How long is the perfect Tweet? You only have 140 characters to play with and if you’re adding a URL, hash tags, @s or a request for a retweet, you don’t have much space left. According to a recent whitepaper by Buddy Media entitled ‘Strategies for Effective Tweeting: A Statistical Review’, less is more when it comes to Tweet length. This report claims you should “use less than 100 characters per Tweet”. Search Engine Watch studied the results in a blog post which stated,
“Tweets with under 100 characters had 17 percent higher engagement. Keeping tweets short allows room for followers to retweet and add their own comment.”
Most people who use Twitter regularly have the skills to word Tweets so they come in under 140 characters but just 100 characters is another matter. Writing worthwhile Tweets which people read and respond to and which leave them enough room to give you a shout out when they retweet or reply is not easy.
What a great Tweet looks like
Firstly, say what you’re tweeting about. In the following example (a retweet of this excellent infographic on content marketing) the Tweet begins with ‘Content Marketing’, clearly stating what the link is going to be about.
Secondly, the title is short and to the point, posing a question which anyone with an interest in content marketing will want to know the answer to.
Finally, the Tweet ends by telling you it’s an infographic, one of the most popular ways to view data and share information, making it more likely people will click on the link. This Tweet comes in at 82 characters:
There are of course millions of Tweets similar to this which show in a minimum amount of words why it’s worth clicking on a link, retweeting, checking out a photo or simply chuckling at a joke. While there’s no magic formula, other than a touch of creativity and being handy with punctuation, there are some ways you can streamline your micro writing.
Writing with fewer words
To write short Tweets really well you might want to take a tip from Ernest Hemmingway who claimed the best thing he ever wrote was just one sentence long, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”. Hemmingway would have been great on Twitter as he understood how to convey emotion by the words he so precisely chose. If this example was rewritten as “For sale: child’s shoes, never used”, it doesn’t have the same impact, it sounds as though someone’s selling some shoes on eBay. There’s something about the emotion of a baby not growing old enough to be able to wear this pair of shoes which makes this sentence so poignant. All done in a mere 32 characters. If the message is right, you don’t need many words to say it.
Here are some tips for slashing your Twitter character count:
• Focus on one key message – don’t cram multiple ideas into one Tweet.
• Forget the fillers – ditch ‘that’ and ‘which’ and replace ‘and’ with +, use ‘as’ instead of ‘because’ and ‘can’ instead of ‘able to’, there are hundreds more…
• Punctuate your Tweets with commas, dashes and ellipses to save space and add impact.
• Write long at first – if you’re struggling with creating short Tweets then write out what it is you want to say and then tighten this up with each draft.
• Find the emotion – like Hemmingway’s micro story, the best way to connect with a reader is to find the emotion in what you’re saying. This Tweet from Wendy’s was themost retweeted Tweet of 2011 as it has a winning formula of being clear, stating its purpose, having an emotional connection and being just 84 characters long.
Twitter makes better writers out of all of us by forcing us to focus on being clear, creative and concise in our Tweets.