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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Basic Twitter Advice to Companies: Shorten Your Tweets

Comments (32)

I retweet a lot of stuff – hopefully it’s useful to the folks that follow my twitter stream.  I try to keep the retweets relevant – either useful business stuff, funny things my friends said, or stuff from companies I’m an investor in.

As more and more companies start using twitter as a promotional channel, I have one simple piece of advice. 

Make the maximum length of your tweet 130 characters minus your username

The reason to use this simple formula is that there is currently no standard for “retweeting”.  I use Twhirl, so a retweet ends up being RT @username: the_tweetTweetDeck uses the same format.  But sometimes the retweet is something slightly different (e.g. RT the_tweet (via @username)). 

Using the RT @username the_tweet approach, you essentially use up 5 characters (R,T, two spaces, and a colon) plus the length of your username (e.g. mine is 5 – bfeld).  So – the longest tweet I could do that can be automatically retweeted is 130 characters.  But, since this isn’t the standard, give your retweeters a few more characters to play with (hence the 130 characters – username).

For example, earlier this morning Return Path, a company I’m an investor in tweeted the following:

Need a quick refresher on deliverability? Join us for a 30 minute webinar tomorrow on why emails get blocked at the gate. http://ow.ly/kA6D

Here’s what my effort to simply retweet this in Twhirl looked like:

image

15 characters too long.  Oops.  So I had to manually shorten it.  Here’s what I came up with:

RT @returnpath: Need refresher on deliverability? Join for a 30 minute webinar on why emails get blocked at the gate. http://ow.ly/kA6D

Same general message, but it took me about a minute to edit it, make sure it fit, and make sure I didn’t lose any of the message.  I’m seeing this regularly now and know I bail out of retweeting stuff because I don’t feel like spending the minute getting the size right.  So – leave me at least five characters + <username> for the RT<space>@<username><colon><space>, but preferably 10 – <username> until this gets standardized.

And – if you need a quick refresher on deliverability and why emails get blocked at the gate, check out the Return Path webinar tomorrow – http://ow.ly/kA6D

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dgcohen David G. Cohen
  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    I’m nothing if not original.

  • Chris Walters

    Thanks for bringing this up, (again I guess) I’ve also abandoned retweets due iPhone-Bonics auto corrects… can you talk to apple or Tweetie about that? Or what about the Blind Tweet Link (BTL) (e.g. “Worth Checking Out, http://twitbit.me/15z87z&rdquo; @jdooring) maybe a little more info will help reduce how many times I visit the same article.

    CW

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brian_hart1973 Brian Hart

    YES to this. It's an even bigger pain doctoring the msg on $mobiledevice.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JChauncey JChauncey

    I just dont get the 140 character limit. Obviously it has something to with the fact that it interfaces with cell phone text messaging, but what is the percentage of people who actually use text messaging to tweet?

    I think that the only reason twitter has really taken off now, is because of the use of smart phones (iphone, blackberry, etc..) and that 10 years ago most people would not use the service if relied on just text messaging.

    So again why the 140 character limit? Why not 255 or something like that?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    It’s because of the limitation of SMS

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/JChauncey JChauncey

      right but what percentage of users tweet using SMS?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/heather_duey Heather Duey

        I *only* use SMS for Twitter, Brightkite, and Facebook. If I have to login to a web site, I don't sign up for it. This only applies to social sites though.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/billerickson Bill Erickson

    It looks like twitter is getting ready to integrate retweets into the system, so your RT: @name doesn't use up the 140 characters. More info here: http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/project-retweet-p

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/billerickson Bill Erickson

    It looks like twitter is getting ready to integrate retweets into the system, so your RT: @name doesn't use up the 140 characters. More info here: http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/project-retweet-p

    But until then…

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/billerickson Bill Erickson

    It looks like twitter is getting ready to integrate retweets into the system, so your RT: @name doesn't use up the 140 characters. More info here: http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/project-retweet-p

    But until then…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewordpainter adam wexler

    Good advice, brad…especially for companies that are looking to spread the word a/b their specials, etc.

    Maybe I've missed this in the past, but is there a reason Twitter can't remove the usernames from the RTs? It obviously bodes a lot better for those with short names. I'd rather not change mine (@thewordpainter) because it's basically the same one I use on just about every social media platform I've set up shop. Yet, it's frustrating to think I've prob missed some great opportunities to have people retweet my posts.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/billerickson Bill Erickson

    It looks like twitter is getting ready to integrate retweets into the system, so your RT: @name doesn't use up the 140 characters. More info here: http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/project-retweet-p

    But until then…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Yup – can’t wait!  Totally logical feature and I love how it has emerged.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    As with most things, this will change soon as Twitter is incorporating the RT function explicitly into the service (and the stream) – http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/project-retweet-p… />

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewordpainter adam wexler

      great news! thanks for passing along. i think the link you listed does not guide you directly there, but i found the post here: http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/project-retweet-p

      as of 8/13, @biz wrote: "In a few weeks or so we'll launch the feature on our web site and because app developers had a chance to prepare, it should become available across most of the Twitter ecosystem about the same time"

      looks like we won't be waiting for much longer at all…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    No clue.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/heather_duey Heather Duey

    Thanks for this tip, Brad – when i post a tweet through my business I almost always use up all the characters. I'll have to figure out how to shorten them up…

  • http://twitter.com/elliottng @elliottng

    Long post for a short point. But a good one. Thanks!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/matt_blumber478 Matt Blumberg

    Thanks for the poke – we'll shorten 'em up!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    I tried to do it in 130 characters but couldn’t.

  • http://www.thoughts.com/benogden Ben Ogden

    Thanks for the tip Brad. Now we need to find a way to ben even more creative.

  • http://geothought.blogspot.com Peter Batty

    Totally agree. You can always use the automatic shortening capabilities of Flutter too :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeLZCy-_m3s

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Interesting article today in Technology Review about Retweeting and the potential impacts of formalizing it – http://www.technologyreview.com/web/23312/?a=f

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Interesting article today in Technology Review about Retweeting and the potential impacts of formalizing it – http://www.technologyreview.com/web/23312/?a=f

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Interesting article today in Technology Review about Retweeting and the potential impacts of formalizing it – http://www.technologyreview.com/web/23312/?a=f

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/derek_scrug1878 Derek Scruggs

    Direct marketing tip: questions almost always drive action better than statements. It's a pattern interrupt. You could've left off the sentence that answered the question and let users go to the link to get the answer.

    A lot of companies could double their open rates this simply by removing the word "newsletter" from the subject line of their their email marketing and replacing it with a question.

  • jack hoff

    i was going to commit suicide today, but after reading this post, i know i have something to live for … thanks …

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