Mar 20, 2013

Headline Hashtags & Other Tweetable Press Release Tips

Press releases generate multiple tweets per minute.

Press releases generate multiple tweets per minute.

A post on the Forbes CIO network titled “#Accounting: Why Finance Teams Need to Get Social” garnered an unusual amount of traffic when compared to other posts on that channel.  With a current tally of more than 430,000 reads, this particular post is a real outlier.  A quick scan of other posts on the site suggests that reader tallies in the low four figures are the norm.

This anomaly was spotted by Lou Hoffman of the Hoffman Agency, and he highlighted it in a blog post titled, “The Role of the Hashtag in a Forbes Headline Attracting Over 400K Views .”

“The one element that makes this Forbes post different from other executive byliners lies in the headline and the use of the hashtag #Accounting,” he noted in his blog post.

I think Lou is on to something.  According to HubSpot’s new LinkTally tool, the article was shared 1,200 times on social networks.  And, as illustrated in Lou’s blog post, Google is differentiating between the search terms “#accounting “ and “accounting.”    While I am not willing to ascribe the success of this post on Forbes entirely to the presence of the hashtag in the headline – after all, it is a well-written discussion of a timely topic – I do think that the headline format had something to do with the article’s success.

press release quote

There’s certainly no doubt that press releases are important grist for Twitter’s information mill.  A look at the live search results for “PRNewswire” on Twitter shows that people are tweeting the press releases we issue multiple times per minutes.   And there are a few things you can do when writing press releases to help encourage people to tweet and share your copy.

  • Try using a relevant and popular hashtag in a Tweet-ready headline – keep it to about 100 characters, and make it interesting.
  • That obligatory quote?   Craft it for Twitter by dropping the hyperbole and editing it down into a 100 character statement that makes a key point.
  • Encourage tweeting by including the Twitter handle of anyone you quote in the press release.
  • Don’t forget visuals.  Twitter.com displays media in tweets, and we know that visuals do a great job of grabbing reader attention.

You can also use ClickToTweet to embed pre-loaded tweets in your messages, though I would caution against relying solely upon an embedded tweet to generate engagement.   People use lots of different mechanisms to tweet, including browser extensions and social media management dashboards.  You’ll be most successful when you cater to a variety of user preferences.

Why 100 characters?  I thought Tweets were 140 characters?

While you can put as many as 140 characters into a tweet, there are a few reasons why limiting tweets to 100 characters (or even less) is a good idea.

  • If you’re adding a URL to your tweet, allow 20 characters for Twitter’s URL shortener.  All URLs on Twitter are converted to Twitter URLs automatically.
  • You’ll also want to leave space for other people’s comments and Twitter handles, to encourage re-tweets.
  • Research by PR Newswire shows that press releases with long headlines (longer than 140 characters) experience a significant drop in online views, so writing a Twitter-friendly headline can help boost overall results.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik .

Want to get more visibility on Twitter for your news?  Try SocialPost – our Twitter-based press release distribution service, delivering exposure via carefully-curated, subject-specific Twitter presences.

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