A recurring question that I receive as as I make my rounds is, “What’s a tweet?”
This is usually followed by, “140 characters, really? Why bother?”
A tweet may be only 140 characters but I find its raw simplicity overwhelms and even frightens some people.
Yet, somehow, despite being put off by the tweet, many seem to think it’s the subatomic particle of Twitter.
It’s not and I’m here today to take the tweet apart and explain its working parts. (I may have lost a few of my more squeamish readers here. But, let the rest of us continue.)
There’s one thing about writing tweets that we have to get out in the open right away. When tweeting, the usual rules of writing go out the window. (I’ve probably lost a few more readers here.)
To begin, forget about structure.
What we learned about sentence and paragraph structure; the opening, middle, and ending for an essay: grammar, spelling, and punctuation: and even the sacrosanct complete thought all have to be abandoned. Otherwise, tweeting will be a very frustrating and unsatisfactory experience for you to say nothing of those who try to read your tweets.
Yes, all these things would be nice just try doing them all in 140 characters!
Some will argue with me but I disagree with them.
Instead, the sentence fragment is king!
Abbreviations rule and all other manner of writing mischief is permissible. (I know I’m going to get a lot of angry fan mail from English teachers over this. No matter. As Long as they’ve read my story I can live with it.)
Even what I’m about to say next isn’t canonical just to add to the confusion.
The major parts of a tweet are or can be:
- Handles, those expressions preceded by the “@” symbol which determine where a message can go
- Hashtags, that mysterious symbol (#) which serves as a category identifier but has led to some very long conversations between friends and myself
- Finally, everything else that doesn’t fall into the preceding categories and includes links to websites and content such as images, essentially just text.
That’s all to what’s behind the 140 characters of a tweet.
The important thing is to have the essence of your message.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself what do I do with this information? How do I tweet?
Well, no worries!
I’m not going to abandon you or try to sell you something. I have several recommendations on how to proceed.
First, read other people’s tweets.
Study their economy and use of the limited number of characters available. Note that good tweeters only use 120 characters of the allotted 140 so that others may retweet them. (I think I heard a few more people leave.)
Next look at lists maintained by others and subscribe to them.
Here you can examine a series of tweets on a particular subject typically from an involved group and see how they tweet among themselves. Understand the conventions that they employ. Check for tone by looking across a variety of topics to see how it’s done. In this exercise, move outside of your comfort zone and review topics that you might not otherwise consider.
Finally, using that old joke about how to get to Lincoln Center in New York City and the answer being “Practice!” I have that same advice for you, practice!
Only by going into the Twitterverse (What? It’s not like I use that term in every story!) and tweeting for yourself will you learn and overcome that initial reluctance that we all have. Including yours truly!
Establish a routine and tweet regularly. Retweets count too! Just have some of your own material too. I typically tweet every business and occasionally on weekends. Find what works for you. (Hint, when others favorite, retweet, or reply to your tweets, it’s working for you. Especially so when others actually follow you!)
This story is just an overview of what a tweet is.
I’ll leave you here now to practice for a while!
In future stories, I’ll blog about the different types of tweets (Yes, there are several.), lists and how they can help your tweeting, and third party tools which can enhance your Twitter experience. (But, don’t worry, you’ll still have to deal with 140 characters.)
That’s it for now!
In the meantime, thank you for following and reading my blog!
I look forward to any and all comments that you may have. I will reply to any comments made to this blog post as promptly as I can.
I do this for a living and if I can be of any assistance to either you or your organization, please feel free to call on me. Our initial discussion will be of no charge to you.
I can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Twitter handle is @conpsweeney.