Why and how I write viral twitter threads

February 06, 2021

A skill I have recently been developing is writing long twitter threads. The reason why I started writing twitter threads was just as an easy way to record what I had learnt. Writing it publicly as a twitter thread has the advantage of forcing you to process what you’ve learnt and regurgitate it as something that can be understood by someone else. This process is invaluable to internalising what you have learnt. Also, since it’s public you have some social accountability to not sound like an idiot.

I used to do this as blog posts before, but the reason why I stopped writing blog posts as often is that the style of writing in a blog post is very different. And that style takes a little more time and effort on editing the sentence structure itself and less on creating the content.

Blog posts need to flow as a single piece of writing. Each paragraph must create a narrative from one to the next, but also each sentence must follow one from the next. (Interestingly this paragraph would make a nice tweet!)

Tweets are often need to be self contained. Being self contained allows them to be understood on their own and the reader can like or retweet it based singularly on that 280 character post. (And this, whoops)

So how do I create my tweet storm threads?

I try to get the content down first, usually starting from the beginning, but not always. I then start to arrange them in an order that makes sense, moving them around to create a story. I tend not to have a content limit on what I want to say, but usually I’ll stop around 20 tweets as much more than that it probably could be a medium length blog post and most people on twitter are looking for shorter reads. It also brings up the question - if I need this many tweets - am I really condensing the knowledge properly?

This brings me onto the next topic, which is distillation. Tweets are self-contained, even though they are written as threads, each tweet is expected to have it’s own topic it targets. This allows it to be understood in isolation. A tweet should be the distillation of one idea or concept. That’s what makes them powerful and impactful to the reader.

Even though it should be understood in isolation, it also has to flow from the tweet before it. This can be seen as repetitive in normal writing styles, but I think it makes sense for tweets. I use short sentences, sometimes split up over multiple lines, and they don’t always have to flow together, they could simple state two separate facts.

Eth1 is proof of work. Eth2 is proof of stake.

This is a fantastic tweet for understanding what they are and what the differences are. If this was a blog post though, those sentences side by side are fine, but they don’t create a flow that readers expect.

My style for my twitter threads is technical or “difficult to understand” concepts explained in a simple manner. This is usually done by explaining the high level concepts in a very verbose manner, using lots of metaphors and over-describing to hammer in a definition. Although a level of understanding on say crypto may be assumed, I try to always define anything just 1 step higher. E.g. if the topic was Eth2, I may define Eth1 terminology, even though I know the reader might know them already (and that’s okay), but I may not explain basic crypto definitions or what blockchain is.

Not all viral twitter threads do this, but it seems to work well for me as if you want to reach more people, it’s better to ELI5 for the common denominator.

Lastly, try and enjoy what content you write. This is as much of a note to myself as to the reader. Teaching is a joy as you can leverage the knowledge you know and have that affect a multiple of people. It’s satisfying knowing there are skills or knowledge that are helping people with their lives and that you are the cause of that knowledge transfer. Twitter is a tool I use as medium to teach and spread knowledge. Learning the art of teaching I would argue is beneficial to every single person and the entire human species as a whole.

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Distilling the complicated into the simple. And sometimes general wonderings. Follow me on twitter