll away from a piece of content and immediately consume fresh media. The shortening of attention spans calls for concise writing, especially online.
Former President Donald Trump is infamous for his questionable Tweets. Whether the information in the Tweets was accurate or not, the style of the Tweets was mostly to blame for the criticism he received. He utilized slang terms, overcapitalization, and over-punctuation. To retain credibility, these stylistic choices should be avoided.
The limited length calls for snappy concise Tweets. Information should be succinct and eye-catching but avoid becoming sensational. If posting a summary or headline along with a link to the entire piece, the headline should be strong without sacrificing any formality. It can be tempting to include flame or siren emojis to attract attention, but this exaggerated choice may not be the best for prefacing a news article.
When using a thread, the opening tweet should have the greatest impact. The initial tweet in the thread will receive the most attention and, if written correctly, may entice people to read the rest of the thread.
Images of tables or graphs or polls can be utilized to increase engagement. Using hashtags associates the tweet with others with the same hashtag, potentially increasing traffic.
Writing choices made on an official news company account, such as @CNN, could be different than those made on the personal account of a writer or journalist. Many writers utilize their personal accounts to share news as well. Retweeting and quote-tweeting are commonly used by writers on their personal accounts, as well as pointed political statements about current events. While potentially inappropriate on a company page, these tactics could be acceptable and effective on a personal page.
Twitter has recently undergone a change in command, after being purchased by Elon Musk last year. Musk has altered and experimented with Twitter’s components, receiving both support and backlash.
One of the major changes is the introduction of Twitter Blue. Instead of receiving the blue checkmark as a verified account, the checkmark is received with the purchase of a Twitter subscription.
Another controversial decision by Musk was the reinstatement of previously restricted or suspended accounts. Many of these accounts were restricted due to being labeled as “fake news” or “misinformation.”
Because of the leadership changes and evolving aspects of Twitter, writers utilizing it should stay informed on its developments. Writing tactics and stylistic choices that may work now may not in the future. Just as writers have had to adapt to digital writing, they will have to adapt to follow the ever-evolving world of social media.