Shortening a Tweet to Fit into 140 Characters

twitter iconWriting a tweet is like writing a good headline with a link. You need to grab readers’ interest, give them something of value, and encourage them to read more about the subject or reply. You also may want to include a #hashtag, a photo link, a designation such as RT or MT, or another user (or two’s) Twitter handles (such as @joehertvik).

And all you have to do is fit it into 140 characters. Sheesh.

To meet that challenge, here are six tips I use for shortening Tweets while still saying something interesting and encouraging people to open another link. I’ve included examples of how to use these techniques.

1. Tweet numbers, not number words – If you’re tweeting a headline that reads Six Ideas for Shortening Tweets, use the number 6 instead of the number word six. For most numbers, this will buy you at least a couple of characters.

Don’t tweet: Six ideas for shortening a Tweet to fit into 140 characters #Twitter http://joehertvik.com/?p=5828

Tweet: 6 ideas for shortening a Tweet to fit into 140 characters #Twitter http://joehertvik.com/?p=5828

2. Shorten long URLS by using a shortening service – Search engines like it when you put your focus keywords in your URL but having focus keywords in a tweet URL makes it unbearably long. Retrieve a short URL from a service like TinyURL.com or Google’s URL shortener and use the short URL in your tweet. You’ll still retain the benefits of a long keyword rich URL for your post itself, but have a shorter URL to use in your tweets.

Don’t Tweet: 6 ideas for shortening a Tweet to fit into 140 characters #Twitter http://joehertvik.com/?p=5828

Tweet: 6 ideas for shortening a Tweet to fit into 140 characters #Twitter http://goo.gl/QeXfxZ              

3. Rewrite a headline you’re tweeting – You don’t have to stay with the exact headline of a URL you’re tweeting about, even if you’re retweeting from another account. Pull out one relevant short point or quote that will resonate with your followers or rewrite the headline. Don’t be afraid to modify a tweet headline to make it more attractive to your readers.

Don’t Tweet: Six ideas for shortening a Tweet to fit into 140 characters #Twitter http://goo.gl/QeXfxZ

Tweet: 6 tips for short tweets that get readers’ attention #Twitter http://goo.gl/QeXfxZ

 4. Ask a question instead of just tweeting your headline – Tweet the message you want to send by asking the same type of questions your readers would ask about your content. If the question resonates with your reader, they’ll wonder about what you mean and then click on the link to get the answer.

Don’t tweet: Six ideas for shortening a Tweet to fit into 140 characters #Twitter http://joehertvik.com/?p=5828

Tweet: How do I make tweets fit into 140 characters? http://goo.gl/QeXfxZ  #Twtitter

Social Media strategist Lissa Duty (@LissaDuty) also promotes this tip as a Twitter secret to drive engagement with your followers. So this strategy has two users.

5. Where appropriate, use numbers as substitutes for common words, but don’t go crazy - Some numbers or number-letter combinations are acceptable as word substitutes, like using ’4′ for the word ‘for’, using ’gr8′ for the word ‘great’, or using the ‘<’ or ‘>’ characters for the words ‘less than’ or ‘greater than’. But this can get a little dodgy and it could look confusing, goofy, or unprofessional if you use too many of these substitutes. So tread carefully. I’d recommend not using more than one number substitute in a tweet.

6. Drop unnecessary words, as appropriate - Look at the headline you’re tweeting and see if there are any words that can be dropped, such as adjectives, the word ‘The’, or even entire clauses. Many headlines can be easily skinnied down without losing meaning.

Don’t tweet: The 6 Very Best Ideas for Shortening a Tweet to Fit into 140 characters #twitter http://goo.gl/QeXfxZ via @joehertvik

Tweet: 6 Ideas for shortening a tweet to 140 characters #twitter http://goo.gl/QeXfxZ via @joehertvik 

Bonus tip #7: Don’t use a longer word when a shorter word will do. Use abbreviations, acronyms, synonyms, as appropriate to shorten a tweet. Look for common, easily understood short versions of terms you use in your tweets (things like corp. for corporations, ozs for ounces, vs. for versus, etc.). There are hundreds of shorter words/abbreviations that will still get your point across.

These are my starting ideas for tweet shortening. If you have any other ideas, please email at joe@joehertvik.com and I’ll add them to the list.

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About Joe Hertvik

Joe is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a service company providing written white papers, case studies, and other marketing content to computer industry companies. He is also a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column for the past ten years. Follow Joe Hertvik on Twitter @JoeHertvik. Email Joe for a free quote on white papers, case studies, brochures, or other marketing materials.
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