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February 23, 2011

Can’t You Just Say It in 140 Characters or Less?

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Tweetdeck has changed the 140-character rule for everyone who likes to ramble. The company rolled out its Deck.ly feature at the end of January, allowing users to blabber to their hearts’ delight by surpassing the 140-character limit and even giving those chatterboxes the ability to include images and embed video, for the love of God.

I liked this idea when I heard it the first time. It was called a blog.

Now, I’m not saying this is all bad. There’s been many times when I’ve wished I had more space to accost my followers with additional information. Sometimes, there are just scenarios when it’s nice to have.

What I’m worried about is the abuse that may ensue. Pretty soon, those talkative people are going to be ambassadors for this new feature and tell all their friends about how much they just love this new functionality.

See, Hear and Speak No Evil

Then, other Twitter app developers will jump on the bandwagon. Soon, they’ll be groups of people learning how to “optimize” this new feature and e-books written on how to integrate this feature into your online marketing plan. Then, the spam.

Twitter is supposed to be a microblog – a perfect place for people with ADD to interact with one another, retweet articles they may never have even read and participate in small talk, in the most literal sense of the phrase.

On a serious note, the beauty in Twitter, to me, has always been the challenge to say what you mean as succinctly as possible. As a writer, I know how valuable that is.

Every time you create a great Twitter update for business, you become a better communicator. You might laugh, but it’s seriously an art to create an update that contains all the important points your audience might need in 140 characters or less while at the same time making it compelling.

If that much thought and editing can go into 140 characters, think about how we could improve our clarity in all our communications with that same attention to detail. I always thought of Twitter as a great way for businesses and marketers to just get to the point already.

We spend what seems like 75 percent of our lives deciphering large chunks of sometimes drawn-out communications that come at us from all angles. We have commercials that never seem to end, blog posts we don’t have time for, phone calls that drag on, meetings that lag, and so on and so forth.

Twitter was a safe haven to me. The one place where people had to shut their traps when their time was up. I liked that. So, let’s all do our part as marketers and communicators to keep the message clear, concise and compelling in all our communications. And let’s keep Twitter a place to say it in 140 characters or less, K?

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12 responses to “Can’t You Just Say It in 140 Characters or Less?”

  1. Brent Rangen writes:

    I’m with ya!

    140 is the way to go. It’s what makes Twitter fun. Plus, your point about blogging is very accurate. Might as well just put it on a blog then and try to receive credit for the piece rather than giving twitter.com the UGC.

    Very rarely do I go over 140 chars, but when that happens it works just fine to break it up into two tweets.

  2. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Brent! Really valid point — this is giving Twitter the content, not your blog. Thanks for that added perspective. :)

  3. MicroSourcing writes:

    What made Twitter the social media giant it is today is it’s preference for brevity. Let’s face it, people are too busy tweeting about where they are and what they’re eating to read overtly long tweets from other people.

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    Ha. Agreed, my friend. Thanks for reading :)

  5. David writes:

    Agreed! If it’s too long for twitter… then well it’s too long for twitter. Also isn’t one of the old famous writing exercises trying to limit yourself to only so many words? Nice read.

  6. Jake Walsh writes:

    This seems like a rip-off of MailChimp’s LongReply plugin. The only difference is that it allows people to get spammed when using TweetDeck.

    I don’t see a problem with plugins like this if all they do is automatically create a link to a longer message. That’s convenient for all parties involved. The character limit is still 140-characters, so it doesn’t impact anyone unless they decide to click the link.

    TweetDeck crossed the line though when they decided to display the full message on tweetdeck. They probably thought it gave them a competitive advantage, but I think they’ll find the opposite to be true. Once the complaints start rolling in, they will probably revert back to a 140-character limit (with expandable link for those longer posts).

  7. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, David! Thank you for your comment. And yes, I believe that exercise is called “word conservation.” Have a great week :)

  8. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Jake! Thanks for the great comment. I do see your point — and allowing the full message on Tweetdeck is even more annoying. But my stance still stands on using different platforms for different things. If a person has soooo much to say on a topic, why not just create a blog post about it? In my opinion, Twitter is for short messages — period. Thoughts?

  9. Jake Walsh writes:

    Yeah, I definitely understand why you like the 140-character limit. I like it too – It’s what makes Twitter so effective. But at the same time, I see a need for some flexibility.

    Let’s say you get a lot of great questions on Twitter, but some of them require longer responses. For each of those questions, you could take the time to post a blog entry. But then you’d have to create a shortlink, go back into Twitter and compose a reply. Those steps might demonstrate a genuine concern for your followers, but they’re really not necessary.

    Instead of doing it that way, what if someone created a blog platform that would automatically post an entry if your reply exceeded 140 characters? You would be accomplishing exactly the same thing as before, in less time. That means you can respond to more people. And on top of that, you keep the conversation on Twitter instead of moving it to your blog.

    That is essentially what MailChimp did with their LongReply plugin, and now TweetDeck. It’s basically a micro-blogging platform that integrates with Twitter. What I don’t like is that Deck.ly decided to pump these microblogs into Twitter streams (when viewed in TweetDeck). If they would drop that feature, I think it would be fine.

    By the way, you might enjoy reading MailChimp’s take on this. They approach it from a customer-service perspective: http://blog.mailchimp.com/longreply-when-you-care-more-than-140-characters/

  10. Jessica Lee writes:

    Morning! Personally, I would typically take the conversation off Twitter and use e-mail or Skype or something else if someone has a question that needs a little more attention. And if the answer to that question seems like it would benefit more than one person, voila! A blog post is born. Plus, take into consideration what Brent Rangen said in this comment string about giving your blog the benefit versus Twitter. But, different people want different things from Twitter, which is why services like Deck.ly and MailChimp are created in the first place. Good discussion, Jake.

  11. Pieter Carette writes:

    That’s a bad development. People are really using this feature to spam, plus it makes an extra click to see the original message. The user experience of Twitter is lagging because of this. Twitter used to be simple and easy.

  12. Dustin writes:

    Hey Jessica,
    Couldn’t agree with you more!
    The 140-character limit is what makes Twitter awesome. With all the information on the internet, short tweets make it that much more accessible and easier to digest. Tweets eliminate most of the useless information and allows readers to take away key points without reading a whole article. People do not always want or have the time to sort through useless information and for those that do they always have the option to use other social media platforms to do so. In my opinion Twitter without the 140-character limit sounds a little boring and takes away the fun and efficiency that Twitter provides. It was created to be a micro-blog and I can understand that in some cases additional characters may be useful however, it just wouldn’t seem like the same Twitter if people flooded it with endless digressions.

    Thanks for the great article!
    -Dustin,



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