One Giro Story, Two Tweets: Who Wrote It Best?

 A quick look at how two cycling sites are using Twitter during the Tour of Italy.

By Daniel McMahon

OK, so after the Giro stage today, I had a really slow period at work and found myself digging into Twitter streams. I wanted commentary on the main story lines of the stage. The one that interested me was Ryder Hesjedal’s aggressive riding in the latter part of the stage. Some folks, so I had heard anyway, were criticizing the defending Giro champion for “wasting energy” and choosing foolhardy tactics, like repeatedly trying to get away to steal the time back that he’d lost in the team time trial yesterday. Others, though, were excited by the Canadian’s attacking and praised him for making the Giro more interesting—especially in light of Team Sky’s approach, which is to take control of the race with its super-strong squad, gradually pull back breaks, and eventually wear down all rivals and demoralize them until Wiggins can win the race in the TTs.

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For his trouble, Ryder took third on the stage and grabbed the eight-second time bonus, which helped make up for a subpar TTT performance by his Garmin team yesterday.

So anyway, as I was searching Twitter I quickly found two tweets related to this story, both by sites I visit a lot: Cyclingnews.com and VeloNews.com. They got me thinking about what makes an effective tweet. (More on that in a minute.) Have a look at these two screenshots. Decide which tweet you think is better and why, then read on.

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As you can see, the tweets were published by Cyclingnews.com and VeloNews.com, respectively. Which was your favorite? Why?

If we had to break these tweets down, Cyclingnews.com’s starts out with the word “news” and identifies the news as Giro news. Is that helpful to readers? I’d say not really so much. Then the tweet mentions Hesjedal’s going on the offensive into Marina di Ascea. Is the town he attacked to win in important? Maybe. (If it were the Stelvio summit, OK, certainly.) But I don’t know this town, and I suspect many others don’t either. Finally, we get the actual news: Hesjedal, a Canadian, “responds after team time trial…” Well, you can see the issue here: The real news gets buried, then cut off because the tweet wasn’t written or edited to fit. Perhaps the tweet was auto-generated from the web page.

Let’s look quickly at the VeloNews tweet. It gets right to the news: Hesjedal was “defiant” when asked about his attacks today. What’s more: His team will keep attacking. That’s it. Is it an effective tweet? I say yes. It’s short, it fits, it gets right to the news. And it adds a bit of new info too: “Garmin says it will keep attacking.”

Neither tweet uses any hashtags.

Note that both stories are quite similar and use many of the same quotes from Hesjedal. At last glance, both stories had about the same number of comments on their stories, about a dozen.

Here are bigger shots of each tweet; note the number of retweets and favorites:

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 7.15.37 PM

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 7.09.40 PM

The tweets, you can see, were published just minutes apart. Judging by these two Twitter metrics, if you can call them that, you see a dozen RTs for VN and one for CN (I took both screenshots at the same time, about 7 p.m. ET, to be fair). Now, of course, I don’t know how many people clicked through these tweets to read the respective stories. Maybe CN had way more page views than VN. I have no idea. But the point is, as far as we can tell on Twitter, VN nailed this tweet where CN fell short. And that’s because of how it was written.

Finally, the word “defiant” feels like the key word here. It really captures the essence of what Ryder did, both in the press room talking to reporters but also on the bike at the end of the stage. The CN tweet doesn’t tell much of a “story.” Now, there may be many other reasons why these tweets got the reactions they did. Again, perhaps CN’s was written auto-magically by a program. But the VN tweet actually conveys meaning, at least to me. And that’s why it’s effective.

For publishers and for brands and for just about everybody, social media is important. It pays to have your tweets well edited—by humans, preferably. And if you’re pushing out dozens of tweets every day, it all adds up to how effectively you’re writing for your audience.

P.S. The commentator in the video embedded above scores no points for his pronunciation of riders’ names.

Related: 1 Milan–San Remo Winner, 8 Leads: Who Wrote It Best?

Download the official Giro race guide here.

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