Test Blog #2: The art of a tweet

It’s not hard for me to see how skills in technical writing can be immensely useful in constructing a professional presence with social media. The most recent example in my life is my experience of trying to familiarize myself with Twitter. Tweeting didn’t seem all that hard until I tried it myself. As an initial “lurker” on Twitter, I spent a long time building up a twitter feed full of interesting people and organizations without actually posting myself. On the surface, composing a good tweet doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult. It’s only 140 characters. It can be an offhand comment, or three words before re-tweeted content from another user. It can be a series of emoticons and a link. How could that be difficult?

Sometimes it takes trying to do something myself for me to be able to recognize the artistry in others’ efforts. Since I took my own name as a twitter handle I decided that it was a good idea to start using it to establish a presence on Twitter. I struggle. It can easily take me 15+ minutes to compose a good tweet. It requires consideration and skill to be able to compose an eloquent thought with a bit of humor, the correct attributions and maybe a link, all under 140 characters. My favorite Twitter personalities make it look so effortless. Now my goal is to tweet more often to refine my own skills, and hopefully to fill my account with enough decent posts for any interested party to kindly ignore a couple duds. After all, it’s under my actual name. I have my reputation to consider.

This experience of mine came to mind while reading “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media” by Hurley and Hea. It’s so easy for someone who is not familiar with a social media platform to disregard it. The overwhelming cultural narrative, as expressed by Hurley and Hea’s undergraduate students is that, “Social media often influences writers to write carelessly and unfinished. Because the social media may just be a way to communicate with others, people often forget the structure of the English language and instead just abbreviate words in the quickest manner to get a simple point across, not leaving room for proper punctuation or spelling.” (Hurley and Hea, p. 60).

Before I tried tweeting, even though I was reading other’s tweets, I didn’t have an appreciation of the skill needed to be an effective communicator in this medium. Just like the students in Hurley and Hea’s class, it took to experience of actually engaging in the platform myself before I was able to see the talent that goes into composing relevant and poignant content within the confines of the media. These talented authors have to consider their audiences and make themselves a peer in order to appeal to their readers. Additionally, they have to distill their thoughts to fit eloquently into the word limit. While I struggle to improve my own use of twitter, at least now I have a better eye for what makes a good tweet. I can appreciate the contributors in my twitter feed, not just for their content but also for their skill.

Posted on September 15, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I agree with you that its much harder to pare down your writing and make it concise than it is to elaborate and ramble on. In your opinion, would longer character counts help or hurt Twitter?

  2. Good question! I’m not sure. My gut reaction is that it would hurt Twitter to extend its character count by too much. I think the concise quality of the posts are a huge factor that made twitter popular in the first place. All of the ideas are instantaneous. They are the potato chip of social media. If people could post paragraphs on Twitter, then why would I use Twitter instead of Facebook or a blog? what would set it apart?

    Then again, about two weeks ago Instagram removed their hallmark 1:1 aspect ratio restraint that helped visually set them apart from other photo sharing apps. Though this change is going to cause a shake up for a lot of people and companies who had adjusted to the limitation of a square, nothing much seems to have changed for Instagram itself.

    What are your thoughts?

  3. It’s interesting that you mention the desire for a Twitter style guide. I own the book http://www.140characters.com/press/, but haven’t looked at it in a couple years. See also http://www.mulinblog.com/twitter-writing-tips-digital-mobile-news-reporting/ for Twitter advice for journalists.

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