Entrepreneurs fret over the 30-second “elevator pitch.” In my twenty years starting startups, I did pitch twice in an actual elevator. However, now in 2016, entrepreneurs should be fretting more over their 140-character, one-line “tweet pitch.”

Why is this so important? Simple. Your startup is going to be listed on a dozen sites online, and all of them will include that one-line pitch: LinkedIn, AngelList, CrunchBase, Gust, Enable Impact, industry databases, crowdfunding sites, accelerators, competitions, etc.

Now, entrepreneurs should be fretting over their 140-character, one-line tweet pitch. Tweet This Quote

The tweet pitch gives you just three seconds to make a first impression, to entice the audience to bother to read the next paragraph, or to click to see the details. Not enough of the one-liners are clear, succinct and to the point.

My job includes perusing through tens of thousands of these profiles, seeking out potential “fledglings” for my accelerator. Other investors may not see thousands, but they will see hundreds of these one-liners each year.

To demonstrate, let’s start with one my own fledglings. They applied to Fledge with, “FRC is on a mission to preserve the Future of Clothing.” Luckily for them, I already knew what they really did, which is “Recycling cotton garment waste to create renewable fiber.” Personally, I’m still pushing for simpler, and more specific to one of their technologies: “Evrnu makes cotton recyclable.”

The tweet pitch gives you three seconds to make a first impression and entice the audience. Tweet This Quote

One of my Kick companies was, “TBGC a foodie-lifestyle company,” a one-liner that describes every organic food business. The company now says, “TBGC makes hummus, but from black eyed peas.” See the clarity? Tell us what you do, and in this case, what makes it unique.

An applicant that didn’t get invited said, “We are a startup that puts technology at the service of the environment.” This doesn’t tell us what problem is being solved or what the solution might be. The only useful words are “technology” and “environment.” This company’s website now says, “We combine technology with environment,” which is just as vague, but at least eliminates most of the superfluous words.

Further into their website is a much better, clearer tweet-sized explanation: “Web and mobile application for recycling”—an improvement, but still not specific enough. Their product description includes the one-liner they should have started with: “With [insert product], find the options to recycle or dispose your waste.”

Your tweet pitch should explain what problem is being solved or what the solution might be. Tweet This Quote

In another example, “[Insert company] harnesses the power of photosynthesis” piques my interest and makes me want to know more, but then I’m greatly disappointed to discover this company is really “An online magazine focused on natural medicines.” Or, they could say, “Explaining the power of natural medicines” to bring back a bit of the mystique, but with “explain” providing some hint that it’s a company producing content and “natural medicines” being more to the point than “photosynthesis.”

Do you need your company name in the pitch? That depends on the context. Ideally, take a look at some other profiles to see the layout before you fill out your own profile.

A few more examples of good tweet pitches:

  • A healthy snack food category disrupter, Hummus 2.0
  • DEF imports and distributes solar lighting products to rural households
  • Hyper-localized aquaponic food production
  • TVW helps individuals and companies to offset their CO2 emissions
  • Portable USB hydropower from water faucets and pipes
  • Cheaper, greener, better plastics

And a few that are too vague:

  • Disrupting the e-commerce market to give local business a piece of the pie
  • A mechanical wing or fin that can pump water/create electricity
  • Science-based incubator for life goals. Tech tools, experts and community.
  • Turn Your Selfies into huge discounts!
  • A sustainable bag, accessory and apparel manufacturer
  • Producer and supplier of premium berry seed powder and oils

If the reader can’t immediately understand what problem is being solved, the description may not be enough: “Producer and supplier of premium berry seed powder and oils” is nice and clear, but I’ve no idea who needs berry seed powder and oil.

Good tweet pitches tend to be shorter than the vague tweet pitches. Less truly is more. Tweet This Quote

Notice how the good tweets tend to be shorter than the vague tweets. Less truly is more. Let’s take out and shuffle the words to try and fix the vague tweets:

  • E-commerce for local businesses, keeping their slice of the retail pie
  • A novel wind-powered wing that pumps water, without electricity
  • The incubator for your life, teaching tried and tested techniques for meeting your goals
  • Product placements, in your selfies
  • Upcycling “waste” into bags, accessories and apparel
  • Berry seed powder and oils as nutritious, natural food additives

These are still a bit wordy and long, but greatly improved. If these companies were in my accelerator, I’d push them to continue refining them until they border on poetic.

A version of this post originally appeared on Luni’s blog.

About the author

Michael Luni Libes

Michael Luni Libes

Luni is a 20+ year serial entrepreneur, most recently founder of Fledge, the conscious company accelerator, and the Entrepreneur in Residence at Pinchot University. Luni is the author of The Next Step, a series of guidebooks on entrepreneurship, and The Pinchot Impact Index, outlining a technique for measuring impact across a portfolio of companies.

  • Jessica

    My mom always taught me not to speak in thought… Meaning, I can’t assume the other person knows what I am talking about all the time, I have to explain myself– sometimes I wish she didn’t teach me that. I say that because, although it’s great to be able to explain myself and all of the thoughts within my head, it can also become incredibly drawn out and long, especially if I’m having to sort out my thoughts as I go. Things like Twitter and Tweeting are going to be a difficult venture for me, but maybe a really great exercise to explain what I need to in a condensed manner! Thank you for this article, it will assist me in being able to say what I need to say in 140 characters or less, and in a meaningful way! 🙂

  • McKenna Solomon

    I definitely agree that business communication has become so dynamic that Twitter is now an important medium for getting no attention. Even then, it’s very difficult to describe what you do in 140 characters or less. In fact, it’s difficult to write articles, social media posts, essays, press releases and even comments (like this one) without using superfluous words. It’s important to understand that you need to be terse when pitching, but it’s not a skill most people have automatically; it takes some trial and error.

  • Note that the #tweetpitch is not unique to Twitter. All Fledge applicants are asked to describe their business in 150 characters. I’ve seen the same at many other entrepreneurship program. And again on every online database of startups.

  • Elisa

    In my intro to marketing class we had to do an elevator speech on ourselves. First off talking and basically boosting about yourself can be a difficult task when doing it infant of your peers. Second it would have been way easier to talk about a product or company. Now I see how a tweet would work way better then a speech. When you thinking of a company a tag line is perfect. You are only allotted a certain amount of characters which makes you break it down to it’s bones. Second it is something that stays there forever, so many eyes can hit that more then someone sitting or standing listening to a 2 minute speech. Not only is this good marketing and advertising but it is also free!!

  • Amanda

    While I like the idea behind this, I don’t think this can replace an elevator speech. I like that these less than ten word sentences are easy to read and eye catching, but overall I found it to be vague regardless of how poetic it was. I think these short blurbs are fascinating and helpful, but I don’t believe they can be related to an elevator speech which has much more substance.

  • There will also be a use for a 30 second elevator pitch. And the 2 minute overview. And the 10 minute investor pitch. And the face-to-face hour-long conversation too. My point is that none of these are as common in 2010’s as the #tweetpitch.

  • danlorusso

    Social media especially twitter has changed the way business can communicate with consumers. I think its interesting how twitter was highly criticized for its usefulness in its developing stages and now businesses are striving to be twitter experts. I think twitter can be a challenging tool for a business due to the limited character space so whatever they are trying to communicate must be concise and meaningful. I’m very interested to see how businesses continue to find ways to use twitter for future communication with customers

  • Michael Kaelin

    I agree with Dan on the subject of social media, especially twitter, changing the way businesses communicate with consumers. Not only has twitter changed businesses, I believe that consumers have changed the way they communicate with people and the businesses about their products or businesses practices. I think that twitter can help businesses because of the “short and sweet” tweets that they can send to their followers. This can bring about intrigue by consumers who want to look more into a product or campaign. Thank you Michael

  • Chris White

    As the population continues to develop shorter and shorter attention spans, I agree that it is vital to be able to be intriguing and prompt more interest within a few seconds. However, I think that there has to be as much quality of explanation and intrigue to follow as well. The tweetpitch is a great starter, but isn’t going to be productive if there isn’t adequate and equally intriguing backing information.

  • Sierra Stein

    What an excellent concept. Although I don’t think the #tweetpitch could ever replace the elevator pitch, having both prepared is necessary. With evolving social media, people don’t want to read a large chunk of text. Society wants short, slightly allusive, funny statements that intrigue them. Limiting statements to 140 characters challenges individuals to really discover what the core mission of their company is, in simplist terms. I think the concept could easily be applied to your personal life as well. Sell yourself. In one line what makes you great? Capture your audience and convince them to hear more. The #tweetpitch is useful on multiple platforms and displays several aspects of a company, including their creativity and sense of self awareness.

  • Danielle Flynn

    A very interesting notion, especially in todays day and age. With the quick advancement and growth of technology and social media in current times, a #tweetpitch can be extremely useful for a company. A #tweetpitch, as stated by the author, are short, concise and to the point. This would bring in a readers attention in a short amount of time, especially on a social media site. The only objection I have for this article is the fact that I do not believe the #tweetpitch should take over the elevator pitch. I think both pitches are useful resources, and should both be utilized. With the #tweetpitch, it is a very informal way of getting your pitch out there, and it also only reaches a certain category of ages and types of people. Not everyone has social media, especially older aged men and women, or people who don’t exactly go with the “status quo”, aka technology, of their generation.

  • Sarah Nelson

    The #tweetpitch shows how much technology and social media has shaped this new era. While having an elevator pitch is still necessary, a #tweetpitch is going to be able to reach a bigger audience and is important to have not only on twitter but other social media platforms. This article gives great advice as how to create an impactful #tweetpitch

  • Daniel Hartman

    This article makes me wonder what types of “pitches” will be necessary in the future. Ten years ago an elevator pitch was necessary, not a #tweetpitch may be necessary. In ten years from now the things we all see as essential to know and execute flawlessly may be just as obsolete as pagers and fax machines.

  • Katie Frank

    Although technology and social media undoubtedly plays a large role in promotion, I think its important to take in to account the long lasting impact that a face-to-face conversation have. The #tweetpitch might have a larger reach but I feel that when it comes to establishing rapport the elevator pitch is the way to go.

  • Noah Green

    It is truly amazing how technology is changing the world. The elevator pitch is extremely crucial in the business world. You only get one first impression so you better be able to make the limited time worth it. People don’t want to hear some cliche story about what you have done, they want to hear something unique, something that sparks their interest. Another thing is that our world is becoming less and less focused. We get bored easily. Even a 140 character tweet can bore someone. They want to see a few words with something exciting like the “Portable USB hydro charger from faucets and pipes” It will be interesting to see how technology helps innovate the business world

  • Reid Trauernicht

    I have to agree that the tweet pitch is gonna be the sales pitch of tomorrow. People are connected to one another so much faster than ever before. People want it fast. They don’t want a long pitch. They want something that the can read almost instantly. These new pitches not only are more fitting for the times, they also show your company is ahead of the curve. People will realize you’re up to date. These tweet pitches resemble the characteristics of a slogan. Something short and to the point. Something that sticks in the head of the customer. Something that will make the company more recognizable. It will be interesting to see how people’s desire for speed and quickness changes pitch in the future.

  • Hjordis Robinson

    I completely agree with this. In today’s day and age, social media exists in almost every fashion. It is where people go to attain quick, helpful information with little effort. Therefore, companies who incorporate the #tweetpitch into their marketing techniques will be able to reach a much larger audience on a platform that is easily understandable and comprehensive. I also agree with the point that the #tweetpitch will make a company appear to be up to date and familiar with modern technologies.

  • Tommy Moore

    With the prominence of social media in today’s society, it’s no surprise the the tweet pitch is a vital element for companies. Having a short little blurb describing your company in the most basic way will draw in readers. It’s similar to a newspaper or magazine article, which typically have a title which may provide only a little information, but then a sub header thats only about a sentence long. These are designed to keep the reader interested and shed more light on the subject matter. These sub headers are typically more effective at keeping the readers interested than the title. It’s the same way with a tweet pitch, it provides more information about the company than just the name, but is still short enough to be read within a matter of seconds. Tweet pitches are important to companies and will continue to be so as socially media continues to prevail in today’s society.

  • Adam Bundy

    While I agree that the tweet pitch is clearly the future I worry about what that will mean. With the traditional elevator pitch there was a sense of connection, you were with that person and they were selling to you. they could tweak and build a message just for you. Twitter pitches take away this interaction. No longer will the pitch be personable and honest and built around one person, they will be crafted to appeal to the masses and not delivered in a one on one setting. I think that will take away some of the sincerity and I’m not sure I like that.

  • Ruiz Estrada

    I like the idea of the tweetpitch. It’s something that can be incorporated (and best used) into the elevator pitch. After all, the structure of it is to give people a good “hook” for their pitch instead of it being it’s own thing.

  • I completely agree McKenna! There’s nothing better than a few succinct words that perfectly capture what is trying to be communicated. That said, it takes going through the millions of other words and the infinite amount of ways in which you can structure those words in particular orders before happening on that ideal communication blurb. Is there anything in particular that has inspired you or helped improve your communication/improve this skill? Would love to know! Thanks for your comment and insights McKenna!

  • McKenna Solomon

    That is a very good question Cat! I first learned how difficult in can be to write short and concise statements when I started working an entry level public relations job. Though I continue to have a love for superfluous word choice I picked up several helpful tips from my supervisors. I have a tendency to use more words when I’m writing than when I’m speaking; I also find myself using complex terminology that isn’t really necessary. The best way to combat that is to ask yourself “How would I tell my mother/grandfather/12-year-old cousin about this.” It helps you simplify your thoughts into something others are more likely to understand. Even after you’ve done this you may find that you’ve still written far too much, in which case your next step is to remove cliches, redundancies, unnecessary filler words (like very, really, etc.), and eliminate passive voice. When you use passive voice (which I have a tendency to do) you’re adding words you don’t need. Rather than writing “The journalist was called by the intern.” you can write “The intern called the journalist.” It doesn’t seem like a dramatic difference in length, but every character counts. Other than that the best you can do is sit down with your team and bounce different phrases off each other until you’re all satisfied with the message and believe that message to be appropriate for your intended audience.

  • Matt Goodman

    Adam, while your point is well grounded it is also fundamentally exemplifying why out with the elevator pitch is a good thing. As you put it, “No longer will the pitch be personable…and built for one person.” Though we will lose our one-to-one connection via moving the pitch to things such as twitter, the whole point is to reach more than one person. Now your company’s pitch is to millions of people (whoever reads it) rather than the one other person in the elevator with you.

  • Adam Bundy

    I understand the benefits of the twitter pitch to companies. However my argument is more in defense of the investors who now no longer able to get a one on one interaction. The will not be able to put a face to that product, rather they will be nothing more than another viewer of a overly processed sound byte sent out to millions hoping for a response. Personal interaction is a large part of business. Before a passionate sales person would give you their pitch and you could tell it was something they were passionate about, soon though that passion and salesmanship will be replaced by a cleverly worded tweet.