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Multimodal Mondays: Using Twitter to Develop a Sense of Audience

posted: 10.7.13 by Andrea Lunsford

Twitter has become a powerful tool for journalists, writers, and artists to reach wide audiences in order to raise awareness of their work and gain readership. Writers as diverse as Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, and Chuck Palahniuk are all heavy Twitter users.  But even writers who are not famous will benefit from carefully composing tweets to reach their intended audience.


Students will use Twitter to analyze and refine their sense of audience prior to revision.

Background reading before class

Ask students to plan for the assignment by reading relevant content on analyzing audience from the textbook:

Everything’s an Argument, pages 22-28

The St. Martin’s Handbook, 2d

The Everyday Writer, 5e

EasyWriter, 1d

Ask your students to come to class prepared to work with a draft of something they have been composing—whether it’s a blog post, response paper, video, or essay draft.

In class

As part of a class discussion of audience, ask students to explore how they might use Twitter in order to share something they have composed for class with a specific audience of their choosing.

Begin by walking students through the basic elements of a tweet. You can find annotated graphics on the anatomy of tweets here and here. Ask your students about their experience with Twitter:

  • Do they use it? If so, how? Do they find it fun? Informative?
  • Do they ever use Twitter’s tools to look up specific information (e.g., information on breaking news or trending items)? If so, how do they structure that search? How do they pick key words?

Here are the features of a tweet most important to addressing specific audiences:

  • Body: As they would in any text, students would compose a tweet that emphasizes the most important information and use rhetorical tools, including appeals, designed to reach their intended audience.
  • Mentions: Referencing another user by username in a tweet (e.g., @NYTimes or @LunsfordHndbks) will make it possible for other users searching for that username to see your tweet in search results. If you search @NYTimes, for example, you will get results like these.
  • Hashtags: Hashtags are metadata tags preceded by “#” that act to highlight keywords in tweets or are added to the ends of tweets in order to tag them as part of a larger conversation or trending topic. For example, Twitter users referencing Arab Spring in 2011 used the hashtags #25Jan or #egypt to group messages related to the protests in Tahrir Square. Hashtags promoted by enough users can become trending topics.

As a class, you can discuss how each of these elements present in The Daily Show’s tweet can be used to reach a specific audience:

  • How is the tweet written to entice an audience to click the link at the end?
  • How does mentioning the account of Aasif Mandvi, the comedian behind the segment, attract additional views?
  • How does using a hashtag referring to the Miss America pageant help an audience find the Daily Show’s tweet?
  • Based on the information in this tweet, how would you describe the audience for The Daily Show’s tweet?


Ask students to think about the piece of writing they would like to promote on Twitter, and have them compose a tweet using all three elements in order to reach their intended audience. They should consider what main point(s) to emphasize in the body of the tweet in order to attract readers, and they can use hashtags  and mentions in order to further direct their tweets toward interests their intended audience is likely to follow.

Depending on their access to technology in class, you might wish to have students compose an actual tweet in order to share something they’ve composed, but you can also simply use the genre of Twitter and have students write their “tweets” on paper in class or on the board. If they are writing tweets on paper, remind them that they are still limited to 140 characters.

You can have student volunteers share their tweets with the class, making sure to discuss why the elements of each tweet highlight the student’s intended audience. You might also ask the class to swap tweets and have students describe a classmate’s intended audience solely based on a reading of their tweet.

Reflection on the activity

Ask students to reflect on the considerations that went into composing their tweet, using questions like these as prompts for discussion or writing.

  • How did you decide which elements of Twitter to incorporate into your tweet?
  • Did your sense of who your audience was change after you wrote your tweet? How?
  • Based on a reading of your tweet, who do you think your audience is? What are their interests, based on the keywords and metadata you’ve chosen to incorporate into your tweet?
  • Now that you have figured out how to target your intended audience via tweet, what revisions might you make to your content in order to strengthen its appeal to that audience?

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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