Whether I’m sitting on the subway or waiting in line at the grocery store, Twitter is my favorite way to pass the time. My news feed is always full of updates and information, but even when bored, I’m picky about the tweets I read.
After I thought about what motivates me to click on a link, I realized that many moons ago, Aristotle would have been a real social media pro. The mediums of communication have changed quite drastically between his time and ours, but Aristotle formulated the rules to creating the perfect tweet in his Appeals of Rhetoric—which outline the method for creating a fool-proof argument (or a great tweet).
Logos: Greek for “word;” persuading your audience through reasoning and logic
First and foremost, your information has to be correct. A key aspect of creating influential content is gaining the audience’s trust. If you’re distributing incorrect information, don’t expect to get any retweets, favorites or followers – or if you do post incorrect information, as was the case with Papa John’s confusing the teams in the Stanely Cup Finals, you may face a serious backlash and hit to your credibility and reputation.
Ethos: Greek word for “moral character;” persuading your audience through the character or credibility of the author
Even if I trust the source, whether or not I click a link sometimes depends upon who is sharing it and whether or not I deem them a quality source for the topic. For instance, I might not read Perez Hilton’s opinion on a global crisis, but I would click on the New York Times. To have a greater influence on your audience is to tell them a little about yourself through the “About Me” section of your profile. Whether you’re a college freshman studying public relations or a professional social media guru, sharing your involvement or passion for the topic will give you more credibility with readers.
Pathos: Greek word for “suffering;” persuading your audience through emotion
Pathos is what really separates the good from the great. I follow a lot of news-oriented Twitter accounts, but I don’t always click on their links. Why? They’re boring. Tweets don’t have to be “out there” to grab a reader’s attention, but I really want to learn more when a little bit of personality peeks through in those 140 characters.
In honor of a great Bruins overtime win a few weeks ago, I checked out the top tweet for the #bruins trend. With 1,756 retweets and 742 favorites, fans all over the “Twitter-verse” went crazy from this tweet from ESPN. I decided to dissect the tweet and put Aristotle’s appeals to the test:
Although ESPN is a household name, this tweet really puts Aristotle’s principles to the test. All of the information about the Bruin’s All-Star goalie is not only correct, but timely (tweeted immediately after two overtime periods). Even if you live under a rock and have not heard of ESPN, the network is humble enough to give you some background in their bio, proving that they’re a credible source in the world of sports.
Finally the tweet is awesome. There’s no way to get around it. It still gets across the message that Tuukka played a phenomenal game, but in an eye-catching and interesting way. There were thousands of tweets that said, “Great game, Tuukka,” but the ESPN tweet went further.
In this world of emerging content mediums, people are always seeking new ways to influence their audience. Sometimes, it’s best to keep it simple: Whether you’re trying to influence someone’s view of God in 300 BC or get a few more hits on your new blog post, Aristotle’s got it covered.
Consumer PR Intern
Boston University ’15