Twitter – Is Longer Better?

[Don’t miss Clive’s Social Media for Schools & Colleges half-day Masterclass workshopsbook now.]

Twitter Is Changing… Make It Work For You!

Each of the Social Media platforms we use continues to evolve. Changes happen, developments are released, and new functionalities are enabled all the time.

Sometimes, as Social Media managers, changes bring good news and open up new possibilities. And sometimes, just sometimes, they throw a spanner in the works.

A couple of recent changes to Twitter look at first glance like helpful updates, bringing greater freedom to our Twitter posts, but I’m not so sure we should get over-excited.

Let’s look first at the changes themselves…

1) Tweets can now be 280 characters long

For over a decade, 140 characters was the very hallmark of what Twitter was all about. But now the character count has been doubled. 280 characters is the new maximum length of tweet. (Images can be added without occupying character count – but links will still take a small amount of your character allowance.)

2) Twitter now supports easy threading

Ever seen those long strings of tweets posted in quick succession from one account? They sometimes begin with the word “THREAD”, or include numbers at the end, looking like 1/, 2/, 3/ etc. This enables a long string of information to be delivered in smaller tweet-sized chunks. While threading itself is nothing new, Twitter has now made it easier, by adding a large ‘+’ button that can help us line-up a following tweet, and then another, and then another.

So what’s the problem?

On the face of it both these changes look like good news with more space and more freedom to deliver our messages without worrying about content length.

But here’s why I think we should be cautious:

Brevity is our friend…

Twitter was the first major social platform to introduce us to the idea of brevity. And over more than a decade Twitter has taught us that sometimes we communicate better when we say less.

Without the luxury of rambling on (School Newsletter, anyone?), we have to be immediate, to-the-point, succinct and clever.

Twitter has improved the way we communicate by teaching us how to waffle less and communicate more.

With more space to write, will we become boring, unclear and too waffly?

Here are some “Do’s” …some ways to maintain the spirit of Twitter’s brevity and keep your online updates snappy and waffle-free:

Say less…

Simply keep a focus on what your reader needs and wants to hear. Tell them what matters. Edit out what doesn’t.

Choose words carefully…

Poor word choice doesn’t just take up space… it can change a whole tone of voice.

Why say:

“The staff and parents of the school look forward very much to welcoming you to a celebration of our pupils’ achievements and academic learning. You are are warmly invited to join us at our forthcoming Open Day.”

When you can simply say something like this, with calls to action and links:

“Our pupils are learning so much together. They’d love to show you what they’ve achieved at our next Open Day on ********. Please join us –
register online at: ********”

Use links…

Sometimes, the best place for complex information isn’t Twitter but your own website.

It’s often good practice to offer an inviting headline on Twitter, then link readers to your website where you can show them more.

But do make it clear where you’re linking to. Don’t leave readers guessing with a mysterious “Important update:…” teaser.

And here are couple of ‘Don’ts” …space-saving practices I wouldn’t recommend:

Don’t use images of text…

One trick sometimes employed on Twitter is to create an image of a large passage of text – perhaps by screengrabbing from an email or a Word document.

I would discourage this tactic – it’s bad news for readability, searchability and accessibility.

Don’t over-abbreviate…

Abbreviation is a tempting way to prune characters from a too-long tweet. And while it’s fine to say “info” instead of “information” and “Mon-Fri” instead of “Monday to Friday”, abbreviation should never damage understanding or tone of voice.

Consider a school tweet that says “Tmoz sch trip to LDN 4 Yr8-9 canx due 2 weather.” What impression do you have of the school, its professionalism and its approach?

So yes, let’s get to know all the options we have when we write for Twitter and the other social platforms. But let’s not forget what Twitter has taught us about clear, simple, straightforward communication. Good luck.

Social Media – Masterclass workshops

For more tips and techniques, insights and ideas please join us for the EMCdigital half-day Masterclass workshops I will be delivering as part of the EMCdigital Masterclass programme.

For information and to book your place please see the Schools & Colleges workshop descriptions:

See you there.

Clive Andrews
(Social Media Consultant)

Do join us for our expanded Masterclass programme and book soon (places are limited to small groups for the benefit of all participants).

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