Twitter’s New Character Limit – Fresh or Foolhardy?

By on November 3, 2017

In a constantly changing world, businesses and brands must figure out how to adapt to stay functional and how to innovate to stay relevant, all while not sacrificing or undermining the core appeal of their product. This necessary balancing act is likely what has led Twitter to making the bold, and to some, drastic change to double their previously bedrock 140 character limit, rolling it out in test batches to limited groups of users. Twitter has always been about keeping it concise, so why rock the boat now?

 Reasons for a Change

Twitter has long thought about increasing their character length, at one point even entertaining the idea of a 10,000 character limit. While deciding that briefer posts were what made Twitter special in the competitive social media market, they have still been working on figuring out ways to make users feel more heard, and thereby more engaged, spending more time on the platform.

 The original character limit was chosen to be compatible with SMS text messages, which were 160 characters, Twitter saving the remaining 20 characters for the tweeter’s username. While they recognize there is an emotional attachment to the old character limit, they’re hoping the balance between requiring brevity, but giving a little extra space wins over not only old hands, but new users as well. So now for the grand experiment: will increasing Twitter’s number of characters decrease the amount of it?

 Negative Outcry

Like many social media platforms, Twitter’s users respond to most notable changes to the service with disparaging humor and criticism, while eventually adapting to them, such as the introduction of image attachments. Some worry that this change will curtail threading culture, by having users who would have created a 2 or 3 tweet thread, edit that down into a less explanative single 280 character tweet. Tweetstorming, or the threading together of many tweets on a single topic, is probably still safe for the moment.

 Others are concerned that this will further a perceived deterioration of the network’s original speech-like style, where people went to have conversations and try out ideas, into something more print-like, where people issue forth well-crafted brand statements about themselves, contributing ever more to the context collapse The Atlantic calls Twitter’s greatest cultural ailment. There is already a Chrome extension to block 280 character tweets, and a number of Twitter users have responded by editing 280 character tweets by Twitter employees down to 140, and also mocking the company for addressing this “problem” when the number one complaint of Twitter users has been rampant abuse on the platform.

 Positive Response

Twitter has long been a venue for short-form storytelling, and a number of users are putting a twist on classic six word shorts, by elaborating them into often hilarious referential paragraphs. Users have also been quoting classic celebrity rants and movie monologues in order to highlight “so much room for activities”. What other new and exciting innovations the Twitterverse will come up with for the doubled writing space remains to be seen, but it’s a sure bet that it will be interesting.

 Only time will tell if this decision turns out to be a good one for Twitter, but it will be entertaining to watch regardless. The implications for companies invested in their social media presence and engaged in marketing there are possibly far-reaching, but it’s too early to tell yet at this juncture. Make certain you have a social media manager and/or team that is keeping up to date with these changes as they occur and who continue to think about how to use them to your advantage.

About Andrew Echavarria

Andrew Echavarria is the Manager of Search Engine Marketing at Josiesque Designs and JD Digital Marketing in Austin, Texas, Andrew works with local and national businesses to improve their online image and web presence. Along with digital marketing, he also enjoys spending time researching and writing articles related to the industry of search engines, social, and web development; to help improve not only himself but fellow digital marketers as well.
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