Making a Case for Personalized Curation on Twitter

by on May 10, 2010 | posted in Marketing

I recently started following Umair Haque on Twitter. Haque is an economist, and mostly is known for his blogging at Harvard Business Review, although he has his own blog, Bubble Generation.

After having Haque uploaded into my Twitter stream for about a month, I’ve come to realize something about the way he disseminates links to the web.

It’s perfect.

Haque’s style is pretty much unlike 99% of link streams I see on Twitter. When Haque supplies a link to his followers, he does so not by offering up the title of the post. Instead, he supplies real, cogent commentary about whatever the article is about. 100% of the time.

Upon realizing that Haque’s style is exactly how we should all be executing our social marketing campaigns, I adopted it as well.  At the time of this writing, almost a week after having begun, I’m still in love. I know there are strengths and weaknesses to the style, but for those whose main intention is to promote real, worthwhile thought, this method is by far superior.

The Pros:

  • Informative. Instead of just offering a link, you supply a mini-Yelp review of the article, in real time. The standard title tag/shortened-URL does little to offer real information about the article, besides the fact that you are willing to retweet it.
  • It builds your personal brand. Twitter has a fondness for authenticity, and the users there enjoy seeing a person be themselves with some frequency. The opposite, though, is that they don’t want you delving too much, revealing inconsequentials, or promoting too much of your own stuff. Through this methodology, you interject your own personality in almost every tweet without conflicting with any of the aforementioned negatives.
  • It proves you read the article. I would love to see some research on what percentage of tweets with links are actually completely read by the person disseminating them. My approximation is slightly below 50%. Those who comprehensively read the article? Below 10.
  • It grabs more mind share. When people in your stream interject personality into their tweets, you are way more likely to pay attention. If you offer “This is freaking amazing” in addition to the URL, there’s a better chance I’m clicking through to that link. If you do it every time, though, I won’t. I’m looking at you, Chris Brogan. I don’t think that’s neat. But if you’re offering something more insightful than just a title tag, the chance you click through is way higher, even if the chance you retweet it is way lower. More than just a clickthrough, these little pulses of personality are more likely to make you memorable, and someone I am willing to pay more attention to in the future.

The Cons:

  • It makes the content difficult to retweet/market. If you’re using this style, there’s a higher chance your release won’t get retweeted, for two reasons. First, commentary with a link just doesn’t fly like “5 Ways to Become a Super Blogger” does. Second, Twitter is limited to 140 characters as it is, so you’re very likely to exhaust that given a more long-winded, conversationalist style. This makes the entire retweet function pretty irritating and difficult to pull off. If your intention isn’t to be a funnel for someone else’s monetary gains, though, it works just fine. For your own articles, I suggest using your own title, and not interjecting any extra commentary. After all, you did the commentary in the post, right?
  • It’s more time consuming. Yes, original thought does take time, and so does reading an article to the extent that you actually want to drop 140 characters on it. However, if you want to change Twitter from a content garbage bin to something of value, this change is a good step to take.
  • Your “commentary” is limited to 140 characters. It’s tough getting in a complete thought in 140 characters, so sometimes your opinion/statement on the piece may become misconstrued or won’t be as comprehensive as you’d like. There are definitely some dilemmas to this, but how do you want to live your life: completely silent, or limited to 140 characters?

The Conclusion

If you’re a consistent user of Twitter and have the desire to promote and create intelligent conversation on the blue bird, this technique is a must. If your aim on Twitter is to automate your feed and drive 300 hits to some throwaway content, it’s probably not for you.

My personal goal is to enrich and be enriched. I like dark chocolate. And good Twitter streams. If you aren’t already, please adopt this methodology – it’ll help my heart.

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  • David Crandall

    Smart post. I use this technique also when posting links. You are right in that they are not RT-ed as much, but the initial response is usually much better than just posting the title.

    Another point is where the updates get clicked on. My Twitter updates feed in to my Facebook and since I have about 4 times more people connected to me through Facebook vs Twitter, this method has worked really well. The Facebook only crowd doesn’t necessarily respond to the “Top # ways to ___” titles anyway. By posting my thought instead with the link, I have a much higher click through and comment rate.

    I have to wonder if it is because there is less marketing speak tolerated in Facebook than Twitter. I think it’s a good technique in trying to remain human and not just a link tweeting machine!

    • Ross Hudgens

      It’s really important on Facebook to get “engagement”. If your readers react to your post with things like likes/comments, you’ll appear in their stream more often due to Facebook’s engagement algorithm. There, the “RT” friendly approach is definitely the wrong way to go, for sure, because sharing really isn’t something that happens nearly as much.

      Unfortunately it can’t 100% fly on Twitter, but incorporating some health medium seems preferable in many ways.

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  • Stephen Connolly

    Nice work Ross. I’ve made a similar habit of trying, while reading an article, to pull out the essential quote to serve as a hook for my link. If I have a short comment, I’ll append it to a title/link RT. If the link or comment is pithy or funny, and i can’t contribute anything without spoiling it, it’s time for an official Twitter retweet.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Glad to hear Stephen. Good policy – I, like you, am using this guideline for a “as much as I can”, which I think is a best practice in general. We don’t always have to do this – but doing it 100% of the other way is undoubtedly wrong.

  • Dave

    Worth addressing is that you have to consider your source when using this method.

    If you are getting your information from someone else’s tweet then you have to follow RT etiquette, which generally means not overly re-writing the tweet.

    For folks who get most of their content from the tweets of others, it could appear that you’re suggesting not crediting the source. I realize that you’re not, but this issue was brought to my attention from someone thinking that WAS what you were doing.

    For folks like me ( @TweetSmarter) who get most content from feeds and searches, your advice is golden! I’ve tweeted this post, and it’s received over 500 clicks already:

    • Ross Hudgens

      I’m confused a bit. By linking out, we are therefore crediting the source. Aren’t we? That’s the thing I don’t get – I think, ideally, we would credit the person who showed us the content, but that’s not always possible. The only TRUE credit that matters is the person with the huge time investment – the person who created the content (IMO).

      So if anything, it may be worth shortening the tweet to pimp their Twitter account along with the link. Which is something I want to do more – I also don’t follow this policy all the time, because time is finite and generally, I can be lazy. But I try to comment when possible, which is more than most people.

      BTW thanks again. You are my traffic fairy. :)

  • Dave (@TweetSmarter)

    I understand, but you probably would not want it widely known on Twitter that you felt “The only TRUE credit that matters is [to] the person that created the content.”

    If you get a link from someone else’s tweet, Twitter mores are:
    1. You must always credit the tweet writer when sharing the content.
    2. You must not appear to misquote them excessively.

    There are a wide variety of ways to achieve these objectives.

    According to Twitter’s social system, if someone tweets in expectation that you will always credit the tweet writer when sharing, and you do not, you should not read their tweets, or share them.

  • Dave

    Read from step #25 on down to see the kind of emotions surrounding retweeting :)

    • Ross Hudgens

      I’ve only heard one complaint about how I curated my Tweets, which is OK given the volume I do. And the person wanted me to give credit to an entire website that curates (Hacker News), not even a person! I think a best practice is to keep in mind the viral nature of a tweet. If something is getting spread like wildfire I think it’s more okay to hold off giving them credit – because it was inevitably going to get to them anyways. If I find something unique that hasn’t been spread quite as feverishly, I’ll tend to (or will now try) to give them credit where credit is due, as their effort uncovered the post.

      I’ll definitely be more conscious though, thanks for the comments!

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