3/21/11

Twitter Tip: 140 Is Less Than You Think -- Leave Room for the Retweet

Once again, I'm chatting with a client who is learning about Twitter and getting comfortable with writing substantive messages that are only 140 characters long.  She's a little frustrated about that number, because she thinks it's a bit deceptive.  And she's right.  There's lots less room to move here than 140 would suggest, since at the outset that number includes the spaces between the words. 

That's right: the blanks are included in the tally. 

So from the start, the 140 character count doesn't leave everything for letters and numbers and commas and whatnot. 

Then you must shorten the links so they will fit.  The urls are often longer than 140 characters from the git-go. 

Now, even less than 140 in the count, right?

Next, you've got to add the hashtags.  This helps people find what you've shared.  Hashtags are important (more on them later).

That number is plummeting, isn't it? No wonder it's R for "are" and U for "you" ....

Now, it's time to remember the retweet.  If you don't, then you're making work for someone who is doing you a favor already by sharing your tweet with their followers. 

Easy way to envision this need is to retweet some tweets for yourself.  Go to Twitter, or whatever third party app that you're using to tweet, it doesn't matter.  Just find a tweet that you want to retweet.  Now, retweet it.  Do it again; heck, do it several times. 

Let's assume you retweeted USA Today.  See how the retweet takes up more space, since you're getting the "RT @USATODAY" in the message, too?  Did you go over 140 with your retweet, so you had to take the time to cut something before Twitter would accept it? 

Know how much your retweeted name uses in the count.

Here's the tip: cut the word count off your tweet before you publish it, to accommodate that character count.  Twelve characters are used in "RT @USATODAY." Fifteen (15) characters/spaces are taken up by "RT @rkennedy" - yours may be more or less.  Remember to accommodate your tally in your tweets.  Helps those who retweet your message to do so fast and easy.

Note: this doesn't appear when you are tweeting directly from the Twitter platform.  The retweet appears as a little green cap over the top left corner of your tweet box.  However, if you go and read your retweet in another venue, you'll see the "RT @USATODAY" at the start of your retweet.
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