Twitter: Know Your Limits

Posted by Evan Thomas

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There are all sorts of limits we face in life: Credit card limits, physical limits, and—of course—character limits.

One amazing thing about the internet is that it lets people express their opinion usually as often and verbosely as they'd like. Wordpress, Blogger, LiveJournal, and even Facebook allow their users to create long, expressive dialogues. But Twitter is the cruelest of them all, only allowing for 140 characters in a tweet and 15 characters in a username. You'd better make them count. 

First there's the text-only tweet; can you tweet enough of a meaningful sentiment in 140 characters? I'm not talking something boring like, “Wow this breakfast sandwich is really good.”(That's 43 characters) Your tweets should be unique, interesting, and engaging. Ask a question at the end, engage with other Twitterers, and let your own interest show:

“Wow! Loving this breakfast sandwich at @PaxFood. Eggs, melted cheddar cheese and an onion bagel. What's your favorite to get?” 

(That's 125 characters; you have 15 to spare)

Take caution when adding photos to tweets. Uploading a photo to Twitter automatically eats up 23 characters, and unlike Facebook where photo posts are prioritized, Twitter posts are only ordered by their time stamp. Tweets with photos uploaded to them also need to be clicked on for the photo to be shown.

If you're going to post a photo, it better be a show-stopper. 

Unlike photos, links add meat and potatoes to your tweets. Any link—no matter how long—gets shortened to 22 characters(less than a photo!) and adds the quality of all the words on the landing page to the tweet. But you can't JUST tweet the link. The best Tweets with links provide the title of the landing page, source, and a personal comment.; try something like,

“Great article! 'This Is Why No One Follows You On Twitter' http://t.co/erjFsdTcyt via @Mashable”.

You've got the basics down now, right? Here are a couple expert pointers:

When you're reaching for engagement, the shorter the better. Composing a well-crafted tweet in 50 characters or less gives your followers the chance to retweet your tweet with their answer added on to it. “I am! RT @NFL Who's excited for football season to return?!” Unlike a typical reply, this will blast your twitter handle and the original tweet out to all of that twitterer's followers.

Have some characters left after you've finished crafting your tweet that you want to fill up? Use those hashtags! Hashtags are great way for tweeters with no connection to you find your tweets and contribute to the conversation, retweet you, or even follow you. #Hashtags are the #key to #exposure. 

Got it all down? Good. Now get your feet wet and start making those tweets. And remember: Make every character count.