Why 140 Characters Works

Why 140 Characters Works

thumbnail - Why 140 Characters WorksSo, 140 characters…yes, only 140 characters. When I teach a class about Twitter I always get the same questions:

“How can I say anything in 140 characters?”
“Why would anyone want to hear from me so many times a day?”
“Why would anyone want to read what I ate for lunch?”

The reality is that Twitter is the perfect tool for snippets of information. Think of Twitter as the headline machine.

Honestly, do we need more than 140 characters? Some of the most profound and memorable quotes in history and literature are less than 140 characters:

This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.  (62 characters)

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man. (126 characters)

What ’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.  (85 characters)

And so, my fellow americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. (109 characters)

Now, I am NOT saying that everything on Twitter is profound or memorable. My stars, just spend 2 minutes reading tweets from the 2,000+ users that I follow and that will be pretty obvious. What isn’t profound is interesting, entertaining, informative or is just junk. I skip over the junk and get to the good stuff. Sometimes I find nuggets of greatness and sometimes I find nothing to hold my interest at all.

As you get used to Twitter, you might actually find it hard to fill your 140 limit. I find that when I’m tweeting on my personal account, I use only around 100 characters. Whereas at work for the @ImmunizeCOKids account, I utilize most of my characters.

This is also a daily challenge to be brief, but interesting enough to get a click through. It’s a great hurdle as a writer to see what is compelling and what isn’t. Have fun experimenting with writing tweets that jumps out of someone’s feed and inspires them to think, “hmmm, I want to read more”

The power of Twitter is in the idea that there is a REAL person on the other side of every account. There is another human being, just like you, typing into the Twittersphere. These people have friends, families, jobs and lives, just like you. They want interaction. They want to connect.

Through my tweets at the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition, I’ve been able to connect with journalists, famous bloggers, folks at similar organizations and activists that I would have NEVER connected with any other way. I could not have found them on Google, found through emails or met them at a conference. It is the idea of finding real people to support your brand that is the true power of the tool.

Furthermore, it’s a way for people to find you. We’ve even been invited to events and national conferences because of our presence on Twitter. Being active on Twitter has allowed our followers a deeper engagement in our brand and cause that cannot be conveyed on a website or even through Facebook.

I’m a firm believer that to use Twitter well as a business or nonprofit, you MUST tweet several times a day. Doing one tweet a day is a waste of your organization’s time. You are not reaching your full potential on the site.

There is a new expectation that people need to understand. This might blow people’s minds, but….you DON’T read all the emails you get or even fully read the important ones. Now be honest with yourself, do you read every email? The answer is probably no.  You skim everything and pull out nuggets of information that are important to you. You probably prioritize what is critical and toss out the rest. Social media is the exact same way. Tweet multiple times a day so you have a greater chance of being part of the critical information and not getting tossed out.

And to the question about what I ate for lunch. Twitter is a SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE. This means that it is full of real people just like you, that say stupid stuff just like you do. If someone had a transcript of the last time you went out to lunch with a friend, I bet you commented on how good or bad your meal was. For some Twitter users, they use it as a transcript of their life and thoughts. If this annoys you, unfollow them. It’s just like deleting a dumb email, just do it, no one will care!

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Kate Runy


A passionate technical wizard, Kate thrives on managing online content, social media for communications, and development projects.  Kate is the workhorse of the team, pulling out amazing feats of content creation and management week in and week out. 

Prior to joining BC/DC Ideas, Kate coordinated website and social media content, communications, and advertising for Go Global NC and Alzheimer’s NC.

Things that make her happy: I love animals about as much as I love working for nonprofits.

Mishel Gomez Cespedes


Mishel brings a passion for video storytelling and quippy social media content to the team.  At BC/DC Ideas, she is most likely editing video or scheduling the next moving social media post for our clients.

Her ear for storytelling is her greatest asset. Mishel has a unique ability to assemble content into a concise story that moves audiences to action.

A graduate of Wake Forest University she spent a semester in Spain and years serving her community through the campus organizations. Now, she is putting her passion for good to work.

Brian Crawford

creative director

Mix equal parts nerd and creativity and that’s Brian. A natural problem-solver, Brian’s ability to cut to the core of any problem helps guide our creative team to the correct solution without wasted time or money. It’s the core, this little nugget of truth, that helps our clients take the next step with their audiences.

Brian gets the greatest joy out of helping our clients realize and connect with their story. He is a true believer that everyone and every organization has a compelling story to tell, you just have to listen with an open heart.

Things that make him happy: Hanging out at the park with family, toddler-speak, hitting the focus pull, and good coffee.

Dawn Crawford


The engine behind BC/DC Ideas, Dawn has dedicated her career to good. Dawn brings her considerable experience and expertise to helping elevate the nonprofit sector. Our team’s lead strategist, Dawn is often seen leading our IdeaStorms, penning communications plans, or checking in with clients.

Before launching BC/DC Ideas in 2010, she earned her chops in 10+ years of communications leadership roles for public health, healthcare and youth-focused nonprofits. Working for nonprofits is Dawn’s dream job, and she loves that her 40+ hours a week make the world a better place.

Things that make her happy: A glass of champagne to celebrate big wins, Basecamp, living in the South, seeing the world, and a well-formatted spreadsheet.