Constraints can conduce creativity. That’s part of the fun of crafting a 140-character message, in my opinion. It’s like a haiku. Within its limitations can come great beauty.
I’m not saying my tweets are beautiful. Far from it. But since I’ve begun tweeting, I’ve thought carefully about each message. And more than that, I’ve also tried to follow this rule:
Make every tweet useful.
To me, this means more than describing what I had for lunch or how I had a bad day. Something beyond pointless babble, basically. Something hopefully useful, meaningful, and can provide someone with value. Perhaps an insightful quote (I have a thing for great quotes). Perhaps an interesting link. Or perhaps a business idea.
It is relatively easy to craft a useful standalone tweet. A reply within a conversation is tougher. Since it can be difficult to discern conversational context from a single tweet, sometimes Twitter feels like a mess of private conversations. The current remedy is to manually hunt around to determine what was written before and after a particular tweet in a conversation. Some tools try to alleviate this, but I haven’t found one that does an effective job yet. (If you know of one, please let me know.)
Without that conversational context, I’ve purported to make replies useful as well. To me, this means trying to avoid empty responses like, “Thanks!”, “LOL”, or “:)”, and trying to provide some kind of context if I reply to someone. This isn’t always possible. When it’s not, I try to craft my reply so if readers click on the “in reply to…” link, they’ll be able to catch up quickly.
It’s already tough to squeeze a useful message in 140 characters. Doing all of this on top of that is even more difficult. But I like to think that these constraints encourage me to think creatively. And hopefully, all of this makes my tweets more useful to my followers.
P.S. I should mention another constraint. I try to keep my tweets at 126 characters, not 140. This gives room for a potential retweet. If someone were to retweet me, they would likely add a: “RT @mikeleeorg”. That’s 14 characters. Subtract that from 140, and the space I have left is 126 characters.
Ah, the fun of constraints!