Twitter and short form writing can be one of the hardest things to master. When you have something important to say, Twitter or sticking to a character limit can leave writers making difficult decisions that may affect their post. However, when you have something powerful, meaningful, humorous, or eye-opening to say and can keep it under 140 characters, Twitter can become one of the most important social media sites to get information to the world, quickly and powerfully.
140 Characters: A style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla is a field manual strictly for Twitter and short form with sound advice for novice Twitter users and Twitter experts alike, looking to get the most out of their tweets. Sagolla helps writers write “…short and sweet for the Information Age” as the back cover admits, lending a hand to any who are looking to embark on this digital era successfully. This post will discuss five important points from the field guide focusing on Twitter and how to be successful with short form writing.
One of Sagolla’s main points is the idea of simplicity, and with the idea of short form this may seem obvious; keeping your posts short, sweet, and to the point not only because of the 140 character limit, but to save you audience from heavy reading. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I idolize Ernest Hemingway as a writer and Sagolla references him as the pinnacle of simplicity, citing the opening line of his novel “A Moveable Feast” in with Hemingway leaves readers both slightly confused and intrigued. According to Sagolla, “This is the essence of short-form communication: leverage context and expectation to produce an instantly larger result” (Sagolla, 15). Each tweet is a story of its own and you have to hook your audience in in under 140 characters. Sounds hard huh?
“It worked for Shakespeare”. Well, Dom Sagolla, you hooked me with this chapter. Fan-girl(ing) aside, I am an avid retweet-er, and I think for the busy individual retweeting can be very influential. Not only can retweeting show followers who else you support (be careful with who you retweet as well!) but retweeting can show feelings that you have that you may not have the time, or perhaps the ability to voice on your own. Sagolla references the “Twitter Effect” as well, the phenomena that occurs when you (or someone famous) is retweeted or someone retweets you. Statistically the retweet reaches a wider audience than your own, thus sending your information further, so the more you retweet and support others the more they are likely to retweet and support you. Everyone wins!
I have always struggled writing to a faceless, nameless audience. If I am writing to myself my post will be relevant to no one and thus a waste of 140 characters (harsh, yes, but true). When you imagine your audience, or rather one particular person you will have a successful short form tweet as Sagolla suggests. “Your audience is your support network. Your backup” (Sagolla, 112). Nobody wants to see you succeed more than your favorite followers and when you write directly (but indirectly) to them they are more likely to retweet, favorite, or continue to follow your Twitter. It is important to cultivate your followers and make them know they are wanted and necessary and writing to them is an easy way to stay relevant within social media.
As sad as it is there is very little that is original in society today. So much of what we do, say, and write is banking off of others ideas (I won’t go into this now). With that being said why would imitation ever be a bad thing, especially on social media? If someone is successful in what they are doing, study them, see what can be used as imitation. Sagolla uses the example of Overheard or OH, where people tweet hilarious things that they hear around them looking for retweets and favorites which as we know by now is your “claim to fame”. Things like trending hashtags have the ability to be imitated and that is perfectly alright. If there is something you would like to say, but someone beat you to it, imitate it, or just say it better. It’s really that easy.
As Sagolla so eloquently said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world, in tiny increments that only you can witness” (Sagolla, 148). We may think that what we say, favorite, retweet, share, or message has no impact on others, but we never really know that for sure. The use of hashtagging allows users to be read by anyone looking for that hashtag and creates a fence around those that want and feel the same way. With all of this in mind we should always be trying to find a new way, a new style, or a new audience to reach with our message. We do this by making small changes every single day. Test this out in various ways and make the change you wish to see in the world; you never know who you may be reaching.
Twitter and short form are one of the most fascinating social media tools and when employing different tactics we can make our posts that much more influential, and meaningful. We can begin to become the change we wish to see in the world. At least to our own world. Get out there and change the world tweeters!