What’s Wrong with Twitlonger

First, a bit of background. Twitter only lets you write messages 140 characters in length. This is quite a limitation – it’s even shorter than cell phone text messages – but it’s the way Twitter works. Since it’s the standard, you get used to it, you adapt to it, and you even start to find it useful. You can read tons of updates on one screen, at a glance, without clicking anywhere. No-one gets long-winded with their messages, since they can’t. It’s a good convention.

In some software clients, Tweetie on the iPhone for example, you are actually allowed to write more than 140 characters. If you do so, and try to post your message, you are usually given a couple options. One might be to compress the links and text in your message so that they fit in 140 characters, which is commonplace. You can still tell what the message says, and click on the link if you wish.

The other option you are sometimes given, however, is to post your full and complete message to Twitlonger. Your followers then see a shortened message, around 100 characters long, and then “… Read more:” followed by a link to a web page with the full message.

I don’t like this for a couple of reasons. First, it takes people away from Twitter. If you’re using your iPhone, it really slows you down, and I often just skip those links. Second, people see an ad below your full message, which is often for your competition! And third, if you’re going to take visitors away from Twitter, and they’re going to go to the trouble of clicking on that link, why not bring them to your website?

(Great tweet, as usual, by Stumptown. But then an ad for Starbucks? Not so nice!)

This is an excellent reason to have a blog on your website. If you think you’re going to write something too long for Twitter, it’s probably a candidate for a blog post. Then you have the opportunity to start a discussion, by letting visitors comment on your post, and you also have people coming to your website, so they might actually stick around and learn more about you or buy something. Who wouldn’t want that?

So next time you have an opportunity to use Twitlonger, wait one second. Is that really the best way to go?

Raymond Brigleb

Creative Director, dreamer, partner, father, musician, photographer. Has been known to ride the rails. Pulls one heck of a shot.