Previously on this blog I have written about how it pays to memorise your retweet number, which is the formula:
Your Number = length of username + five characters
To give yourself the best possible chance of a retweet, you need to make sure that you leave this many characters free at the end of each and every tweet.
So, in my case, the magic retweet number is 12.
I later expanded on this by suggesting that because different people use different ways of retweeting (for example, via) it actually made sense to leave a few more blank characters than your minimum, because creative editing from your retweeters is not always desirable or ideal.
I’ve changed my mind again.
Now that Twitter’s internal retweet mechanism is more firmly established, the need for a retweet formula is not as important as it once was, but it still has tremendous value. Many people choose to combine Twitter’s new style of retweet with the original, organic and annotatable version (RT @ etc), while some simply refuse to use the new method altogether (or are unable to because their favourite software does not support it).
So memorising your RT number still makes sense, and is particularly important when you’re linking to your own content. But publishers need to revise it further still, because it doesn’t take into account clean links, or what we’ll call non-retweets. That is, when somebody is kind enough to tweet a link to something on your website all by themselves, then it’s their username that becomes the most important thing, as it’s them who will be retweeted, and not you.
Still with me? Let’s say you’re a blogger or a journalist. You’re doing lots of great things, and some of your readers are kind enough to link to your stuff in their Twitter stream. You’ve also included a link to your article within your own timeline, and while you took the time to observe the magic retweet number and ensured that the title of your post – plus your username and those important extra characters – fits nicely in the tweet, it all goes astray when @biglongusername tries to do the same thing.
Suddenly, your headline, which you spent ages crafting and perfecting, is chopped off before the end.
(Or, worse, re-written in text speak. And then retweeted. Yeah, now everybody thinks that was you.)
That’s not @biglongusername’s fault – he was doing you a favour and acting in good faith. The problem is that YOU didn’t consider your wider audience.
The maximum length of a username on Twitter is 15 characters. Given the myriad of ways one can announce that something is a retweet (RT @, via @, retweet @, r/tweet etc), it makes sense to leave another 10 characters for safety. Which totals 25 – your new magic retweet number – which means that the title of your blog posts and newspaper articles cannot exceed 115 characters.
Ever. Unless, of course, you don’t want that link juice. And the wonderful retweets that often come from it.
Content will always be king. But by staying within these limits you’ve given yourself a much bigger chance of not only being easily and accurately retweeted, but also ensured that your all-important headline reads exactly as it should.