Sunday 13 February 2011

Longer Tweets - a blessing or a curse?

We're a chatty lot, aren't we? And that means the 140 character restriction on Twitter can be very frustrating. Especially for compers. If  a promoter asks you to retweet their message to enter a comp, and then uses  up most of their 140 characters,  the tweet becomes too long to RT the "old" way, by typing in RT @theusername  and then copying in the message.  But we tend to feel insecure about using the RT button. Even on NewTwitter, it is difficult to be convinced that tweets done this way will show in  the promoter's  @ mentions list.

So those of us who use Tweet Deck  were delighted to see that they now allow tweets of  unlimited length. Now we can do  an old-style copy-and-paste RT for any comp..... can't we?

Unfortunately not. If you write a long tweet using tweet deck,  only the first 129 characters of  it are displayed on other Twitter platforms  and Twitter's own pages. After that it says ... (cont) and then a link to a page where the full tweet is displayed.

Now when you are chatting to friends, they will (we hope) be happy to click on the link to read what you have to say. But if a promoter gets hundreds, or thousands,  of comp entries, then even if entries are being read by a human, they won't have time to bother. With most comps  that isn't a problem, as long as everyone is RTing the same message and you don't have to include a tiebreaker or answer a question.

But what IS a  problem to compers is the fact that many messages that need to be RTd include a hashtag - a word preceded by a # sign - to help the promoter search for entries. There are lots of Twitter  search tools they can use to find specific hashtags, so for instance if they have asked you to RT a message including the hashtag #grapevine they can put that one word into a search and  find every tweet that includes it.

Hashtags are most often used at the end of tweets - and this is a problem with longer  tweets. Because a hashtag appearing after the 129 characters of a longer tweet does not show up in any Twitter search. No, not even Tweet Deck's own search, which displays the full text of longer messages!

The same thing applies to @ mentions- in a longer  message, any @ mention afterthe 129th character won't show  up onthe mentions page of the person it refers to. Although this probably doesn't affect compers much it is  worth bearing in mind when chatting to friends and making lists for #FollowFriday.

So usung Tweet Deck's longer message function  means your comp entries might never be seen! My advice is to either use the old-style RT and edit your tweets to make sure they come to no more than 140 characters,  or, if you trust it, use the RT button.

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