How to squeeze your business into 140 characters or less

small__3209578485With so much information oozing out of every imaginable orifice on the internet, to think that your entire business should be compressed into the 140 characters (or less) demanded of you by Twitter (and others) – or into 15-20 seconds at a face-to-face networking event – may strike you as a bit cruel.

And this strangulation of decent prose doesn’t stop there. It’s demanded of you by a number of other platforms which purport to let you gabble on for as long as you want to, but essentially truncate your stuff when they feel like it. Usually halfway through the most critical sentence within your pitch.

Offline: what about that beloved old elevator speech?

We have seen that elevator speeches worked a few years ago … as described in such articles as this one, and how they gradually turned into intolerable clichés in this article.

Although the conventional elevator speech that starts with “I/we help companies/people do XXX” has become a bit of a cliché, as mentioned above, it’s still useful if only because it directs the listener to what’s in it for them.

But if you’re a regular attender of F2F business networking events by now you’re approaching the point where you think “if I hear one more ‘I help people…’ blabber that’s just a woolly, self-centred piece of bullsh*t I’m going to scream.” What’s the answer?

This is open for debate of course, but in my observation (and I do a lot of F2F business networking these days) is that you need to grab people’s attention with something funny, shocking or otherwise totally surprising in the way that you can help them. These are some I’ve heard recently…

“I help people fight the NHS” (UK’s National Health Service) – service that helps people obtain their full financial rights when paying for elderly relatives’ nursing care

“I show you how to be a spy” – company that provides surveillance equipment and systems

“My work makes sure you just pay your taxes, but don’t leave a tip” – financial planner

Every so often it’s worth checking out your elevator speech to see if it can do with sprucing up and especially, tightening up. Don’t waste time on trying to explain everything you do in a couple of sentences – people won’t remember it anyway.

Just capture one element that is “sticky” and makes people notice you. If they do, they’ll come up to you afterwards and ask for more information.

Online: posts on Social Media

small__4838567687I don’t know about you, but people who try to squeeze every last notion into a Twitter tweet by abbreviating everything into tiny atoms, drive me nuts. It’s almost as bad as that horrible “txtspk” which happily is being phased out now that most cellphones have grownup keypads.

Apart from making your tweet almost incomprehensible, it’s also a bit of an insult to expect potential customers to figure out what the hell you’re trying to get across when all they can see is a line of symbols and short words with no vowels in them. It may take you a bit longer, but distil your point down so that it’s written within 120 characters or so in a real language. Quick and courteous.

Most other Social Media platforms truncate posts and comments after so many characters. Although it’s very easy to click on the “see more” option if you want to read someone’s long story, the harsh reality is that people often don’t. Online cruising has turned us into a species with the attention span of a mosquito and if you’re going to grab someone’s interest you have to do it “above the fold.”

Once again, the message is compress and distil.

Rather than type my post/update or comment straight into Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc. I often find it better to write my post or comment first of in a Word document or email form (on the desktop, anyway) and edit it hard.

Once I’m happy that the main message is OK I chop out all unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, remove any other words that aren’t essential, and replace long words with short words. Remember, in most Social Media it’s the number of characters that counts – not words – and spaces count as characters, too.

Only then do I copy and paste it over.

Although you can edit your words on all those platforms themselves, the fact that you’re creating it and editing it away from the fast-moving Social Media platform itself somehow gives you a clearer view.

“I’m sorry to write you such a long letter, but I did not have time to write you a short one…”

…is a quote ascribed to all sorts of people including Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, plus a few. But whoever said it was right – it is harder to get a good, crisp thought across in a few words than it is to go on at length.

But it’s well worth the effort if you want to get noticed.

What are your experiences with this issue? Do you find it hard to compress your business messages down to 140 characters or less, and what do you do to help yourself? Please share your views!

While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by my Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family…

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