Constructing the Perfect CSR or Sustainability Tweet
CSR and Sustainability, while growing rapidly these days in corporate participation and individual awareness, can still be a tough topic to get across to general audiences. I’ve done my time, like many other practitioners, advocates, and professionals, talking until I hear the “I get it” from the interested but uninformed.
It’s no wonder, then, that a lot of us have taken to social media to spread the message of sustainability in order to reach as many people in one place as possible. All of the various social media platforms offer unique advantages in reaching people, but the fastest growing is Twitter.
In theory, Twitter is a simple tool: you put your news into a 140-character phrase (a ‘tweet’), push “send,” and the whole wonderful world of social media receives your news, and, hopefully, responds. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Twitter is a micro-blogging site founded as a social network that is now embracing its true standing in the internet community as the fastest growing media service out there. That means the 250 million subscribers are using it for over 250 million different reasons with 250 million different goals.
Furthermore, on any given day, users push out over 170 million tweets. With this flood of information floating through computer screens and mobile devices everywhere, the best Twitter users have a split second to capture the eye of a wide range of readers, from the casual user who has a few minutes during lunch to check up on the latest news to the professional who spends his or her day trolling through endless amounts of stories, deals, gossip and endless weird (and often useless) facts.
So how do you engage CSR and sustainability stakeholders and potential stakeholders? Within that space, how can you stand out? There are thousands of theories out there, but the following tips are the most tried-and-true to help you to write the most useful and engaging CSR and Sustainability tweets possible.
Who: Before you write your tweet, ask yourself whom are you trying to reach. Your choice of audience will impact what language you use, what content will be highlighted, who you mention, etc. For example, if you are looking to engage a specific group of scientists and experts, go ahead and mention the chemical composition of that biodegradable rubber you invented. However, if you are trying to engage young people who may have never heard of you or your initiatives, your language might instead be in line with what that they use and will get their attention, e.g. “What do Matt Damon and Company X have in common? Saving water! Click here to find out more…” A quick side note: don’t lie in your tweets, especially about Matt Damon. It doesn’t do well online.
Why: Also before you start writing, consider why you are putting this information out there. If you can’t think of a reason that people will care about this tweet, chances are no one else will, either. That doesn’t mean that unless you have groundbreaking news you can’t tweet, but simply that just because you know that your big CSR Report or upcoming conference is important doesn’t mean that everyone else knows about it, agrees, or understands why. Your job is to convince them that it is, and you have the added challenge of doing so in fewer than 140 characters.
What: Your “What”, or the content of your message, must derive from the “Who” and the “Why.” You must know who you are targeting, tell them why they should be reading your tweet or clicking through on the link you are including. Most importantly, the ‘What” must be genuine. In the information age, dishonesty is quickly revealed and can have serious PR consequences.
If you are putting out information about a CSR report, for example, the “What” is also a chance to break from what you have already put out into through the “official” channels. Use the content of your tweet to highlight something specific or different about the main message you are trying to convey. Doing so will also allow you the option to send multiple tweets that pushes traffic back to the same original source of content.
How: How you craft your message is completely up to you. You can use Twitter to give your organization a new or different voice and reach a new audience or the same audience in a different way. You can be funny, relaxed, serious, etc., it really depends on who you are trying to reach and why.
Despite this flexibility, there are some writing techniques that the most serious Twitterati use:
- A good analogy out there for a good tweet is the supermarket checkout lane: while standing there, your eyes will inevitably wander over the magazines and those with most dramatic wording will catch your attention. I am not suggesting that you tweet, “so-and-so has an illicit affair with #CSR” because that would dishonest, among other things. However, those catchphrases like “how you can you change your life in two days?” or “3 ways that you can do better at...” are simple, to the point, and will bring readers in. (Numbers are always good.) Again, I am not saying you simply copy their text, because those can be annoying and stilted. I am pointing out, however, that Twitter, like all forms of media, can be manipulated by following the simple communication mantra that has worked for decades: Be catchy. For example, instead of saying “Company X releases 2011 CSR Report” you could write, “See how Company X is changing the world around them,” “6 steps we are taking to improve x… @companyX,” or, “How is X’s new initiative positively affecting your neighborhood? See here…”
- Try to get the whole text in fewer than 140. If you go over 140, your tweet will automatically have “…” placed at the end. Frankly, these tend to not be engaging and get passed over right away. Along those same lines, save space at the end of your text so people can easily retweet your message (it will appear on their feeds as RT @yourname). The most common desired retweet lengths are 15-27 characters, depending on to expert.
- URL – The majority of tweets have a link to additional resources about CSR or sustainability, as it is hard to change the world with just 140 characters. There are lots of URL shorteners out there (if you don’t know, a URL shortener saves you space in your tweet by reducing the character number of the URL), but none is more used and well received than Bit.ly. They also offer great (and free) analytics. Additionally, the placement of the shortened URL matters too. Your link, according to a recent study, is more likely to get clicked on if in the first quarter of your tweet.
- # - the # (hashtag) symbol is a way to monitor trends. When you search in twitter for “#CSR” it will bring up all the tweets that have used that trend. This will ensure that your tweet pops up in these searches. There are also numerous websites that monitor activities around trends so you can see which # are being used more than others. It also lets you jump into conversations in real time or long-term discussions, as people having these will come up with #s describing the topic for that very reason. If you are doing anything in the fields of CSR or sustainability, I encourage you to use #CSR and #sustainability in the tweet.
- @ - by using this symbol and then someone's Twitter handle, they will receive a notice that you have contacted them. If you place it at the very beginning of your tweet, only his/her followers will be able to read the message. Because of this, many people will place a period before the @, and then the message is available for viewing by everyone. If you are referencing someone else, a company/organization, or his/her/its work, try to include their Twitter handle to increase exposure and give credit where credit is due.
My final piece of advice would be to not let the simple format of Twitter, nor the fact that there are hundreds of millions of tweets going out all the time dissuade you from putting effort into your words. CSR and sustainability are a must for a better future, and every bit of communication counts.