How to Make an Impact in 280 Characters

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“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Six famous words by 20th century writer Ernest Hemingway. 33 characters – including spaces – that set up a poignant scene, that present their reader with an entire situation, characters and emotional sequence. 

If you hark back to the now infamous phrase of another great 20th century figure, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, you’ll be familiar with the catch cry “less is more”. And it certainly needs to be so when you only have 280 characters in your pencil case.

The story of things (SoT)

Much like our modern consumerist society – on a seemingly continual mission to convince us ‘more is more, and more is never enough’ – our online stories compete continuously in new and endless streams of digital formats from Twitter and Facebook to blogs and fan fiction.

Abbreviations and colloquial references aside – think YOLO – it is possible to make a serious impact in 280 characters. In fact, I wish Twitter still ran on 140 characters.

A picture tells 1,000 words

If you’re going social, then images and/or video are the attention grabbers of the moment. But they’ll never replace words, opinions and the thoughts of those you might follow or who you wish would follow low you.

When you raise your fingers to hit the keys, it boils down to what you want to say; to whom you want to say it, and why. Would you like your reader to chuckle, share, follow, go to your website, tell other people about your story over coffee…

In the world of communications, the ubiquitous ‘it’s about’ refers to what you want people to think, feel and do – usually in that order. Asking these questions before you tap that first character is the start of having an impact. And there’s no harm in playing with layout:

 
For example,

the way you design the

look of your Twitter feed.

If it looks a little different, then

some readers just

might pause.

 
However, you still need something to say. Your characters and/or your emojis – – have to work hard; really hard at saying a lot – think Hemingway again. And if you can be subtle and clever with hashtags, @someones and the odd tiny URL link to somewhere else, then you’ve all the ingredients to see what impact you can make.

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About

A writer for The Copy Collective since 2013, Geoff works as a communications consultant in his own business GkJE. Clients include: Qantas, SBS, Squiz and a variety of small businesses. He’s currently studying a Master of Creative Writing at the University of Sydney.

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