Fast. No counting on your toes. Just answer this question really fast. How many characters can you tweet while reasonably expecting a re-tweet?
Email and blogs without size constraints trained a generation of people to write rambling prose. Then came Twitter with its 140 character limit. People have slowly adapted although those who treat each 140 character point as a paragraph mark better cut it out. The problem surfacing more lately as everyone makes their way to the platform is that many small businesses are not leveraging Twitter’s magical re-tweet (RT) function. Multiple people re-tweeting your message can drive a huge volume of traffic to your site or effort. Think about the impact. Your message is tweeted and then four people, each with hundreds or thousands of followers, each re-tweet the message. Your audience just moved from your Twitter followers who happen to see that message to a much bigger number. And the cascading effect doesn’t have to end with one re-tweet.
But there’s a problem. When I asked about Twitter length, you probably instinctively said that the limit was 140 characters, which is the correct answer, but not optimal.
The optimal Twitter length for something you hope to have re-tweeted is 140 characters minus the number of letters in your Twitter username and minus another 5 characters.
Think about the form of most re-tweets. The standard is: RT @username Message. That’s 3 characters for RT and a space, another character for the @ sign and a fifth character for the space between your username and message. With a name like @georgebounacos, I have something else to gripe about regarding my last name. With no spacing it’s 14 characters. Add on the 5 additional spaces, and my Twitter limit for things I want re-tweeted is 121 characters.
Remember: Twitter is the don’t-pause-for-anyone lifestreaming utility. Many users access Twitter on a phone. If they can retweet a worthy message, they often will, but there has to be real dedication to actually edit a message so that it can be re-tweeted. And yes, Twitter has a re-tweet button, but more people and Twitter clients use the rt@ convention to risk your message. I’ve seen some decent 4 character names (@devo, @nasa), but most everyone comes in around 6-12 characters. You know who doesn’t? Those Twitter founder guys @biz and @ev. Their retweet character limits are 132 and 133 characters respectively. So when will the Twitter client software developers create a function that flags you when you reach your “easy retweet” limit?