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Why 140 Characters Works

September 24, 2009

So, 140 characters…yes, only 140 characters. When I teach a class about Twitter I always get the same questions:

“How can I say anything in 140 characters?”
“Why would anyone want to hear from me so many times a day?”
“Why would anyone want to read what I ate for lunch?”

The reality is that Twitter is the perfect tool for snippets of information. Think of Twitter as the headline machine.

Honestly, do we need more than 140 characters? Some of the most profound and memorable quotes in history and literature are less than 140 characters:

This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.  (62 characters)

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man. (126 characters)

What ’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.  (85 characters)

And so, my fellow americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. (109 characters)

Now, I am NOT saying that everything on Twitter is profound or memorable. My stars, just spend 2 minutes reading tweets from the 2,000+ users that I follow and that will be pretty obvious. What isn’t profound is interesting, entertaining, informative or is just junk. I skip over the junk and get to the good stuff. Sometimes I find nuggets of greatness and sometimes I find nothing to hold my interest at all.

As you get used to Twitter, you might actually find it hard to fill your 140 limit. I find that when I’m tweeting on my personal account, I use only around 100 characters. Whereas at work for the @ImmunizeCOKids account, I utilize most of my characters.

This is also a daily challenge to be brief, but interesting enough to get a click through. It’s a great hurdle as a writer to see what is compelling and what isn’t. Have fun experimenting with writing tweets that jumps out of someone’s feed and inspires them to think, “hmmm, I want to read more”

The power of Twitter is in the idea that there is a REAL person on the other side of every account. There is another human being, just like you, typing into the Twittersphere. These people have friends, families, jobs and lives, just like you. They want interaction. They want to connect.

Through my tweets at the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition, I’ve been able to connect with journalists, famous bloggers, folks at similar organizations and activists that I would have NEVER connected with any other way. I could not have found them on Google, found through emails or met them at a conference. It is the idea of finding real people to support your brand that is the true power of the tool.

Furthermore, it’s a way for people to find you. We’ve even been invited to events and national conferences because of our presence on Twitter. Being active on Twitter has allowed our followers a deeper engagement in our brand and cause that cannot be conveyed on a website or even through Facebook.

I’m a firm believer that to use Twitter well as a business or nonprofit, you MUST tweet several times a day. Doing one tweet a day is a waste of your organization’s time. You are not reaching your full potential on the site.

There is a new expectation that people need to understand. This might blow people’s minds, but….you DON’T read all the emails you get or even fully read the important ones. Now be honest with yourself, do you read every email? The answer is probably no.  You skim everything and pull out nuggets of information that are important to you. You probably prioritize what is critical and toss out the rest. Social media is the exact same way. Tweet multiple times a day so you have a greater chance of being part of the critical information and not getting tossed out.

And to the question about what I ate for lunch. Twitter is a SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE. This means that it is full of real people just like you, that say stupid stuff just like you do. If someone had a transcript of the last time you went out to lunch with a friend, I bet you commented on how good or bad your meal was. For some Twitter users, they use it as a transcript of their life and thoughts. If this annoys you, unfollow them. It’s just like deleting a dumb email, just do it, no one will care!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2009 11:24 am

    There’s good info here. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Keep up the good work mate!

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