Your Brand. In 3 Tweets.

Twitter and Social Media Branding

Did you know you can either earn or lose a customer for life in just three tweets?

We make snap decisions all the time. Our brain, in an effort to speed things up and reduce workload, automatically creates certain shortcuts. These come in all sorts of varieties. For example, when you drove into work this morning, do you remember any of the cars or houses you drove by? Chances are you may vaguely recall some visuals or sounds, but not in a very crystal clear way. Some refer to this as “autopilot”. Well it turns out that there are autopilots for all sorts of activities and thought processes. One of those is how we experience a brand. On Twitter. Let’s elaborate.

3 Second Rule.

There is a concept in psychology called social cognition. It refers to a set of elements that include schemas, attributions and stereotypes. In essence, it’s a shortcut our brain uses to categorize people we meet, based on our own biases, experiences and opinions. Social cognition often comes into play when we first meet someone. That first impression creates a mental image of a person that can last a lifetime and we usually do this in under 3 seconds. (Read more about Social Cognition)

3 seconds is all the time you have to create an impression that can last a lifetime. So, from a brand perspective… if you leave a bad first impression, it’s not just a lost connection. Fact is, that one person may never consider or check you out again. Extrapolated over the lifetime of one customer, this could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. And you may never even know this happened in the first place. THAT is the importance of making a good first impression. Now let’s see how that plays out on Twitter.


Your Brand in 3 Tweets.

Now that you know about the 3 second rule, I’d like to propose a 3 tweet rule. You see, when someone comes across a tweet or retweet from your brand and clicks on the handle, they see only the last three status updates. Which would be the equivalent of the first impression idea we discussed above. As you can see below, this may be the only way users ever experience your brand.

Social Media Branding

With that in mind, I’ve been doing some primary research (the one with lots of legwork and rejection) into what makes a twitter feed compelling and these are some insights I collected:

Conversations – Users want to see that a brand (or you, if you are the brand) are engaging with followers. This means that your feed should include mentions and @ replies. It signals that you’re listening and are approachable. There are exceptions to this rule, but they come in the flavours of celebrities and news aggregators.

Links – Sharing content that is relevant to your brand and your intended audience is also important. This could be your own articles, videos or podcasts as well as those from other sources. The key is to remember to keep them relevant.

Tweets – Thought leadership comes from developing and sharing ideas and Twitter is a fantastic network to do just that. Putting together simple, yet compelling, funny or interesting tweets is a surefire way to reach a larger audience. They should be original (stay away from quotes, they are the bane of my feed) and short enough to be retweetable, which means around 100 characters.



The importance of profile images.

83% of human learning happens visually, so it’s no wonder that we naturally tend to pay attention to visuals and images. In the Twitterverse, the two visual components you have to work with are your profile image and your background. These are the same two options that Target, Apple or Nike have as well. So the playing field is pretty even…

For our purposes we should focus on the profile image, as this is a key piece of a popup when users click on your handle. Again, you have only 3 seconds and a tiny bit of screen space to make an impression… so make it count. I recently had a great discussion about what these images should look like in order to increase followers or establish authority. Basically it comes down to truly understanding your brand and more importantly, how you wish to be perceived. Knowing this will guide your image selection for best results. Here are a few thoughts:

Logos signal a very cold, business-like presence. Few brands are able to get away with it (Ikea, Apple, Dell), but I would suggest staying away from using one as your profile picture. After all, these are SOCIAL networks and we want to connect with other humans (read this article).

Professional photos can be a great choice and they generally communicate professionalism and authority. On the other hand, they lose some of that personal, down-to-earth touch. So, you have to make a decision about which end of the spectrum you wish to play in.

Action photos, such as biking, hiking or painting can tell volumes about your brand. They are a great way to connect with people on a deeper level, but keep in mind that, depending on the activity, it may alienate some potential followers.

Group shots are a great alternative to the logo. They could be of your office staff, CEO, communications team or even customers. They convey a fun atmosphere and are generally inviting in a “join us” kind of way.


This article was sparked by a conversation I had with a few colleagues at a local social media meetup, as well as my recent research for a book on social media engagement and I hope this was a informative read!


What do you do to engage first time Twitter followers?


– Ernest // Follow me on Twitter

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Top image credit: Neen James Middle image: Michelle Price

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6 thoughts on “Your Brand. In 3 Tweets.”

  1. Funny it is important we think about what we are tweeting about and then you can get hysterically anal about it. I find there are times I am in conversations for times on end and then other times I am busy working on projects. IN those moments you will only see what I loaded up to share when I am away.

    As much as I agree with you, we also need to practice critical thinking skills and ask, is it possible the three tweets I am looking at are not enough to make a snap judgment with?

    What about you? Have you ever look at someone’s three and made a snap judgment and was wrong?

    • It’s not a rational or a reasonable thing to do at all… but we naturally do it all the time. As for my personal experience… yes, I quite often judge based on the last three tweets and then may click through to a person’s profile and then make another judgement based on the first screen or two of tweets.

      Have I been wrong? … Of course. However, often times I won’t go back to check that one profile out again. If that was a brand, that first impression or interaction would basically mean that they’re either IN or OUT of my consideration set when it comes time to use a service from their industry.

      It doesn’t make logical sense… but it is the reality of being in this social space.

      – Ernest.

  2. We are judged immediately by our appearance, so it stands true we are judged by our Twitter background, Profile pic and last three tweets. We will be judged.

    Both brands and personal brands need to know this, but I do cringe a bit when we know this – then we actually act (or tweet) differently because of it. If someone is truly living what they love, and sharing and conversing on topics they are passionate about, being authentic and true to themselves, I would imagine their last three tweets are just fine to be judged by – without being strategic or policing themselves to ensure they are portraying the image they want to portray.

    Tweet on – like no one’s watching…. if you love what you do – do it. And brands – they can do this too… but they all have to ‘loving it’ ;)

    • It’s a reality of business and the way we think, as shallow as it may seem. Each one of those last 3 (or however many) tweets illustrates our (or the brands) personality in a really small space. @ replies may indicate more engagement, while links to other articles may indicate a lack of original thought, for example. I’d say if you’re comfortable with those and the way they come across – then it’s fair game :)

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Ernest.

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