Making 280 Characters Count: My Experience with Microblogging

A little bit of advice when it comes to pressing tweet

Image from unsplash.com / Photo by Jeremy Bezanger

As one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, Twitter was released in 2006 as an app to share updates with friends by texting a message to the number 40404. To me, that seems like an alien thing to do now, right? But, this was the birth of microblogging as we now know it…

According to Jerry Allocca in Connected Culture: The Art of Communicating with the Digital Generation, shorter than a traditional blog, a microblog works like a “status update”, where we talk about what’s going on in the world and anchor that with extra information like videos, polls, images, and websites.

Twitter has roughly 206 million active daily users worldwide. That must be more tweets than you and I can count on our fingers. And if you’re wondering just how many, take a look at this live count of how many tweets have been sent already today.

Our engagement with this microblogging platform is immense, but why do we care to tweet?

Created on Canva.com / Graphic by Ahone Lane / Data from statistica.com

As of May 2021, 82% of high-volume Twitter users in the U.S primarily use the platform for entertainment, 78% use it to stay informed, and 77% use it as a means of expressing an opinion.

I personally use Twitter for all three of the purposes above. But, during my engagement with the platform to explore crime journalism, information and opinions have been all over my timeline.

My experience with 280 characters

Over the last few weeks, I have been consistently active on Twitter, engaging with and tweeting about all things crime journalism. If you’re wondering what I've learnt, this is everything I’ve grasped to make the most out of microblogging on Twitter…

Lists aren’t just for shopping

Screenshot from twitter.com/@ahone_lane

Creating a list on Twitter allows you to make a custom timeline with tweets from particular chosen accounts. The list I created surrounding crime journalism included accounts such as the BBC, Sky News, and Al Jazeera, as well as investigative journalists and crime correspondents.

Whilst not every single tweet was directly related to crime, it certainly made it a lot easier to navigate through my timeline as a way of staying informed with the latest news stories and crime topics.

No room for mistakes

There always seems to be speculation that an edit button is in the works for the popular platform — it’s what tons of users want, and it certainly would’ve come in handy with a couple of my own tweets, that’s for sure.

Whether it’s a spelling mistake, a mishap with grammar, or something you simply want to change, there is no easy way around it. No edit button — no quick fix.

Elon Musk, who’s now struck a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion, asked his followers via a very fittingly spelt poll if they wanted an edit button, to which the majority replied with yes (or yse should I say).

Screenshot from Twitter.com

An edit button is now reportedly in the works. Whether this does end up coming into existence or remains a plea from the majority of users for years to come, one thing is for sure — triple check your tweet before pressing tweet!

Timing is everything

Twitter allows you to schedule your tweets, helping you to be more consistent with your engagement, as well as allowing your profile to appear more coherent. This is definitely something I would suggest is worth utilising. But when is the right time to schedule these tweets for?

Image from unsplash.com / Photo by Djim Loic

Data from October 2010 to March 2015 showed that worldwide, the most popular time to tweet is 12 noon, and the least popular time to tweet is 3 am. I mostly tweeted within daylight hours to increase the likelihood of engagement. But that’s not to say that this is the only time you should tweet.

In journalism, there isn’t often a set time when news breaks. It can be unpredictable, emerge from different time zones, and we as an audience often have no warning. So, if news breaks in the early hours of the morning, don’t hold off until noon.

Hashtags are a godsend

A hashtag is a word or phrase prefaced by the hash symbol (#), allowing for content surrounding a particular topic to become grouped together. This blog post by Hannah Macready sums up how to use them perfectly.

Hashtags are extremely powerful communication tools, and we’ve seen the impact they can have within movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.

Image from pexels.com

Hashtags are also great tools to help you keep up with trending topics on Twitter, and you can see what’s being talked about or engaged with the most whilst you’re online.

This is something I took advantage of during my engagement on Twitter, following the hashtag #DeppVsHeard — regarding the renowned Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial.

Screenshot from twitter.com/@ahone_lane
Screenshot from twitter.com/@ahone_lane

I conducted a poll questioning whether the trial should be so heavily publicised, to which it received a very mixed response from 89 users.

Just by using the single hashtag #DeppVsHeard, the tweet gained 101 engagements over 24 hours, without any retweets and not a huge amount of followers.

Don’t hold back on the hashtags though. If I had included a couple more, the engagement could’ve expanded a lot more. Maybe three is the magic number in this case…

Everyone has an opinion

If a high percentage of users do engage with Twitter as a way to express opinions, the chances are not everyone will agree with you. This was something I learnt the hard way through responses to my tweets.

Screenshot from twitter.com/@ahone_lane
Screenshot from twitter.com/@ahone_lane (Username blanked out)

After the awful events of the Buffalo mass shooting on the 14th of May 2022, the Black Lives Matter Twitter account posted a graphic with the phrase ‘End White Supremacy’. I retweeted this with comment, receiving the above reply.

It can be disheartening to receive tweet replies that counteract your beliefs and opinions, particularly when microblogging about a topic you’re passionate about.

That being said, Twitter is a great platform to educate users and engage in discussions and debates — this wouldn’t be possible without a difference in opinion. It’s a part of what makes Twitter what it is, and microblogging for that matter.

So, remember, you only have 280 characters — make them count!

Thank you for reading! It would be great to hear what you think about microblogging in the comments.

Be sure to keep up to date with my social media channels; Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to catch my future blog posts and thoughts about the world of crime journalism!

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Ahone Lane

Ahone Lane

Final year BA English student at Bournemouth University, focussing on issues within the area of crime journalism.