140 characters. Right?
Wrong. Absolutely wrong.
Why? Because if you write a 140 character Twitter post, nobody can retweet it without editing it.
And since people are lazy, you aren’t getting retweeted!
What’s worse, is if your post is difficult to edit, like, for example a famous quote.
So what is the correct length for a Twitter post?
The answer is, it depends.
It depends on the length of your twitter handle, because that’s what’s required to append to the post to retweet.
Let’s take myself for an example. My handle is don_crowther (if anyone with Twitter connections could talk Twitter into getting whomever has locked down doncrowther and never posted on it, and give it to me instead, I would gladly send something nice [think a spankin new iPad] your way.)
Enough of the asides… :<(
Count the characters: don_crowther is 12 characters long. Add one for the @ sign. Then add 3 more for RT and the space which follows it and you have 12+1+3=16.
So the longest tweet I would want to tweet is 140-16=124 characters.
(Now I recognize that using Twitters new standardized retweeting structure, the 3 characters for RT and the space may not be necessary, but if you look at a RT on another tool like Tweetdeck, you’ll see RT there. So, include the 3 extra characters in your math.)
Your username will be different, so compute that number. That will be the maximum number of characters that you will allow yourself to tweet in the future. It’s hard, but just as you got used to 140 characters, you can now get used to 124, or 121 or whatever.
So should every tweet be 124 characters? There’s another layer of twitter etiquette out there for which I like to allow where ever possible – the via link.
Here’s the way Twitter should work in a perfect world.
@BobJones reads a post of mine and retweets it.
@MarvelousMonkey loves my tweet and wants to retweet it to his people too.
What’s the etiquette?
The way it SHOULD work is that MarvelousMoney’s tweet should read as follows:
RT @don_crowther Don’s amazingly insightful tweet goes here (via @BobJones)
That way the credit goes to the person who originally crafted the content, with pass along credit given to the person who brought it to your question.
But now we face the realities of Twitter. What I quoted above is correct Twitter etiquette. But as Twitter implemented their new retweeting system, they eliminated the via link. So, perhaps it’s going to go away, as many other etiquette elements do (how many men still stand up when a lady enters the room?) We’ll see.
But there still is an argument for allowing extra space to enable people to be able to add hashtags of their own, direct attention to one of their friends, etc.
In other words, shorter is generally better.
In conclusion, here are my rules for the ideal tweet length:
1. Your ideal tweet length is 140 – (the number of characters in your handle + 4)
2. Shorter is generally better. If you can add more with more characters, do so, but always weigh the true value in those extra characters.
Disagree? Have a different formula? Tell us about it by writing a comment below!