The BBC has shared tips for making content more engaging on Twitter after topping a list of the most-shared media content by UK users on the social network.

Analysis by PeerIndex published earlier this week showed content from the BBC's network of sites was shared 4.2 million times by UK Twitter users in January 2014.

The PeerIndex research counted URLs from news outlets shared on Twitter by UK users, including the news outlets themselves.

"The BBC clearly has a large footprint on Twitter and not just in news," Mark Frankel, assistant editor of social news at the BBC, told  "Entertainment, sport and iPlayer shares are also a big part of the story."

The most retweeted BBC story during January was the news of the death of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor James Avery, who died on December 31, he said.
He also noted the deaths of Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, and BBC World News presenter Komla Dumor as stories which had been widely shared. Therefore, news outlets to think carefully about how they update their audience on such news, and deliver content on social media in the most effective, informative and quickly-understandable way, including in what may be upsetting or even critical circumstances.

Frankel explained that while the BBC's news accounts were the largest of the corporation's profiles on Twitter, iPlayer and other channel, programme and correspondent accounts had all seen rapid growth.

"In particular, we shouldn't forget the success of the new Sherlock series on BBC One in January, which was extensively discussed on Twitter," he added.
The PeerIndex blog also noted that: "The BBC covers a vast array of subjects and topics with far more resources than most other players on the list. News, sports, entertainment and other content form part of the four million or so shares of BBC content. It would also include media shared via the iPlayer platform."

Below, Frankel explains the key principles the BBC follows to make its content more shareable.

Use straightforward language

"There's no substitute for making sure that when you've got a story that's breaking, you are able to relay it in simple, straightforward language," said Frankel.

"For example, if we've got a story about an obstetrician we might use the word 'doctor' instead of 'obstetrician' [in a tweet].

"It's not that we're trying to dumb down... but the word 'doctor' is potentially more saleable in terminology for the tweet."

Keep tweets short

A good tweet captures the "essence" of a story in under 100 characters, said Frankel.

This allows space for others to insert their own comment if they decide to retweet or do a modified tweet.

"I think sometimes on Twitter people try to pack in as much information as they can, or maybe cut and paste a paragraph of text and try to cut it down to 130 characters.

"Really they need to be asking themselves what the essence of that story is, and writing it in 100 characters or less."

Make it visual

Image size is a key consideration for Frankel and his team when taking into account how pictures will appear on social media and also on mobile.

"We're not yet producing bespoke content for Twitter, but we're effectively taking the same image [used on the website] and making sure that the sizing  works for Twitter or whatever programme we're posting on," he explained.

The most important thing, he added, is to ensure you don't present pictures or graphics in a way which "cuts the context" out of the image.

"If you've got a story which is around a map or a graphic but you don't bother to crop that image properly, you're effectively killing your own story because people are going to see it in a very convoluted way in [Twitter] timeline view," he said.

Follow-up on strong stories

Do not be afraid to follow-up a breaking news tweet with another post with more information, said Frankel, but only if the story warrants it and remaining sensitive to the nature of the story.

When reporting the death of a celebrity or public figure for example, a news outlet would need to share the news as quickly as possible, but Frankel also highlighted that additional updates on Twitter using content which may be more instantly recognisable in relation to the individual can also be an effective way to cover such a story. This might include using "an image or a quote or some other information about that person's life", Frankel explained.

When the BBC announced Roger Lloyd Pack's death on 16 January, for example, the initial tweet contained just a link to the story. But the news outlet then followed this up with a tweet posted half an hour later containing a link to an obituary and an image of the actor playing Trigger in Only Fools and Horses.
"If you've got something that you know is going to interest and engage your audience, think about how you can follow that up soon afterwards," he said.

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