The neat thing about tweet threads is you don't have to write the entire thread out in one go. You can publish a three-tweet thread and then come back to it the next day and continue the story.
You could start a thread in the browser and add additional tweets to it from your mobile when you're on the go or vice versa.
Writing threads on the Twitter app is great for the occasional thread but becomes a nuisance if you want to write threads regularly.
Say you have a long chunk of text you want to turn into a thread. You have to open a word document, you'll need a character counter app to make sure each tweet doesn't go over the limit, then you need Twitter open in another window. There's lots of copying and pasting and moving stuff around, and you're working in a tiny little tweet box to compose everything.
Worst of all, unlike regular tweets, you can't save threads as drafts so you have to finish the entire thread in one go or lose your work.
If you're planning to publish threads regularly you can use specialized tools for the job that make the process a whole lot easier. Chirr App lets you work in a Google Docs-style editor where you can type out your entire message in one go. It automatically splits everything into 280 character tweets and you can preview what it will look like on Twitter before publishing. You can move things around without any hassle, automatically save drafts if you want to work on ideas over a few days, and you can schedule things throughout the week.
The internet is working hard to establish principles to "hack" threads but this has only led to a nauseatingly templatized format that is more effective at making people's eyes roll than piquing their interest.
Adding 🧵 and 👇 to a tweet has become the mark of the beast.
Rather than regurgitating a list of hollow principles to follow I'm going to show you a collection of fantastic threads that have done a great job of leveraging the format.
I have to start with the Museum of English Rural Life thread on finding a bat in their book store.
The MERL has done an exceptional job of honing threads as a storytelling format. Their stories are always fun, they start off light and are easy to play along with.
The story itself is not frivolous, by the 17th tweet we're discussing bat migration patterns.
This doesn't feel like dense information because of the story's pace.
Rather than cramming as much information as possible, each new tweet is used to set a rhythm for the story.
Rarely does a tweet use all 280 characters, especially towards the beginning of the threads as people are getting warmed up.
And the MERL does an excellent job of using images and media to break up the monotony of text. They even bend the rules to use text as images at points.
Another great example of this is in another lovely story about how someone found a book they owned as a child in a second-hand bookstore as a grown-up.
Thread tweets aren't just about fun and games. They are also incredibly effective for science communication and converting important academic research.
One of my favorite academics on Twitter is Hannah Ritchie. She is the Head of Research at Our World in Data and she distills years of insight into incredibly accessible and informative threads.
Her thread on the complexities around boycotting palm oil is an absolute masterpiece.
Again, she rarely feels the need to use all 280 available characters in each tweet, especially towards the beginning of her threads.
She leverages clear, powerful media to convert complex information succinctly.
Threads are a powerful format for academics because they allow people like Hannah to communicate complex information that would never be possible in a single tweet. However, sharing it on Twitter as a thread means the information becomes infinitely more accessible than if she were to write a whole article on the same subject.
Threads aren't always just about making information accessible. Sometimes it is important to convey information on Twitter because that is where the conversation is happening.
Tyler Black is a suicidologist and thread-writer extraordinaire. He runs one of North America's only dedicated psychiatric emergency units for children. He is also a professor, a proud geek, and a cat dad.
His most recent viral thread is a masterclass on how to use an evidence-based approach to dismantle harmful disinformation.
Tyler systematically broke down how a toolkit put together by a group of doctors and scientists was misrepresenting data.
He points out the egregiousness of mis-citing data on suicides at multiple points in the thread and shows how the data ought to be interpreted.
In the last tweet, he finally reached out to policymakers who would benefit from taking evidence into account while formulating policies.
Tyler, Hannah, and the Museum of Rural Art are excellent examples of how threads can be used to remove barriers to information and tell stories that people care about.
The same principles of clear writing and superb storytelling apply to Twitter threads in much the same way they would apply to any other format. If anything, the constraints of the format mean that the margin for error is even tighter than it would be in a more forgiving, longer format.
And while I don't want to give you a template for how to write a great thread, there is one aspect of the format that is unique to a Twitter thread that does warrant more attention...
The opening tweet in a thread is disproportionately important. On a regular day, it's competing with cat memes and Korean pop stars.
I hate the idea of having to write a hook. Reverse-engineer some clickbait-y title to get people to read your thread feels gimmicky and disingenuous.
However, the reality is that the worst thing you can do is put lots of time and attention into writing a fantastic thread and then not give the opening tweet the attention it deserves.
At the most fundamental level, giving the opening tweet the respect it deserves involves answering two questions from your reader's perspective:
What is this tweet about?
What will I get out of reading it?
Clearly answering these two questions can turn a rubbish hook into something decent. To bump things up a notch, you have to address a third question:
Do I have a strong opinion on something people care about?
The emphasis here is on what 'people care about' not on having 'a strong opinion'.
The idea here is that you don't get to make something interesting. Shuffling words around in the first tweet won't make your thread more compelling. It's a more receptive process than a creative one. You can pick the topic, but you have to listen and understand what's already been said about it and what your audience wants to know about it next.
The stronger the opinion the better but the key is to pay attention to problems and struggles people resonate with.
I should also point out that having a compelling hook is only half the battle. You have to actually deliver on it. A great hook that doesn't deliver is just clickbait.
Threads occupy an interesting space between a blog post and a tweet.
A Twitter thread is much more accessible than an article. Writing a long-form post and then dropping a link to it on Twitter won't get you anywhere near as many eyeballs as writing a Twitter thread. Apart from the fact that people just don't like clicking out of Twitter, there are also rumors that Twitter throttles who sees tweets with links in them. The idea that Twitter wouldn't want to promote content that moves people off of its platform makes sense.
A thread removes the need to link out of Twitter and gives people the good stuff right where they are. The constraints of the format also force writers to measure each word and distill what they're are saying down to its essence. These limitations mean that a good thread is often more engaging and more accessible than its blog equivalent.
On the other hand, a thread allows you to make a more nuanced argument that you can in a single tweet.
Turning your favorite articles and blog posts into threads is a good way to get started because it lets you get good at the format without having to worry about creating original content at the same time.
Make sure you give full credit to the content you're using here and link to the original article at the end of your thread. The idea is to introduce people to writing you love by summarizing what you love about it and making it accessible to people on Twitter.
Chirr App has a Chrome and Firefox extension that makes copying text from the web and importing it into the thread editor super simple
Chirr App's thread editor is free to use as long as you don't go over 10 tweets in a thread. 10 tweets per thread is a good limit when you're starting out. 8-12 tweets seem to be the emerging standard for threads on Twitter.
Keep the reading level of your writing nice and low and pay attention to the aesthetic of each tweet. Line length and spacing for plenty of white space and use • bullet points (press option + 8 on a mac and it's a bit more complicated on windows: https://howtotypeanything.com/bullet-point).
Whatever you do, do NOT copy and paste whole articles into Twitter threads. A good thread focuses on a single idea. If your post explores multiple ideas, write multiple threads.
Finally, edit your ideas to fit into individual tweets.
The only thing worse than a rambly 56-part thread is if an unfinished sentence runs over into the next tweet. Never do this.
People spend a lot of time distilling the essence of what they're saying so they can pack a whole idea into 280 characters.
Another interesting way to approach threads is to find 5-10 online communities centered around a topic you want to write about or for the kind of people you want to write for.
Then commit to spending about half an hour a day listening for explicit problems and struggles in one or more of your spaces each day.
When you find an important problem you can help with your answer to the question and contribute to the discussion. Then you compress your response and any ensuing discussion into a Twitter thread that distills the most important information and makes it accessible to more people on the internet.
Producing content in response to actual questions prevents you from writing about what you think is interesting and keeps you focused on what people actually care about.
When you don't know the answer to an important question, you read a book, complete a course or reach out to experts for help.
We're just talking about developing domain expertise here. Reading the cannon, summarizing key ideas, getting to know the thinkers in space, and making a concerted effort to steward new people to relevant knowledge in the space.
The idea is to become incredibly useful around a certain problem for a specific group of people.
One of the most fun and underappreciated aspects of thread writing is the fact that you can write a thread over time. You can start a thread on Monday and then add to it through the week.
You can commit to a thirty-day challenge and maintain a running thread of the challenge as you work your way through the month.
You can start a list of projects you love, companies you hate, or cooking recipes that involve ostriches eggs and they can be open to public lists that can be added to as you find new projects, companies, or recipes.
The format's ability to develop over time is unique to the platform and worth exploring if you have a project that you want to gradually document progress on publicly.
Twitter threads are a great way to communicate with people on the internet. They allow you to tell a great story, convey a complex point, or share important news with the world.
They remove the barriers to information and allow you to communicate depth and nuance on a platform plagued with attention-deficient, hyper-simplistic byte-sized hot takes. This is an important tool to be able to wield because Twitter is uniquely positioned as the real-time, conversational layer of the internet.
When something big happens, Twitter is the first place a lot of people go. It's where people spend their time and if you want their attention it's the place to be. Twitter intends to expand to a global audience of 315 million daily active users by 2023. This makes it a great place to plant a flag right now.
Chirr App is a tool that helps experts and teams regularly write and schedule Twitter threads. If the people you want to reach are on Twitter, threads are an effective way to establish your expertise in an industry.