Last week, Twitter announced it was beta testing 280-character Tweets, doubling the previous character limit. The company cited research that the 140-character limit was a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in English. Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has proposed character count increases more than once – with the first proposal to up the limit to 10,000. After much backlash, they compromised and increased Direct Messages to 10,000 characters, but left Tweets at 140 characters. Now, select users are testing out what they can say with double the space – and the debates have been raging.
Here at LPP, we see both sides of the argument.
Yes to More Twitter Characters
PRO, Megan Doherty: I’m for the increased character count, depending on how it’s used.
Despite how frustrating it is when you can’t fit your ideas into the allotted 140-characters, the change has met more opposition than I would have anticipated. And while I’ve come to terms with the new character limit, I do wish they first removed links from character counts.
That said, the character limit change makes sense from a global perspective. For example, companies tweeting in some languages – like English, Spanish, Portuguese or French – struggle to stay within the character limit, as compared to other languages like Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
For those in heavily regulated industries — particularly, pharma and medical device companies — where the FDA requires risk disclosure in promotional materials, the current character limit made it nearly impossible to include both key messaging and risks in a single Tweet. Moving to 280-characters will give these companies room to adhere to FDA guidance, making Twitter a more accessible social platform.
Aside from additional room for ongoing content, more characters will facilitate better conversations when conducting Twitter chats, live-Tweeting webinars and responding to customer inquiries via @mention. The increased characters will allow users to more easily share their thoughts and ideas in one or two Tweets, as opposed to a string of four or five. In turn, user engagement will become more meaningful with content that includes all necessary context for their perspective, insight or question.
Here’s a question to ask yourself: Do I need to use all 280 characters? Simply having extra characters doesn’t mean every Tweet must hit the new limit. Your strategy will depend on your goals: better engagement, website conversions, increased product sales or disclosing product risks.
No, Twitter Doesn’t Need More Characters
CON, Amanda Fountain: Twitter doesn’t need to give users more space to share their thoughts.
Twitter works because of its brevity and alignment with how people text. The original 140-character limit was only partially an arbitrary number choice – it aligned with SMS texts that allotted 160-characters with the extra 20 characters to include a username (@mention). It was an imperfect system, but something people “got” and differentiated Twitter from other social platforms at the time.
Technology like text messages and Twitter have prompted discussions on how communication has changed over the past decade. We’re a short-hand society now – comfortable with writing in abbreviations and made up acronyms. Abbreviations have permeated our language so much we even use them when speaking – abbrevs are totes cool, obvs (translation: abbreviations are totally cool, obviously).
The beauty of Twitter is that it forces people to be concise and brief when sharing their thoughts. A platform that is frequently called out for its inability to curb harassment, Twitter is setting itself up for more issues. More characters means more space for vitriol. This move will make Twitter harder to police and is not what the company needs to save itself right now anyway. The expanded character count takes Twitter away from its roots — news, jokes and pure absurdity – and still isn’t giving users new features they can’t get on other platforms.
From a brand and company perspective, report after report after report indicate shorter Tweets get better engagement. “Short” means something in the 100-character range – a number much lower than the regular 140 and significantly less than 280. Long posts are detrimental to brands, so why would they want to have more space to get ignored?
But I think nothing argues against more characters than below. Good writing is accomplished with fewer words. Take the editing pen to your Tweet before embracing the extra characters.
— Brian Barone (@brianrbarone) September 26, 2017
Are More Characters Right for You?
Here’s what LPP advises: Know what your goals are and adapt from there. Social is rarely a one-strategy-fits all approach. Things are constantly evolving and changing and one company may have vastly different audiences and goals than another.
Ready to talk about your social media strategy? Let us know.