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Friday, Sep. 19, 2008 at 6:02 am

7 Principles of Web 2.0 Copy – Twitter Style!

By Jeff Sexton
September 19th, 2008

Bryan likes to tease me about my (in his opinion) way-too-wordy, overly long, and serialized blog posts.  He has even started suggesting I join twitter to practice short-form writing styles (you can follow Bryan @TheGrok).  But since I need a distraction like twitter like I need a crack cocaine addiction, this twitter-style post will have to suffice.

So here you have it, the 7 principles of Gr8t Web 2.0 (read short-form) copy:

1.    Brevity – Twitter = learn to say lots in 140 characters. What must you say in 140 characters?  Can you say it powerfully, as well as quickly?

2.    Acknowledgement – Meaningful acknowledgement is often peer acknowledgement; what point is there to sharing photos on FB or FLICKR except peer acknowledgement?

3.    Participation – For shared platforms, more use = more value.  Always entice people to take the next step, just like facebook gets you to load a photo.

4.    Sharing – Sharing has to start with YOU!  Sharing = participation, acknowledgement, and authenticity.  What real value are you sharing?

5.    Authenticity – Posing kills peer acknowledgment.  Don’t pose for it, show it through transparency.  What can you put on the line to communicate credibility?

6.    Interaction – Can I talk to you, or only just listen?  How long is the lag-time for feedback?  Can I interact with others, or just you / the host?

7.    SpeedKathy Sierra best explains Web 2.0-style speed.  Participation, sharing and acknowledgment all require speed of interaction & feedback.

This is great practice. As marketers and writers we must learn to say more in fewer words these days. Feel free to take a shot at revising these 7 in the comments below, adding your own, or feel free to tweet them and link back here (

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Comments (17)

  1. Jeff, if I understand your background correctly, your gift is in writing, right? So imagine a writer being way-too-wordy, overly long when they write something.

    Makes sense to me. :-)

  2. Jeff – re. Point 1 – Twitter.

    I find this to be a real challenge. I love Twitter and hope to someday be good at coming up with meaningful tweets that my followers will actually get something out of.

    I don’t follow a whole lot of people, but I can say that from what I’ve seen, tweets with substance are few and far between, but there are definitely some of those. I find tweeting to be a great excercise in content review.

    What am I really trying to say and can I communicate it clearly in 140 Characters or less?

  3. @Thorren Koopmans… “can I communicate it clearly in 140 Characters or less?” – not if you have to reiterate your point ;-)

    I’ve been a Twitter user for 1.5 years now, and I can definitely see a difference in my writing/communication style. While I do get on my verbose kicks, my point-drive information otherwise is usually constrained to 140 characters or less out of habit. Phone, inter-personal, and internal conversations have been condensed and consolidated to make the point in just as many characters.

    My thought about marketing since Twitter’s release has been – “what happens to the ‘elevator pitch’ now? does it become a ‘Twitter pitch’?”


  4. I’ve tried and tried and finally realized 140 chars is too short for life.

    Me = No Twitter

    hey, that’s within 140…may be i’ll try hard this time ;)

  5. Twitter and Haiku.
    Twaiku. Gets to the point fast.
    Creates clarity.

    :o )

  6. Concise is always goog, but I don’t think that less is always more with web copy. Yes, the headlines, summaries, and calls to action need to be clean, quick and understandable in about a three second scan of the page (the first eye pass). But after you take care of those very important quick things, having more content available for those that want it can enhance credibility and trust. Even if people don’t read it, just knowing that is there still might help conversion. Kind of like putting the 800 number there to call for help. Even if people don’t call it, having it there gives people the feeling that they are at a legit site. The trick in my opinion is getting a design which does not impede the flow along the cowpath, but still communicates that there is a rich pasture along the side to spend time in if desired.

  7. It’s not twitter. Or anything else.

    It’s understanding thoughts.
    If you have more than one thought in a sentence, then you’re creating confusion in my mind.

    So if I have a sentence like: When we go to the supermarket, and then when we go to the hardware store…

    Oops. Two thoughts. Now my brain in scrambling.
    That’s part of the problem. The second is the legendary Jeff’s language (Yes, I’ve sat with Jeff over dinner). You tend to use words that are complex and very ‘thesaurus-like.’ This causes another problem. My brain freezes. Because when you speak or write, the brain is trying to work out what you’re saying. If you use words that are complex e.g. transmogrification :) then you confuse me. My brain is in scramble mode once more.

    Now combine the factor of:
    1) Too many thoughts in one sentence
    2) Too many complex words

    And you have a recipe for confusion.
    Confusion that Twitter won’t solve.

  8. These are great tips, but they are great in their own right for copywriting “in the now.” I don’t really see them as an antidote for long, wordy blog posts. You can fix that problem without these tips (except for brevity): Omit needless words.

  9. Michael,

    Just wanted to point out that the subject/content of the post was on Web 2.0 principles, so the principles themselves were not meant as a counter to long wordy blog posts but as operating guidelines to success in a Web 2.0 world. It was simply Bryan’s hope that my writing style might change due to twitter addiction. In other words, I might become habituated to omitting not only needless but all non-essential words.


  10. Paul,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Over and over it has been shown that (well written) long copy tends to outsell short copy – especially for more considered purchases and/or complex sales. Also, some temperaments have more questions and need more (or different types of) information to feel comfortable buying. So, as you said, the trick really is to design one’s link structure so that each visitor can move as quickly through their buying path as they want while also being able to drill down for information on things that matter to them. I think you’ll find that Persuasion Architecture addresses that design issue perfectly.

    But on Web 2.0 platforms brevity seems to rule more than in-depth content. Just check out most people’s Facebook comments, updates, wall writing etc. Or Flickr photo explanations, or even the length of the average viral video – it aint the 30 minute films going viral.


  11. I would always much prefer to read a detailed well written article rather than one which cut short. However, sometimes it isn’t an article I’m looking for. Surely a balance of both is always good? Let the reader decide and from a writers point of view, it would be good to have good knowledge of writing both long and short articles.

  12. I appreciate Brevity myself. I could use a lot more of it in my day to day interactions.

  13. great article

  14. The 140 limit is a good practice for writing ad campaigns as well, so practice this technique! You wouldn’t want to write ad copy that is pages long, no one would read it, and you would most likely lose the sale.

    Maybe I should open up a twitter account and see what this is all about.

  15. well, couldn’t get myself used to it yet…seems confusing all together for some it just me?

  16. It is a time consuming 7 principles.How many medium stature websites follow those principles.

  17. I think sharing would take a huge leap in the future. Nowadays the world is staring to be a huge shared network with people sharing all sorts of resources.

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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