(April 23, 2009) I’m learning a great deal about Facebook and Twitter. They are both dynamic information distribution environments. Each day, I pump out a flow of 15 or so items. Bill Kutik calls it “the cell phone news.”
Twitter’s format requires you to become adept at writing fortunes for fortune cookies. The constraints are huge. If I have a link to interesting material (13 characters, one space) and leave room for a retweet (about 15 characters and one space), you’re looking at a budget of about 98 characters (I have to allow another 11 for attribution – @johnsumser). It takes sophisticated trimming and editing to pack anything of interest into 98 characters. That’s nearly 1/3 less than the advertised budget of 140.
In the twittersphere, ideas only get communicated if they can handle the retweet attribution overhead. This is how you attach information to the network. Your brand (@yourname) guarantees one level of quality. The retweeter’s brand (@theirname) is the localized guarantee. You need both big brand and local references to do business in the real twitosphere.
Often, I take a key quote from within there target article. Writers who work in print have a luxurious style. Print is almost as unconstrained as web writing. Paring down those long sentences to something close to their essence takes time and an occasional intuitive leap.
The result is a slogan-y flow of micro-headlines that point to a larger story. Like mini-sculptures made of 98 letters and spaces, you take away the stone to reveal the image that was always there. Compressing meaning into a small fixed space always involves solving a puzzle. Teensy bits of meaning get sacrificed to the gods of communication. I aim to capture the essence and get there regularly.
I think of Mark Twain who said, “It would have been shorter if I had more time.”
At 98 characters, the ideas are bold and declarative. You can make complex and nuanced cocktails at 140 characters. At 98, it’s straight up.
To the uninitiated, it looks like communication by bumper sticker. Artless tweeters resemble those California Volkswagen buses with 50 urgent messages competing for your attention. Armed with a flow of good material (and resisting the temptation to preach), it’s possible to effectively point people to key bits of information.
In that way, using Twitter and Facebook is an obvious extension of the work I’ve always done: moving ideas from one landscape to another
- I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendfeed. Catch up with me.
- I’m doing a Free Webinar: Regional HR Marketing and PR – Tailoring Sales to Market Realities
- Thursday, May 7, 2009,
- 10-11 am PT (1-2 pm ET)
- I’m leading an Intensive workshop called Recruiting Strategy in a Down Economy: Identifying What’s to Come in the Upturn at the Kennedy Recruiting Conference in Las Vegas on May 19.
John Sumser is the founder, principal author and editor-in-chief of the HRExaminer Online Magazine. John explores the people, technology, ideas and careers of senior leaders in Human Resources and Human Capital. John is the also principal of Two Color Hat where he routinely advises Human Resources, Recruiting Departments and Talent Management teams with product analysis, market segmentation, positioning, strategy and branding guidance.