140 characters.

It isn’t much, but that’s the beauty of it all. The brevity of Twitter forces its users to embrace simplicity and get straight to the point. Everybody’s got time for that.

Twitter is a unique platform and is most consistently the one people tell me they “don’t get.” It’s a little clumsy and a lot of commotion. Along with a heavy dosage of acronyms and abbreviations comes a unique form of language that makes Twitter so easy to be loved or hated.

This article goes out to all you Twitter haters. Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up to your newfound love for the platform.

“So, what even is Twitter?”

It’s microblogging. It’s taking large amounts of information and condensing them down to a consumable level. Google defines the noun “twitter” as such: A series of short, high-pitched calls or sounds. Much the same, Twitter is like a stream of consciousness, lacking structure or flow. You just say what’s on your mind, as long as it’s 140 characters or less.

“Who uses it?”

Twitter has a large global presence with nearly four times as many users internationally as in the United States — 254 million versus 65 million. In the U.S., Twitter usage is highest among urban residents, adults under 50, and people in upper-income brackets. Pew Research examined thousands of Twitter interactions and discovered six “archetypes” that users tend to belong to: Polarized Crowds, where opposed groups talk about the same topic but mostly just to other group members; Tight Crowds, made up of people bound together by some common interest (such as hobbies or professional pursuits); Brand Clusters, large groups that form around particular products, events, or celebrities; Community Clusters, multiple small- to medium-sized groups that typically form around big news events; Broadcast Networks, where many people follow and retweet a particular news source or commentator but don’t interact much with each other; and Support Networks, usually created when companies, agencies, and other organizations respond to customer inquiries and complaints.

“What do people use it for?”

A study found that 63% of Twitter users say the platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family. This social platform is less about interacting with your closest network of personal friends and more about following celebrities, brands, and news sources to find information and partake in discussions about topics of interest.

Fortunately, Twitter Analytics offers much information regarding your follower base, giving you insight about the types of things that will resonate best with your audience. Sixty-one percent of our @ColoradoStateU audience, for example, is located in the state of Colorado, which suggests that local information will receive more audience engagement than global topics. More than half our audience shares these five areas of interest: 69% Comedy; 59% Music; 57% Business & News; 57% Politics & Current Events; and 54% Movie News & General Info. Our followers are also 19% more interested in NFL Football than the average of all Twitter users, which could explain why our sports-related posts perform exceptionally well.

“How do I make the most of my 140 characters?”

In time, you’ll learn to love the art of the tweet. A good place to start is to examine the different purposes of tweet structures.

Use #hashtags: Using hashtags is an easy way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic. We often use #ColoradoState in tweets because it expands our visibility (by making these tweets visible for people searching “#ColoradoState”) and creates an archive of content tailored to our university.

Tag Usernames: When you want a specific account to be notified that you’ve posted something, tag their username in the tweet. This is a popular way to drive traffic to another Twitter profile.

Shorten URLs: Use a URL shortener like bit.ly to stay within the character limit. Using images and URLs is good practice, but keep in mind that each uses up 22 characters of your allotted space.

Get Visual: A tweet with a visual is 40x more likely to get shared than other types of content, and tweets with images have been found to earn up to 89% more likes and 150% more retweets. A popular form of visual on Twitter is the GIF. These looping half photo/half video creations grab attention quickly and stand out in a cluttered, quickly moving stream. A visual piece is a storytelling device in its own right, and combining it with text bypasses the limitation of 140 characters.

Change Your Language: I’m an ardent supporter of the Oxford comma, but some days you just simply need that one extra character. And sometimes proper AP style just makes you sound like a machine and not a person. It’s okay to be more informal in the Twittersphere despite how awkward it may feel. Try out these tactics:

  • w/o not without
  • 8a not 8 a.m.
  • RT not retweet
  • BTW not by the way
  • & not and
  • 7 not seven

Lastly, don’t get overwhelmed. There’s a lot going on with Twitter, and you won’t keep up with it all. Find users that interest you, follow along, and see if you like it! A good rule of thumb is to practice the 80/20 rule for publishing. About 80% of your content ought to be curated from other users and 20% should be original tweets.

Happy tweeting!

Social & Digital Media Coordinator – Colorado State University

Instagram: @chasebaker / Twitter: @chase_baker / bakerachase@gmail.com

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