The Three Cardinal Sins of Tweet Button Implementations

by Aaron Bradley on May 29, 2012

in Social Media

Three Cardinal Sins of Tweet Button Implementations

The tweet button allows users to tweet a link to a page with a single click, and is one of the most ubiquitous social sharing buttons on the web.  This site uses it, your favorite sites almost certainly carry it, and if your mom has a blog you'll probably find a button there sporting a picture of a little bird with the word "Tweet" next to it.

As easy as it is to add the tweet button to a website, most users do not avail themselves of the full functionality that the tweet button offers.  By making three relatively simple implementation tweaks you can create more engaging tweets, improve tracking, provide better exposure for your Twitter username and increase the number of your followers.

In the examples below I mostly reference the WP Tweet Button plugin for WordPress, as it is the most commonly-used tweet button utility for the most commonly-used blog platform.  However, there are other plugins available for other platforms, and Twitter itself offers both a button configurator and detailed tweet button documentation for developers.

Proper configuration of the tweet button is straightforward regardless of the method you use, and the best practices described below should not be difficult to implement.  By following the guidelines below you'll get more mileage out of your button-based tweets, and find yourself unsullied by any of the three cardinal sins of tweet button implementations!

Sin #1:  Failing to Shorten the URL

The primary advantage of tweet button URL shortening is that much less of the 140 characters Twitter allows is eaten up by the web page address, freeing it up for use by the tweeter to add comments, and for you to add a Twitter @name to the end of the tweet (discussed under sin #2).  It also renders the resulting tweet easier to read, which may increase both the number of clicks on the link and the number of retweets.

For a (fairly standard) WordPress site like mine, which uses dash-separated words in the title to generate a post file name, a long title generates an equally long URL.  Longer URLs are also a consequence, of course, of sites with long domain names.

An out-of-the-box, unmodified tweet button implementation on WordPress using the plugin produces share windows like this when the tweet button is clicked.

Unmodified Tweet Button Output for a Long Post Title

 An even longer title will result in truncation of that post's title.

Unmodified Tweet Button Output for an Extremely Long Post Title

The tweet button does do some URL truncation of its own accord – you may have observed that for both those titles the output exceeds Twitter's 140-character limit (the first tweet is actually 243 characters long!).  However, this still leaves little space for the addition of any commentary from the person posting the tweet, and the fact that the visible area of the share window is occupied with the post title and URL in any case discourages such additions.  And one way or another, when the tweet is posted a large amount of real estate is necessarily given over simply to the URL.

Posted Tweet for a Long Post Title and Non-Shortened URL

Sin not!  Shorten your URLs!  Using the plugin, this is readily accomplished by selecting one of the available shortener options.

WP Tweet Button Shortener Options

Some of these shorteners may be used as is, whereas some shortening services require an API, for which credentials may be entered in the appropriate fields in the plugin's settings (for the sake of conciseness – here, as elsewhere in this post – additional plugin options are not displayed or discussed in detail).

Using a shortening service linked to your account is recommended, as the service (such as, my quick and easy shortener of choice) may provide you with aggregated metrics about links you've shortened.  But using any shortener is better than not using one at all, as you can see from the share window output once a shortener has been enabled.

Tweet Button Output for a Long Post Title with Shortened URL

The would-be tweeter has more space to add their contribution (if only conceptually), and the tweet is now more fully focused around the more important of its two elements:  the post title.

Of course, few SEOs regularly create post titles 103 characters in length.  A properly length-optimized title (i.e. of 70 characters or less) makes for a very tidy share snippet indeed.

Tweet Button Output for an Optimized Post Title with Shortened URL

Hey, who wrote that post, anyway?

Sin #2:  Failing to Attribute the Tweet to a User

When I tweet a link to an article, I go out of my way find out if the author has a twitter account so I can attribute the piece to its creator ("I Head a Fly Buzz – @emilydickinson").  I am the exception:  users of tweet buttons tend to accept the defaults, and if your @account doesn't appear in the share window its unlikely to make its way into the final tweet.

Attribution has some obvious benefits.  Whether by clicking on Twitter's "Connect" link or being alerted of @mentions by utilities like TweetDeck, you can more readily see activity on something you've created.  And both corporate and individual creators of content see branding and name-recognition benefits of having an @account more frequently exposed.

Like shortening, adding a user attribution to a tweet is dead simple using the WP Tweet Button plugin (and also dead simple when using Twitter's tweet button configurator).  Just add your user name in the appropriate spot in the plugin's settings panel.

Adding a Default Twitter Account in WP Tweet Button

By specifying my username in this box, now all tweets are appended "via @aaranged".

Tweet Button Output with a Default Twitter User Specified

Again, there are more plugin options available for how usernames can be configured, and developers can modify the tweet button code to accommodate @user accounts in complex ways (" … by @neptune from @romangods").  I will note, however, that for WordPress sites it's possible to leverage author accounts to automatically populate posts with the right @user, and to override the default attribution on a post-by-post basis.

Sweet, eh?  Now if you only had more followers….

Sin #3:  Failing to Recommend Users to Follow

You've shortened your URL.  You've attributed the link to a particular Twitter user.  Your loyal reader, enamored of your prose, readily clicks the tweet button on your post, accepts the default content of the share box and clicks the final "tweet" button there.

Tweet Notification without Recommended User

But unless that user already follows you that's not the end of the story, but rather a missed opportunity.

The tweet button allows you to specify up to two users that will be recommended to the tweeter after their tweet has been sent.  The benefit should be obvious:  it's a contextually relevant call-to-action that can help you acquire new followers.

Yet again, configuring a recommended user is straightforward.  For the WP Tweet Button plugin simply enter the account name of the user you wish to recommend (without going into details, I find the description field a little problematic – if you have a decent Twitter bio this should more than suffice as an enticement).

Specifying a Default Recommended Twitter User Using WP Tweet Button

When a default recommended Twitter user is specified, sharers will be invited to follow this user after they send their tweet (unless they follow the recommended user already).

Tweet Notification with a User Recommendation

As with @attribution, there are other plugin options for user recommendations, including deriving the suggestion from the Twitter account associated with an author.  At the post level, an additional user recommendation can be entered.

Specifying a Recommended Twitter User at the Post Level

If the tweet button user follows neither the default user nor the one specified at the post level, both will be recommended after the tweet is sent.

Tweet Notification with a Two User Recommendations

That's all there is to it.  For the WordPress plugin configuring URLs to be shortened, assigning a default Twitter user to generate @user notices and assigning a default recommended Twitter to follow takes only a few minutes, yet the majority of publishers sin by neglecting one or more of these simple steps.  As I hope you can see, if you're one of these sinners repentance is readily at hand.

1 Stephen Hamilton May 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Great tips there. I haven’t given this much thought before, but it seems kind of obvious now you’ve pointed this out. I mainly use AddThis, so I’ll have to check out what functionality they have to execute these tips.

2 Helen Stepchuk July 9, 2012 at 12:02 am

Great tips, Aaron!


3 JONATHAN April 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm

WHAT about non wp sites? Can you implement the third sin?

4 Aaron Bradley May 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Absolutely: just employ the “data-related” property described in the tweet button documentation.

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