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Making the most of your 140 characters

March 25, 2009

As we all grow more accustomed to regular Tweeting – I thought I’d take a stab at providing some tips on making the most of your 140 characters. Here are some of the helpful tips I found out there on the web….


URL shortening:We’ve all used this tool in our tweets, but did you know that there are some URL shortening services that can save you a few more characters than TinyURL? One known for being pretty good is IS.GD . Another popular one is XR.COM which even allows you to customize the URL. I’ve heard that there are even ways to track it to see how many people are clicking your link, but I didn’t get that far on my exploration today.


symbolsSymbols: Symbols are a fun and easy way to represent words or ideas in just one character. Rather than using 4 characters to say LOVE – why not insert the heart symbol? It’s much cuter and gives you more room for other information. A company called TheNextWeb has created a great tool called TwitterKeys which allows you to have all these symbols at your fingertips. It’s a way to add a bit of spice and save some room in your tweets.


Shorthand:As texters, we all know the value to the shorthand language. These come in handy in the Twittersphere as well. Check out this list of popular Twitter shorthands. And if it’s Monday and you just feel like cursing – you might find the more colorful shorthand more appropriate found here on the NSFW(not safe for work) shorthand list. FML. OMFG.


Hashtags: If you are anything like me, you were confused when you saw # signs popping up in the middle of people’s tweets. It looks like a coding error, but it is really purposefully included in the tweet by the author. Hashtags are a hashtagscommunity-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag. For more on how to use hashtags, click here


Almost completely unrelated, I found another Twitter application that allows you to translate your Tweets from English to other languages. John Mayer, my favorite person to stalk at the moment, has been posting in German a lot.


While these tools do help you make the most of the short amount of space that you have, I do think there is something to the beauty of a Tweet written in English, untainted by symbols and # signs and hashes. A pure Tweet can almost be poetic “sick of the rain, ready to sleep, hoping for sun tomorrow” sounds like a haiku of sorts. But add in a smiley face and a # sign and it loses a bit of its poignancy.


As Crystal explained in a blog post last year (On Exclamation Points) at our agency, we are big believers in the power of the written word, sans emoticons, bangers and bolded typefaces. Should our Tweets follow those rules as well? Or does the Twitter medium almost beg for them?


Disclaimer: I found a lot of people on a variety of blogs that are completely opposed to many of the devices I’ve described above. The hashtag feature, especially, seems to be pissing people off to no end. So please use these with caution. You may lose followers. In addition, be careful using acronyms in any @ replies or direct messages to Crystal. She hates them.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Crystal permalink*
    March 25, 2009 7:47 pm

    Terrific post. And, laughing out loud, I do indeed hate acronyms. I think acronyms are a form of jargon. And jargon is fascist and elitist.

    Thanks for explaining hash tags. I was totally thrown by them. I do like tagging in general, but in tweets hash tags do clog up the limited space.

    I feel the pressure to tweet more to be relevant. What has the world come to?

  2. March 30, 2009 12:41 am

    Thanks for the helpful tips – there were a couple I hadn’t seen yet! I still haven’t figured out what the heck FollowFriday is all about but I have a feeling it’s pointless.

    I’m sure there will be more setting controls developed to tweak things to our preferences, and dear god, I hope it happens soon. Specifically, compulsive retweeters: if I wanted to know what so-and-so has to say, I’d follow them!

    Keep up the interesting blogs, all, and I hope things are great in the lair!

  3. kimtrokey permalink
    March 30, 2009 9:16 am

    FollowFriday is what they are calling a Twitter meme (trends, activities or sayings associated with Twitter) Every Friday, the people who are participating suggest to all of their followers someone new to follow. It’s supposed to widen the networks and put like-minded people together, as well as be a sign of respect/liking when you do suggest someone.

    Totally agree on the retweeting.

    Thanks for reading.

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