Twitter users frequently abbreviate and misspell words in order to adhere to the 140-character limit. A new study from Carnegie Mellon University shows that there are regional differences in how users choose to shorten words.
Despite the global nature of Twitter, these regional differences among people who speak the same language can actually prevent communication or at least lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
The study team said that these dialectic differences haven’t been seen across the web in places like blogs because written words tends to be more formal and thus homogenized. But, the need for shorter phrases is forcing users to communicate in informal ways, even with written language. This means that Twitter is having an impact on the fundamental way we communicate – it is becoming acceptable to use informal language when writing.
For companies, the implication is that your language can’t be overly formal or officious because you won’t fit into the larger conversation. It will be obvious that you don’t belong and your efforts will fall short.
It also means that you may not understand exactly what is being said. Here’s a taste of some of the regional variances in the U.S.:
- The study found Twitter users in southern California might tweet “coo” for “cool,” while those in northern California are more likely to write “koo,” it found.
- The word “very” is often expressed as “OD” in New York and “hella” in northern California, the study found.
- The word “you” is often “uu” in New York but a single ‘u’ elsewhere, it said. Twitter users in large cities are more likely to use ‘yu’ than those in rural or suburban areas.
I’m not advocating that your brand start using these words, but it is important that you understand the context of the conversations you are monitoring so that you can communicate appropriately.
Online, written conversations are beginning to mirror offline, verbal conversations. So, your online conversations should begin to sound more like a person having a conversation. Many welcome this change as a more accessible and open way for people and companies to communicate. Either way, companies who don’t learn how to adapt to this new reality will be left behind.