How To Write A Twitter Thread

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

We get this question all the time: 

“Should I be writing Twitter threads, Atomic Essays, or LinkedIn posts?”

The problem with this question is that it’s highly tactical. It’s like asking, “What’s the best time to tweet?” 

Yes, where you write and what time you tweet makes a difference. But the difference it makes is very incremental. (Translation: it doesn’t matter nearly as much as people think it does). What DOES matter, however, is whether or not you’re executing the fundamentals of Digital Writing. 

The Fundamentals of Digital Writing

In Ship 30 for 30, we recommend you learn to write using Atomic Essays. 

An Atomic Essay has:

  • A clear headline. 
  • A strong lead-in with a credible introduction.
  • Subheads organized into main points, and a conclusion. 

You get every single part of Digital Writing in one tightly controlled space. 

Once you learn these fundamentals, you can apply what you’ve learned on any platform. This is true for anything you write: threads, articles, blog posts, emails, newsletters, books, landing pages, you name it, the fundamentals apply.

 If you can write an Atomic Essay, you can write anything. Period.

If you want to be part of the Twitter conversation, you have to understand the dialect. 

Twitter threads are an art form that requires a firm understanding of Digital Writing fundamentals.

It is like learning a foreign language. And what happens when you travel to a different country? People use slang terms, different words, or they emphasize specific phrases. A Twitter thread is like a different dialect of Digital Writing. The rules are different.

However… once you learn how to “speak Twitter,” you will unlock a tremendous amount of viral potential.

For example, Dickie wrote this thread when he had 9,000 followers. But it got 5M views! How is that possible? Because on social platforms, it doesn’t really matter how many followers you have for something to go viral. All that matters is whether or not the content is resonating with people (and if it is, Twitter—or whichever social platform—is going to keep showing it to more and more people).

 Now compare this to posting an article on your personal blog.

  • There’s no viral loop or algorithm to help you get traction.
  • You publish an article into the void, and must promote it yourself.
  • Your impressions equal the number of people that know your blog exists.  
  • Etc.

Now, don’t be confused:

Just because you write a Twitter Thread doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to go viral.

That’s not how it works. 

Atomic Essays go viral, Twitter posts go viral, Linkedin posts go viral, Reddit posts go viral, and Quora answers go viral too. It’s not the vehicle that matters. What matters is the information you put inside of the vehicle. If you are writing high-quality content, the algorithm will do the work for you. 

Here’s the breakdown.

How To Craft The Perfect Twitter Thread

There are four elements to crafting a Twitter thread. 

Each element is a tweet that stands on its own, but when packaged together they create a pleasurable experience for the reader.  Here they are:

  • Lead-In Tweet: This is the first tweet in your post. It is a combination of your headline and your lead in sentence. In this tweet, you are grabbing the reader’s attention and telling them what they get by reading the rest of the thread.
  • Main Points: Between your lead-in and CTA you have all the main points. This is the bulk of your post. But, if your lead-in doesn’t hook the reader, they aren’t going to read your main points.
  • TL;DR Recap: This stands for “too long didn’t read” and is a summary of your entire thread. This summary tweet tells the reader here’s everything we covered. It comes at the end and reinforces the whole thread.
  • CTA: Call your reader to action. You just delivered a tone of value to your readers. Now you want to capture that engagement by taking them off the platform. Direct your readers to more of your content, or send them to a lead capture page to collect an email.  If they want more, give them something to do when they finish reading.  

When you are done, your thread will look like this:

Let’s get into the steps starting with crafting your hook.

Step 1: Write the Lead-In Tweet.

The Lead-In Tweet is like a compressed movie trailer.

You have to get to the point fast and tell the reader everything they are about to get in your thread in 1.5 seconds. 

  • Who is it for?
  • What is it about?
  • Why should they trust you?
  • What will the reader “get” in exchange? 
  • After they read, how is their life going to be different?

Think of your Lead-In Tweet as a headline and your first sentence combined. And your goal is to get the reader to click, expand your Twitter Thread, and start reading. (If you aren’t successful at grabbing the reader’s attention in your Lead-In Tweet, then it doesn’t matter how “great” the content is—the reader is going to skip right over your Thread and move onto the next piece of content in their feed).

Let’s look at Dickie’s tweet on David Ogilvy.

  • “One of the most legendary” ←- Credibility. This isn’t Dickie, it’s Ogilvy!
  • “In 1982” ← Moment in time.  This is one of the 6 ways we teach writing first sentences.
  • “How to write” ← This is about how to write according to David Ogilivy.
  • “10 bullets on effective writing” ←  This is what the reader gets if they move forward.

Boom! 

In four sentences the reader knows exactly who this is for, what it’s about and what they will get out of it.  If you don’t have that, the reader will just think “oh, it’s another thread” and move on by.  

Readers don't’ read threads. They read to get something in return.  

You will never succeed writing on the internet if you promise that your content gets better three paragraphs later. The whole game happens in the first three sentences. It doesn’t happen three paragraphs from now. Either you hook someone’s attention or you don’t. That’s the hard part. 

Once you have the reader’s attention, you just have to deliver on the promise. 

  • Focus on the idea.  
  • Say or read it out aloud.  
  • Allow yourself to hear your main point. 

It’s not about the writing, it’s about the thinking. What is the idea you are communicating to the reader?

Let’s look at another example.

Most people would say, “Here’s how to generate 100 ideas.” But this “idea” can become exponentially stronger by explaining: “And here’s how to do that in record time.” And, even further: “ Here’s how to do that in record time even if you thought it was never possible.

  • How to generate 100 ideas (compelling)
  • In 30 minutes (more compelling) 
  • Even if you think you have nothing to say (even more compelling)

You are pushing the reader to see why what you have written is so important for them to read.

Here’s another one.

There are 4 parts to this tweet:

  • Credibility: 1,000 hours.
  • Twist the knife: College will fail you.
  • Exactly what you get: 11 summary tweets. 
  • What’s in it for them: They can apply it today. 

If you remove any of these parts, this Lead-In Tweet wouldn’t be nearly as effective. 

Step 2: Write the Main Points.

Congrats! You caught the reader’s attention. 

Now it’s time to give them what they came for.

With Atomic Essays, one of the frameworks we teach in Ship 30 for 30 is formatting paragraphs into 1-3-1 formatting. Well, in a thread, you can do the same thing. It’s just compressed. 

Instead of three sentences, you use three bullets.

  • Avoid long bulky paragraphs.
  • Use bullet points and line breaks.
  • Every tweet should stand on its own to maximize engagement.

This is what makes Twitter such a different “language” compared to other Digital Writing platforms. Instead of paragraphs, you are optimizing for speed with a thread. You want someone to be able to see your Lead-In, get hooked, click, skim, and be done in ten seconds. That’s the whole game. Which is why Twitter threads are hyper compressed. 

The key here is to write single sentences in bulleted lists. 

  • Tell the reader what they need to know. 
  • Give them three examples to illustrate the point. 
  • Then move on to the next tweet in the thread and do it again. 

Anytime you see yourself staring at a big paragraph, get rid of it.

Formatting matters.

If this is difficult for you, there are templates you can use in Typeshare.  

All you have to do is color in the lines. 

For example: this tweet…

…turned into this template.

Typeshare templates will help you practice and get up to speed.  

Alternatively, when you see something grab your attention on Twitter, pause and ask yourself:  “What did they do and how can I create the exact same thing?” When you see something grab your attention, stop, open another window, copy the text, and try to create a template for yourself.

Step 3: End your thread with a TL;DR recap.

Your second to last tweet should be the TL;DR recap.

(TL;DR stands for “Too Long, Didn’t Read”—which is Internet-speak for “just tell me what I need to know.”)

This recap repeats the “headlines” of your Main Points. And posting the TL;DR at the end of your thread improves the reader’s experience. It helps your reader quickly internalize everything they just read, which improves the likelihood that they “act” when they see your call to action.

Pro Tip: Write the TL;DR first. (This becomes the outline for your Twitter Thead.)

When you start the writing process listing out your TL;DR tweet, it’s like writing your headline first. If you can’t summarize your thread, you don’t know what you are saying.  This is also another way for readers to “skim” your thread before they start reading it in detail.

Pro Tip: When you are writing bullet points, make each one longer than the next. It’s nice to read.

Step 4: End your Thread with a CTA.

CTA stands for “Call To Action,” which means you are going to direct the reader’s attention somewhere else.

This should be the last Tweet in your Thread:

  • Make it easy for the reader to take the next action. 
  • Show them how they can continue reading your best stuff.
  • Point them to your newsletter, or a product you have for sale. 
  • You can even send people to another thread, or just ask them to follow you.  

Give the reader something to do at the bottom of the thread, so when they get to the bottom they don’t just scroll away.  The easiest thing to say is: “If you enjoyed this thread, follow me for more threads like this one.”  

If you deliver something valuable to the reader, they will do something in return for you.  

Step 5: Curate a Thread of Threads.

As your library of Twitter threads grows, you’ll then be able to write “threads of threads”—organizing by topic, by category, by problem, etc.

But, if you are starting from ground zero, we recommend you find a creator you love and create a thread about their best content.  This is tremendously valuable because when you do the work of organizing all of the content for the reader, you save them a bunch of time.

Here’s a great “Thread of Threads” Lead-In Template:

I’ve read everything {a person} has done for the last {Time Period}.  

These are the best threads on {Topic}.👇  

Do this for other creators, then do it for yourself. The side benefit of doing something like this is you will be reading high quality work. And, you will be learning and absorbing the patterns of viral writing.

What will you write first?!

That does it for today’s Digital Writing Compass Deep Dive!

As a recap, you just learned:

  • Why you should learn to write an atomic essay first.
  • The building blocks of a well organized Twitter thread.
  • How to write and optimize a Twitter thread for digital readers.

The big takeaway is: learn the fundamentals of Digital Writing, deconstruct a pattern that works on Twitter, plug in your content, and hit publish!.

This is the format that has worked for us.  But, we encourage you to try different things. We are giving you the pieces, so now you can go and play with those pieces.

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