Connecting with Families in 160 (or 140) Characters or Less

Lately, I have found myself trying to promote our district and its events in 140 or 160 characters or less. Let me tell you, it can be a challenge. Whether we are advertising an upcoming event at a school via text message (160 characters) or posting information about a dedication and ribbon-cutting event on Twitter (140 characters), my world as a verbose writer has been turned upside down.

When I first started using Twitter several years ago, I thought “this can’t be difficult, using 140 words or less.” Little did I know that it counted every character, even spaces! In the new world of unlimited space in the Internet and our websites, I felt like I was going back to writing for the space constraints of column inches in a newspaper or hard-copy newsletter!

Now I’ve had to say goodbye to punctuation marks, shorten sentences and sometimes resort to a just-the-facts approach to sharing information with our families and community using Twitter and text messaging.

The good news is that by texting and tweeting with our families, our building administrators have reported increased attendance and involvement with building and district events. While this is simply anecdotal data and evidence, we are experiencing success in this world of what I call “short attention span theater.”

Below are a few helpful tips to help you connect with families in either 140 or 160 characters or less (some of which was compiled from other websites):

  • Be careful with your word choice. Readers want small, easy-to-digest words. Most readers don’t want to see a second tweet or read number 2/2 of a text message.
  • Shorten those sentences and be conscious of your word choice. Limit your use of adverbs and other unnecessary words like “that” and “which.”
  • Make sure you get it right by editing, cutting and then editing some more.
  • Keep it simple. Sometimes all you need is the basic time, date and place with a link to more information.
  • Tiny URL (http://tinyurl.com/) or other websites like it are your friend. Our website creates some of the longest links I have ever seen! But by using sites to shorten your links, you will have more room for content.

As I was doing research while writing this blog entry, I came across an interesting fact – did you know that Twitter uses only 140 characters so it can leave 20 characters for the username of the sender?  Standard texting (or SMS) allows 160 characters.

Now, let’s see if I can end this blog post in 140 characters or less…thanks for reading! (Only 88 characters!)

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