140 Characters: Mise en Place for Content Marketing
“What a pain. It takes so much time to make a short tweet, and I have so much to say.” ~ every person who represents a brand online since 2006.
Hard Truth #1: No one cares about your manifesto.
Going strictly by anecdata, let’s accept as true that many people like to hear themselves talk. Why say something in 10 words when you can break out the thesaurus and say it in 4 pages? That advanced degree or extended training program isn’t going to pay for itself. In general, it makes people feel better to validate the time they spent learning by sounding smart and taking an extra hour of [someone else’s] time to reach a clarity of message and brand voice.
For this reason, Twitter’s 140 character limit has been my secret content marketing weapon since it came about in 2006. Telling a person in charge of a brand’s presence “Your message needs to be shorter, so it gets more traction” is so much less effective (even when backed by data) than “You can’t participate in this popular platform and reach the journalists you want to reach at all unless you can learn to speak succinctly within 140 characters.”
I’d be sad if @twitter dropped 140 character limit, not b/c change is hard, but b/c being pithy in 140 is a GREAT content exercise for execs
— Leslie Poston (@leslie) September 30, 2015
Why write about this now? Because a nasty little rumor has been going around today that Twitter may be doing away with the 140 character limit for tweets. Twitter already tossed the limit for direct messages last month (which has been annoying on a personal level, but has had no impact on my content marketing strategy). The timing of the rumor coupled with the change to DM structure makes me consider what would happen if this rumor were proven true. The short answer: I’d have to rethink an effective portion of my strategy educating people on excellent, digestible, online content.
FOMO: The thing that works when presenting someone with facts won’t
We refer to FOMO online (fear of missing out) when talking about certain psychological levers that make people take action. Most B2C marketing can apply this to conferences, events, and giveaways. I’ve found FOMO to be quite an effective lever in content coaching, especially for executives in both B2C and B2B environments. “Your competition is better at reducing complex ideas to sound bites for Twitter than you are, so Competitor X is driving more traffic to their pages, generating more leads, and reaching more journalists. Let’s work on shortening and improving our message today” is something that makes sense to people.
Hard Truth #2: Unless you are a very specific type of business, chances are high your target audience isn’t on Facebook.
Take away Twitter’s limit, and you introduce yet another content platform that gets inserted into a content calendar with a convoluted, multi-person edit and approval process. We already see this happen with longer-form platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, blogging, and others. Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat (I felt you shudder in fear at that one), Periscope… these are the places where brevity is king.
Hard Truth #3: All good things come to an end.
Grumbling about Twitter’s possible character extension is all well and good, but if there is one constant in content marketing, it’s change. I’m going to continue to embrace Twitter’s 140 character limit now while we still have it, but I’m also going to use this rumor to spur myself into action. I’d be doing the people who learn from me a disservice if I didn’t embrace this challenge. My goal for the next few weeks is to think of more ways to underscore the benefits of brevity if the tools that make it easy are gone.
How will you handle a longer Twitter experience?