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June 10, 2014, 11:30 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: twitter.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   June 10, 2014

Few tweets we’ve sent out from @NiemanLab have gotten as much attention in the media world as this one:

Not because it’s brilliantly worded or anything — because if you see it on the web or in an official Twitter client (and if you’re logged in), it’ll look something like this:

niemanlab-twitter-card

Instead of a link to the signup page of our daily email — where you’d have to enter your information, wait to get a confirmation email, then click a link inside it — you get a supersimple one-click interface. Twitter already knows your email address, after all, so that’s prefilled in. Why make someone complete a form and a two-step authentication process when you can make it all easy? (My thanks to Justin for handling the mechanics of the signup process.)

Within about 15 minutes of sending that tweet out, we had about 50 new people signed up to our daily email. Within three hours, it was over 100. In the 10 days since, we’ve tweeted out the link a couple more times, and we’ve gotten 370 new signups in all. Not bad for a few minutes’ work. And a number of other people started doing the same:

It’s not perfect. The special interface won’t appear in non-official Twitter apps (like Tweetbot, which I use), and if you’re not logged in, it falls back to a link to your own standard subscribe page. But it’s a good enough tool that I’m surprised more publishers — particularly those with big Twitter followings — aren’t using it.

The it in question is a Twitter Card, which is the same tool you use to make your article pages look nice in expanded view on Twitter, with a nice headline, image, and description. But in this case, you want to use the Lead Generation Card, which allows you to connect your Twitter account to whatever service you use for your email newsletter. (We are happy Mailchimp customers; instructions for Mailchimp are here.)

One reason publishers aren’t using Lead Generation Cards as much as they might is that it’s a little confusing. You need to have a Twitter Ads account to build a Lead Generation Card — but you don’t need to actually buy an ad.

You just build it in the Ads interface (Creatives → Cards → Create your first Lead Generation Card) then, instead of making it a Promoted Tweet, you just send it as a standard tweet within the same interface. Then you can use the same cards.twitter.com url in any future tweets you want to send. (A subscribe-to-our-email tweet also makes for a great tweet to pin to the top of your Twitter timeline.)

We’re probably something of an edge case, since we have lots of Twitter followers (about 157,000) and fewer email subscribers (about 16,500). But I think a lot of publishers could bump up their email subscribers with this tool. When I saw the email addresses of our new subscribers, I realized that we hadn’t done a particularly good job of cross-promoting our email to our Twitter followers; many of them probably didn’t even realize we had a daily email. I bet there’s some engagement gold to be mined in improving that cross-platform connection.

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