Communication in the Age of Twitter: Learning Precision in 140 Characters

13 Sep

The Social Media Generation

It’s been nearly a decade since the Internet generation first found its collective way onto the social media giant, Facebook.  Though social media has changed in leaps and bounds since that first day, one particular part of social media remains true – the short-text update. In Facebook-speak, it is called a status. On Twitter, it’s known as a tweet. The common factor is its length. A single tweet can be no more than 140 characters (this sentence, including this parenthetical, is 134 characters, including spaces).

The Steve Jobs Effect

In February 2011, corporate communications coach Carmine Gallo made a speech to the Stanford Graduate School of Business (available here on YouTube), and followed it up with an article “What Makes Steve ‘Steve’” in Forbes magazine, regarding the presentation skills exhibited by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The key, according to Gallo, is Jobs’ ability to deliver a consistently concise message to his audience. Rather than present a specifications list for his newest products, he will opt instead, for a single slide with the words “The World’s Smallest Notebook,” to promote the MacBook Air. The importance, Gallo states, is that Jobs leaves you with the message he wishes you to remember, and nothing else.

Are We Learning Precision?

This is, I suppose, the question. In a world where young persons grow up with only 140 characters to express a complete thought, will our next generation of business communicators be more precise? The worry is, of course, that instead of being more precise, there will simply “b mor rm in evry twt bcz ppl mak wrds shortr,” (be more room in every tweet because people make words shorter). On the other hand, our next generation of business leaders may be subtly learning now, through informal social media, how to streamline their thoughts – Steve Jobs style – in 140 characters or less.

Will we lose our intelligence though trying to streamline our thoughts? Or are we subtly learning to be more precise? Only time will tell.

by Ryan C. McCombe

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2 Responses to “Communication in the Age of Twitter: Learning Precision in 140 Characters”

  1. Brian September 15, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    Very well written, though I found separating the post into three sections to be a little disconcerting. I assume you’re using the example of Steve Jobs to illustrate the power of precision that characterizes tweets. If so, it didn’t seem that way at first (maybe you could connect the paragraphs without the titles and add transitions?)

  2. Natalia Ortega September 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    Links to the video and article added a great deal of authority to your piece, and I really like your word choice in the first paragraph especially.

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