Brad Feld

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Basic Twitter Advice to Companies: Shorten Your Tweets

Aug 26, 2009
Category Technology

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_tweet.  TweetDeck 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.

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


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.

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 –