Most people share links on Twitter.
Not many people make an active effort to sell them.
An effective sell tells you what the link is about and why it’s worth your while to click it.
(i.e. why this link in particular, above all those others that are trickling down your various Tweetdeck columns, deserves your precious attention).
That’s hard because, quite often, describing the what leaves you with insufficient characters to do the why.
Especially if you’re really trying to sell the link and you want to leave room for people not just to retweet but to comment/endorse and retweet.
One thing I definitely like about Google + is that it gives you the space to properly pitch a piece of shared content. I’m not talking about long copy. Just two sentences. A what sentence. And a why sentence. It’s the classic seminar/conference mailer structure – here’s who’s speaking, here’s what you’ll learn.
The example below sort of illustrates this. It has the why sentence first, then the what, with a short, bonus why & what line at the end.
Sometimes the why is patently obvious from the what – some links do sell themselves.
“Russian wedding Photoshop disasters” for instance.
But most don’t.
They don’t because links (on Twitter) are commodities.
There are lots of links about ads, lots of links about strategy, lots of links about “how to”, lots of links about new tech or new start-ups. Lots of links that are very similar in terms of the what.
It’s the why that adds the value and makes the sell.
My policy for sharing (other people’s*) links on Twitter is to share stuff that I’d definitely click on if shared with me by someone else.
It’s a highly subjective policy.
But, in my subjective opinion, my curation has a high quality threshold. I never share any old shit just to fill a tweet vacuum and make some noise.
Hopefully that is born out by people’s experience of following me.
Hopefully I have a reputation for dealing good quality shit.
Hopefully that reputation goes some way towards selling the links that I share regardless of whether I make an active why based effort to sell them.
I know that works the other way round.
I have a mental image of the curation quality threshold of everyone that I follow.
Everyone I follow has a reputation as uniquely perceived by me.
And that reputation has a big impact on whether I’ll click a link.
Two different people could share the same link with exactly the same description and I reckon I’d be twice as likely to click for one person than the other, based purely on the quality of what has gone before.
This got me thinking about the factors that contribute to a link shared on Twitter actually being clicked.
Facebook has Edgerank.
This is a rough guide to Philrank. These are the factors that determine whether I’ll click a link, along with an approximate weighting.
A = REPUTATION (WHO)
The most important single factor determining whether I’ll click a link is who shared it. Everyone has a reputation on Twitter. How often do we think about what that reputation might be?
It seems I’m not alone in thinking this.
I’ve allocated 40% of the pie chart to reputation. But if someone I rate has retweeted a link originally shared by another person that I rate, then the influence of this factor is substantially increased.
B = CONTENT (WHAT)
Obviously the innate interest value of the content behind the link, the what, is hugely important. But, for me, the who outranks it. The mere appearance of some people’s avatar in the stream makes me wonder what it is they’re sharing this time. If link sharing/curation is your game then your good name and reputation are everything.
C = CLARITY (HOW)
Some people try too hard to be clever in their tweets. That’s fine if you’re tweeting to be amusing. But if you’re sharing or selling a link you don’t want cleverness to obscure the innate interest value of the content. If your clarity is good, then there’s a multiplier effect between B x C. If your clarity is poor then it’s more like B/C.
D = CONVICTION (WHY)
This is the active sell. The why. If A, B and C are all working for a link rather than against it, this is a powerful factor.
As a bit of fun I’ve included a wee poll to see which why words and phrases are deemed to be the most influential.
E = LINK STRUCTURE
Most links that I click on have been shortened to save space on Twitter. But there’s still an influential body language to these links. For example, I have an aversion to Hootsuite (long story). I’m disinclined to open ow.ly links. Whilst I’ve scored E as the least influential factor, A, B, C and D would all have to be pulling in the same direction for me to click a Hootsuite link.
Depending on the context established by A, B, C and D, links like slidesha.re, youtu.be, and proprietary link shorteners like ecly.co all “mean” something.
So that’s it.
I hope this is useful food for thought.
All I have to think about now is how to sell the link to this post.
*I obviously share all of mine regardless. 😉