I wish my mom knew how to text. If she did, we could avoid the 20-minute conversation in which she details every minute since our last chat and jump right to her request to come by and fix her “broken” computer.

For better or for worse, quick and to the point is what everyone is after these days. Blame it on SMS, Twitter or the sheer volume of information we are supposed to digest and act on, but today’s consumer is best served by providers of concise quality. That’s why SmartBrief, now 11 years old, is as relevant as ever to busy professionals looking for a briefing on the news that matters to them in their industry.

Quick is in, and marketers should take note. The KISS principle, meaning “keep it simple, stupid,” is something that all of us can learn and act on every day. But in our 140-character world, let’s adjust and go with “keep it short, stupid.” I won’t pretend to be the first to use this acronym, but I’d like to apply to it to social-media marketing practices.

  • Your headline is only good as its tweet: Can you get your point across in 140 characters? Good, now remove at least 15 characters for the URL. Then, if you plan on getting anyone to retweet, get rid of another 15. And what if someone else retweets that retweet? Remove another 15 or so. You get the point. Oh yeah, and Digg’s headline character limit is only 60 characters.
  • Turn your blog post upside down: Take a glance at most of the blog posts you come across and you’ll note the formula. Start with a personal anecdote (see above), transition, then to the meat of the story. While long-form content still has a place, if your customers are likely on a mission to gather information or data, direct is the way to go.
  • Video clips, not films: YouTube recently increased its time limit to 15 minutes. Good news if you’re a filmmaker. Bad news for overzealous marketers. If you’re using online video to market products via a presentation or demo, keeping it short is more than suggested. If you must go longer than four or five minutes, help out your audience with some tips of where (i.e. product features at 2:45) you’re hiding the goodies. They might miss your fancy intro, but they’ll get right to what to matters to them, and to you.
  • Keep your Facebook updates focused: If you’re like me, you scroll through Facebook updates, bypassing the lengthy ones. Maybe it’s because you know it’s just another political rant or a long-winded take on last night’s “Real Housewives of Des Moines.” Rather than trying to fit all of your announcements and special offers into one update, spread it out and keep it direct with one message in mind.
  • Word of mouth travels farther with fewer words: Like Twitter, old-fashioned word of mouth can be affected by length. If you can communicate a concise message to your “talkers,” chances are they’ll be able to pass it along easily. Throw a complicated paragraph at your fans and they might digest the information, but it’ll most likely stop there. A short message is easily remembered, passed along — and has far greater potential.

Are you even still reading this? If so, let us know in the comments how you keep your social-media marketing concise. And, of course, keep it short … sir.

Image credit: flavijus, via iStockphoto

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23 Responses to “Social with a KISS: Keep it short, stupid”

  1. Laura Maly says:

    Yep! I'm still reading. Great post. You also did something else to help KISS: bulleted text. To me, this enables you to add length to your post/article without overwhelming your readers and causing a brain freeze. Thanks for the tips!
    My recent post Think Act Live

    • robbirgfeld says:

      Laura,
      Thanks for your comments and making it all the way to the end! I do find that bullets help with blog posts. While I get tired of blog posts that are filled with lists (5 ways to get visitors, etc), the very layout of those posts make them more digestible. Again, very key to SmartBrief as a brand.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SmartBrief on SocMed, Max Trisolino, Lynn Wittenburg, Lauren Burnett, Ana Hoffman and others. Ana Hoffman said: Social with a KISS: Keep it short, stupid: I wish my mom knew how to text. If she did, we could avoid the 20-minut… http://bit.ly/9G2SG4 [...]

  3. Hi Rob,
    Great post. Reminded of that quote from Mark Twain (I think) where he said 'Forgive me for writing a long letter as I did not have time to write a short one'.

    Short posts can be better for the reader but don't necessarily take less time.

    Adrian
    My recent post Consumers- customers and clients- The same or different in your business

  4. [...] Have a look at an article that explores this concept further: http://smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2010/09/20/social-with-a-kiss-keep-it-short-stupid/   [...]

  5. Julie says:

    I don't know about this as a manifesto. This morning, I sat transfixed and absorbing a TED talk for over an hour as it was broadcast live. I'll probably be thinking of it for weeks, if not years to come.

    I've probably read 100 tweets over the last week, and not one of them are memorable enough for me to recall at this moment.

    Now would I sit and watch a commerical or advertisement for one hour straight and think about it for days? Probably not.

    oh wait-

    I did watch Undercover Boss last night – both 7-11 & Hooters were the focus. Does that count as a commercial?

    So, with those reflections in place, is there still room for lengthy advertising?

    I saw 3 amazing, impacting examples in the last 24 hours, so I'd say yes.

    I did listen to a description of Coke's marketing during the TED talk today, probably lasted fifteen minutes.

    • robbirgfeld says:

      Very good points Julie. I too watched Undercover Boss as well last night. Quality informercial…no question. And you are right, there is still room for good long-form content. TED being a fantastic example. I guess my point is that often we get caught up in saying more than we need to– thereby crippling what may be a valuable, but simple message. Regardless of the medium, I think it's important to lead with the value– because many of us are being conditioned to tune out quickly. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Ramona C. says:

    Thanks for sharing the great information. I especially like your suggestion regarding blog posts. There's definitely a formula to the content strategy. I believe as technology continues to advance the messages, tweets, updates will continue to shrink [with expandable options (links, etc)]. Learning to keep it short will be beneficial for many years to come.

    My recent post One Pound Lost

  7. Lainya says:

    When I think about how many businesses and individuals are out there trying to sell something through the use of SM, I'm not surprised that shorter messages are preferred. Many of us sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of worthless messages a day.

    But when I think about using SM to build community, I tend to believe it's more important to be human and fully communicate a thought to the point of being understood. If that takes you 160 characters or 16,000, so be it because, hopefully, you'll be speaking to a targeted audience of community members who will appreciate your message.
    My recent post Deitch Being Deitch

  8. calvy says:

    great post!
    Even in the age of digital media, content remains the undisputed king!

    My recent post BBC finds tigers in Himalayas!

  9. Excellent rule of thumb: "Your headline is only good as its tweet." The reverse is also true, "Make your tweet as good as your headline."

  10. Lena says:

    Blogs are not “long-form content.” They are a forum for untrained and unedited wanna-be writers, marketers and corporate types on a soapbox, and enthusiasts of one sort or another. (i.e. “foodies”)

    If these people have difficulty keeping readers’ attention, it’s because their writing is poor.

    Likewise with Facebook updates. Reading a lengthy Facebook update takes 10 seconds. If someone can’t retain my attention for that long, it’s because they’re BORING and should be keeping their damn fingers away from the keyboard.

    I think this whole discussion is a bit silly, because it’s marketers talking to other marketers about how to market to marketers on Twitter. Don’t you want to get out of the Twit-Verse and reach the mainstream? Research indicates that most American teens and 20-somethings (AKA the “short-form”, text, TV, video game generation) don’t even bother with Twitter. It’s insider baseball.

    • robbirgfeld says:

      Thanks Lena,
      I know what you mean with inside baseball. Much of the discussion on Twitter, especially about the marketing use of Twitter itself is a bit of an echo chamber. But I'm not sure blogs, online video and Facebook are outside of the mainstream— and the lessons of being concise apply to those channels even more since you're allowed more than 140 characters.

  11. [...] blogger Rob Birgfeld over at Smart Brief wrote a post on the importance of keeping content short.  Unfortunately, it is an ongoing myth that web content [...]

  12. Marni says:

    With reports of the internet ruining our attention span and possibly our intelligence, it seems good practice to learn to be succinct. You: think a bit harder, get creative, and acquire a better vocabulary!

  13. [...] follow. The idea that content must be short and provocative, as Bob Birgfeld of Smart Brief has written for bloggers, is simply inaccurate in many cases. Long content coupled with easily distilled statistics is an [...]

  14. dll search says:

    In this century of extreme speed, you can measure the value of time on behalf of computer operations and procedures. All this industry has been given birth to in order for us to spare more and more time, to learn how to fasten our actions and, furthermore, to make our work more productive. Just keep in mind that there are new trends that even we hardly manage to adapt, not to mention how difficult this may be on the other side of the generation gap. You mother must certainly feel more comfortable with speaking with you on the phone than tweeting the latest news.

  15. oil press says:

    At the moment, no. Not with my personal brand. But I have done it with my clients and have seen it work time and time again. I've written more on the subject, and you can find the core of my thoughts here:

  16. dual saw says:

    A century from now, it will be historians who will trace the idea back to the Apple co-founder."

  17. aluma wallet says:

    And, given MS's penchant for not listening to its customers, the earlier and louder you yell, the better.

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