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Less is More: What We Can Learn from 140 Characters

By: Steena Hymes, Program Coordinator

If you have been on Twitter lately, you are already aware that the social media platform has doubled its character allowance to 280 from its standard 140 character limit. And everyone on Twitter is taking their moment to tweet about it – using all 280 characters. Now, I’ll confess there have been many times when I wished I could squeeze in 10 or 15 extra characters to complete my tweet – but being limited to 140 characters exemplified an age-old lesson that we all need to learn over and over again: Less is more.

Quality over quantity

Just because you can tweet using more words doesn’t mean your posts are going to be any better. More options doesn’t necessarily equal better options. Have you ever been overwhelmed by too many choices? I feel this way anytime I walk through the toothbrush aisle at the store. All I need is a basic toothbrush that cleans my teeth and yet I find myself spending 15 minutes making decisions about nuances. It’s a lesson associations can apply to their membership and educational programs. Having a lot of options may attract new members – but it won’t keep members. In order to keep members and attendees engaged in your association, you must invest in quality over quantity. Nobody is sticking around simply because you have a lot of options. They come back because they have found value in something that is increasing their value.

Keep it simple

In recent years there has been a call to minimalism. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s we saw flashy, colorful and energetic marketing strategies. Fast forward to present day and you’ll notice how marketers are simplifying their messages. Whether we realize it or not – we are craving simplicity. Research shows our attention spans have decreased and we no longer want to sift through content to find what we are looking for. Whether its website design, newsletters, or marketing pieces – keep it clean and keep it simple. Skip all the fluff and make the message clear and easy to find. In the now-defunct days of a 140-character limit, users had to think about which words to cut or which dreaded grammatical error to commit. But it taught users how to deliver a message and cut out unnecessary content.

Be Intentional

Too much freedom can be a bad thing. Twitter’s mandatory character limit pushed its users to be intentional with how they delivered their message. Whether it’s Twitter, work or life in general, having little to no boundaries makes us lazy and we stop being intentional. In associations, those boundaries are born from the mission statement: why do you exist – what is your purpose? Being intentional means measuring each decision or plan according to the mission, and exploring that which aligns with the overall purpose. If the boundaries we are forced to abide by dissolve, so will our ability to creatively and intentionally think about how we use our time and resources. Lack of intentionality will inevitably create a break-down of our two previous points. We lower our standards and settle for lackluster quality, finding ourselves lost in chaos.