Less is More: Tips for Coping with Twitter’s Character Limit
If you’re anything like me, sometimes you finish typing out a tweet only to find that you’re over the character limit. Then, you’re faced with the daunting task of trying to carefully shorten, delete, or swap out words until you trim that tweet down to size.
And again, if you’re anything like me, that process is now even more challenging. Twitter has reduced the character limit on some tweets down to 117.
If your tweet contains a link — which, let’s face it, most tweets from businesses and enterprises do — you’re feeling the pinch. The restriction has to do with a change in the way t.co, the Twitter URL shortener, functions. The t.co URL length has increased to 22 for regular links, and 23 for https (secure) links.
The restriction isn’t brand new — it’s been in effect for a couple of months now. Which means you’ve likely already experienced it firsthand. So if over the last few weeks you’ve found yourself frustrated by space limitations more often than usual, now you know why.
How to cope? You’ll have to learn to do more with less. Which is a good thing to practice regardless of character limit, because recent research has shown that tweets under 70 characters get the most retweets.1 Keeping it brief on Twitter also has the added benefit of leaving room for followers to leave a message in their retweet.
Here are six tips for tidying up that tweet:
- Edit for scannability. Write out your message. Now look away, and glance back again. Which words jump out first? Do this a few times to narrow them down, then rewrite so the tweet is mostly composed of those words.
- Think like a reader. Your followers are busy, and distracted. They’re likely scrolling through their feed absentmindedly while walking to the train or hurriedly checking in between meetings. Know your target demographic and identify keywords that appeal to them, then build your tweet around those keywords.
- Be active, not passive. “Forecast reports that rain is expected through the weekend,” is not only passive, it’s a snoozer of a sentence. “Rainy weekend ahead,” is punchy, and it conveys the same meaning with way fewer words — and remember, space on Twitter is always at a premium.
- Write headlines, not sentences. This is a natural extension of the tip above. For inspiration, browse the article titles of news outlets, magazines, and blogs online. Look for what works and take note of what doesn’t.
- Turn it into a question. “What’s next for stocks?” is better than “Prediction: higher stocks ahead.” Why? Because it’s shorter and it piques your followers’ curiosity. Turning tweets into questions can help foster engagement. Remember, you don’t have to give them all the answers all at once.
- Break it into pieces. If all else fails, separate a too-long tweet into multiple parts. Just make sure each one still makes sense when seen individually.
Good luck truncating your tweets!
1 Source: MIT. http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/how-to-get-your-messages-retweeted/
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