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140 Characters and the Swing to Longer Form Content

“In a time of 140 character communication I’m sensing a shift back to longer form content”.

This was a statement I made in a presentation last week and it was one of the statements that I made that seemed to get the most reaction/resonance with those attending – so I thought I might expand on it a little and share a few random thoughts.

Are People Wanting More?

Tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn Status Updates… the short form communication that has dominated social media over the last few years is a wonderful thing. While I was initially sceptical that anything worthwhile could be communicated in 140 characters I now see the place of this type of communication.

However… I’m noticing a swing and I’d be interested to know if I’m the only one?

What I’m sensing is people starting to want more than they’re getting in 140 characters – something deeper, something more thoughtful, something more meaningful.

By no means am I suggesting that you can’t be deep, thoughtful or meaningful on Twitter or Facebook – but those are characteristics that I don’t tend to associate with most of the short bursts of content I see flying around in the social media space.

Keep Your Home Base

2-3 years ago I saw a range of bloggers giving up their blogs to get onto Twitter. I never quite got that move – giving up your own site, on your own domain, on your own servers…. a place where you had complete control – to go invest time in someone else’s domain, adding content that ultimately they had control over (while you might retain copyright they can switch your account off at any time if they perceive you to be breaking their terms of service).

My argument has always been to keep your Home Base and treat social media accounts as Outposts. I’m betting that those who gave up blogging to get onto Twitter are probably wishing they at least kept their blogs these days.

Don’t Give Up on Short Form Content

By no means am I calling for people to abandon their Twitter or Facebook accounts. They’re still incredibly useful, in fact looking at the stats on my own blogs they are becoming more and more powerful as places to drive traffic to my blogs, build the brand of my blogs, add to the conversation I’m having on my blogs etc.

As a publisher I can see some very tangible reasons to use Twitter – but earlier in the week I decided to ask those who follow me why THEY use Twitter. I started by asking those following my @ProBlogger account and got responses like these (see the full response here):

why-use-twitter-problogger.png

I then decided to check out what those who follow my @DigitalPS (photography) account would say (as I wondered if my @ProBlogger account might be a little skewed towards bloggers/publishers. Here’s what some of my photography Tweeps said (see the full response here):

why-use-twitter-dps.png

Looking over all of the responses a number of themes emerged among my followers responses including:

  • The idea of connecting with people and community both on a personal and professional level was one thing I saw again and again in responses.
  • Sharing and finding of information – news, tips, updates, links.

It strikes me that these two things are things that should probably grab the attention of bloggers. People are using Twitter to connect and have community (hardly rocket science as it’s called ‘social media’) but also to find and share information relevant to their lives.

Short Form content is powerful in driving traffic to and building conversation and community around your longer form content.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I definitely agree that people do want more – at least I know I do. I think that’s why I mostly enjoy tweets that direct me to a link – usually a quality blog post. I think Twitter is great for quick notices and updates, but for the most part, getting deeper, more thoughtful information requires much more space than 140 characters.

  2. Lucifer says:

    Twitter’s 140 characters are enough in its own term ….

    The Best Platform i.e the best social Networking site for Marketing Or Promoting Your Content.

    Twitter is Very Different From other Social Community Sites Like Orkut or Facebook…Over Twitter We Can Talk To Anyone According to Our Interest, The Way The Person Tweets, or Due to our Bussiness or any other sort of reason…

    Twitter Thus Is The Top Social Networking Site For Promoting Our Bussiness According to My Point Of View :)

  3. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Darren,

    I can’t imagine giving up my Blog for Social Media. Now, social media is a great way to generate traffic. And If you are good you’ll be able to turn that traffic into customers.

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  4. Ramnath says:

    Yes .. I agree Darren, Short Form Content is powerful in driving traffic to and building conversation and community around our longer form content.

  5. I second Josh, I think twitter and social media augments and compliments long form blogs and journalism. It is a way to engage in live conversation faster than responding to blog comments and give your persona a more reachable and human element. But in the end, providing your followers with solid articles and information of interest to them that they can read is more mutually beneficial.

    I use twitter to engage in an open two way poetry game, where I solicit players to submit random words and I build a poem from all random words submitted. It is a great way to engage people two way and it helps promote my poetry blog because everybody who joined the game, has a natural tendency to retweet and share since they contributed to it.

    Doing these two way interactions is a great way to get your fans and followers involved and help promote your content because they want to, and because they were a part of it.

  6. I currently use my blog, Twitter and Facebook as communication tools but Twitter and Facebook have the advantage of community response, rapid interaction and quick tips and findings sharing that you don’t get only on blog posting. I actually never shifted to micro-blogging or leaving the blog for, say, Twitter only. This is because, in terms of in-depth publication, my only and real style of posts, I need more than 140 characters.

    However, Twitter has one thing that I will not get from my blog. My whole blog brand is around the web design niche in Mauritius but on Twitter I can go further than just remaining in the niche. I can post a lot about all that gravitates around the other part of it, i.e the island of Mauritius, its politics, other (non-web design) Mauritian blogs etc…

  7. Twitter’s 140 characters are enough in its own term ….

    The Best Platform i.e the best social Networking site for Marketing Or Promoting Your Content.

    Twitter is Very Different From other Social Community Sites Like Orkut or Facebook…Over Twitter We Can Talk To Anyone According to Our Interest, The Way The Person Tweets, or Due to our Bussiness or any other sort of reason…

    Twitter Thus Is The Top Social Networking Site For Promoting Our Bussiness According to My Point Of View :)

  8. Erica says:

    I remember getting very depressed that blogging was dead about two years ago.

    I quit for a while—I needed a break & a niche switch anyhoo—and now I really appreciate my own space as the place where people can really get to know me by reading me and chatting asynchronously, at a comfy pace. Twitter feels so transient sometimes!

  9. It’s all connected together. That’s the bigger picture. Where you have a home base with a blog and then pick up small packets of customers here and there, allowing your voice to trickle out.

    Customers only have so much time in their day and there is a finite amount of cusotmers in a given market. It’s like a train going by and you need to catch as many people’s attention as possible.

    Each social media (or ANY marketing effort) effort that you make is only worh it if you eventually gain a customer. That is the big question that each business owner needs to ask him/herself.

    It’s NOT whether your Twitter post is profound or how many Facebook friends you have, it’s whether you can turn that content-filled conversation into a sale at the other end.

    We are all just one, big happy family and every person likes to communicate a little differently than the next one. It’s up to us to show them that we have something valuable at the other end of the tunnel and that they need to keep listenting to the conversation.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  10. Wilson Usman says:

    Yes, good point. It is shifting. I don’t think you can really get a powerful message across through twitter as you can with your blog.

    @josh I agree I will never leave my blog either. It has become a huge passion and I love connecting and expressing my point of view with others

    @sachin I think you make a great point, like I said you can’t just resume a post thats 1000 words in 140.

    But I will say that using it for traffic and to connect with like minded people its really become a great source I like twitter even though I didn’t understand it at first.

  11. Mark Dykeman says:

    I see Twitter and similar sites being used by a number of people (including myself) as a series of fishing lines with hooks (i.e. links) to drag people out of Twitter to other websites.

    There’s always been and always will be the need for longer form content.

    Twitter cannot replace blogs and article repositories, but it can help promote or enhance them.

    Fair observations, Darren.

  12. David says:

    We can think about many implementations of twitter.com, Rather than driving traffic,For example, It can be used as words research tool !

  13. Hi Darren

    I was at your presentation last week (which was fab) and I agreed with you at the time and still do. The connection and conversation is established through Social Media but the continuity, for the purpose of business, needs to transcend the 3rd party space. Otherwise, where is the business asset and where is the process of business?

    Just a few days ago I wrote a blog post telling my entrepreneurial life story, it is 4 print page sizes long – that’s long form for me and not my usual benchmark of 1-2 pages max.

    The number and ‘depth of impact’ of responses (both public and private) to that blog post have blown me away – people tell me I have ‘changed their lives’ for taking the time to explain in full my point.

    You simply could not achieve that on sites such as Facebook or Twitter but it was via these sites that the connection and beginning the conversation was established.

    I’ve built up ‘social equity’ using social media sites and progressed people into my business funnel (if you like) by bringing them physically on to my own web site.

    Cheers, Jennie

  14. John Gay says:

    Hey Darren, great post I Completely agree with you, people can move to social media but I don’t think they should completely give up blogging 100%. I personally don’t think the 140 characters Twitter gives you is quite enough to engage with your followers, but don’t get me wrong I do use twitter, but I believe it can only be used to post small updates, but then i suppose that is kind of the point.

    Again great post
    John

  15. Shirley says:

    I don’t know why somebody will leave his or her blog for Twitter or another form of social media. Cos they are two different things which serve different purposes so you wouldn’t and shouldn’t leave one for the other. You should use both in conjunction with each other to help them build on one another.

  16. Chris says:

    Honestly, I’ve never had much use for Twitter. I’m sure that it’s great to get short messages and links out there but I agree that the popularity is falling. It’s a trend, and like any trend, it’s going to fade away eventually.

  17. Mike Paul says:

    Social media is a fantastic way to drive traffic and to get people interested in what you have to say.

    But having your own blog, it’s like your own home on the web, the “nerve center” of everything you do. Leverage the power of social media to get people to your blog, then keep them there with great content.

    Talk soon,

    Mike

  18. Julius says:

    I especially like the point about keeping your home base and using social media as outposts. Twitter and Facebook are good promotional tools but it’s the visits to your site that count.

  19. Why want more? Short and simple messages make marketing (or getting a point across) simple. It forces us to write more creative, and straight to the point messages that actually get read.

    If we have more room to type, I doubt these messages (like to read an article or buy a product) will be as meaningful or creative.

    Good ideas here Darren, I definitely think people want sites like Twitter and Facebook to change…but really, I’d rather they didn’t.

  20. I’m with you. I would never abandon my blog to put all my efforts into a site owned by someone else. Much better to use it as a supplement to my sites.

    I’m decidedly not a power user, however. Some days I remember to tweet the things I find interesting, but a lot of days it slips my mind.

  21. aaron says:

    I think that 140 characters is only enough room to convey a call-to-action. You need an actual blog post to convey information…

  22. drt says:

    I’m still in a wait and see mode as far as twitter is concerned. In the begining I was a bit enthusiastic about tweeting until one day I found google displaying what I tweeted in the wee hours. Hm, that’s not good. I then decided to slow down. Recently I mostly tweeted if I posted a new post in my blog, But I think its effect is less than the email I sent to the mailing list with wider recipients than my tweeter followers. As for the form, I’m also in a wait and see mode.

  23. Blitz Surfer says:

    I have noticed my visitors tend to like posts that are longer (500- 750 words) more and more, rather than shorter (250 – 500) word posts.

  24. You state

    “2-3 years ago I saw a range of bloggers giving up their blogs to get onto Twitter”

    I am really surprised anyone would give up there blog for Twitter. I would imagine many of the users that did this were at a very early phase in blogging and looked at Twitter as there new social outlet instead of a great compliment to there already in progress blog.

    Well I guess the only plus is they have a pretty good article on “What not to do’s :-)”

  25. hokya says:

    yeah, i think twitter is more easy-to-use and more up-to-date than blogs

    but user can’t monetize their tweets :p

  26. Paul says:

    I love how this topic brings up the idea of a “Home Base.” For a while I was toying with the idea of starting just a YouTube channel. Then, as I started to create content… I decided that I wanted more control over what I presented and how I presented it. I, ultimately, wanted control over every bit from design, to structure, to presentation of my content. Because of this I got hosting and have started to focus on a blog. I feel more ownership now and am now even more invested in my brand.

    Sure, I’ll use YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. They are awesome tools. But they are more of a means to present content to a larger audience and share in all the social connections that make blogging so unique!

  27. Joi says:

    I totally agree. I’ve also heard of people who abandoned their blogs/site in favor of Twitter and/or Facebook. Makes no sense to me!

    You make a lot of wonderful points, I wish everyone who’d made this mistake could read this post – sadly, they probably don’t get off of Facebook.

    Great post.

  28. BloggerDaily says:

    Yeah, I sometimes also wondering why I do tweeting but today we can see that some activity had became a ‘trend’ and nobody tend to ask ‘why do you tweet?’ while the others keep asking ‘hey, do you have Twitter account?’

    But I guess transferring from website to 100% Twitter is not a good choice.

  29. I never use Twitter for my blog, it makes me desperate at all!

  30. i-Blogger says:

    Almost 1/3 of my traffic comes from all of the different social media sites that I participate in. The great thing about these social media sites is that you don’t have to spend hours and hours on the site to benefit from being a member.

  31. Ruth says:

    I’ve found Twitter’s great in lieu of RSS subscriptions to a lot of places that I’m only marginally interested in. That way if I’m online & they tweet an interesting link, I can go. And if I’m not online, it doesn’t build up in my reader. Still use RSS for sites I’m very interested in, but this method works well for sites like io9.com which posts 5-10x/day.

    As for blogging–I can’t cede control over my content, presentation, etc. Besides, some things need more than 140 characters. :)

  32. I’ve been feeling the same way for a while. – However with the amount of my readers/customers/friends/co-workers that are devoted to these social sites you really have to provide something meaningful that they’re looking for, for them to break from that site and venture into the deep content.

    I prefer deep content over micro content any day, but I have to say that the draw of finding new stuff fast and furious sometimes appeals to me – almost like other people are doing the searching for me and suggesting things to look at (great if i’m in a rut).

  33. Nunzio Bruno says:

    I agree with you, people are wanting more. I’m thinking they might be using those shorter forms as tests to see if your longer form is something they want to follow. I use twitter all the time mostly to connect with people on a personal level and just recently to offer the opportunity, by linking, for people to see what else I have to say. I love to see twitter followers make it to my blog, it means it’s not just robots following me :)

  34. I started blogging Twitter and Facebook all media at the same time and interestingly, my conclusions about how they serve my needs are the same as yours. My blog is my home, but not a quick way to connect and interact with people. Twitter and Facebook serve that purpose. They’re all fun, they’re all satisfying, and my blog experience is very different from my Twitter/Facebook experience. They work synergisticly, which is beautiful.
    Cynthia Bailey MD
    http://www.otbskincare.com/blog/

  35. Hi guys,

    I love Social Media. I don’t know what I would do without it. It use it for business reasons and personal reasons.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  36. fulblogger says:

    Social media is a fantastic way to drive traffic and to get people interested in what you have to say.

  37. I’m reminded of the argument that short-form communication growth means long-form will die. People complained eloquence left the building in internet chats, but that too disappeared as this same sort of swing happened.

    People try to optimize. Short-form seems initially like such a good idea because it’s quick, but the swing to long-form comes back when people need its value more than the speed of the 140. Equalization happens when people promote their long-form WITHIN the 140, and encourage comments in both arenas.

  38. Michelle says:

    I have noticed my visitors tend to like posts that are longer (500- 750 words) more and more, rather than shorter (250 – 500) word posts.

  39. Amy says:

    I never use Twitter for my blog, it makes me desperate at all!

  40. Anthony says:

    I have noticed my visitors tend to like posts that are longer (500- 750 words) more and more, rather than shorter (250 – 500) word posts.