Marketing Blog

Twitter increases character limit to 280 in test run

Written on 10/13/2017 by Michelle Bizon, Director, Strategic Communications

Twitter’s iconic 140-character limit for tweets may be on the way out.

On Sept. 26, the company announced that it’s experimenting with doubling the length of tweets, allowing users to post up to 280 characters per message. For now, the feature is available only to select users.

The move aims to motivate users to tweet more frequently. “When people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting – which is awesome,” Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen wrote in the announcement.

Rosen cites internal research that revealed users who tweet in Japanese, Chinese and Korean don’t experience the level of frustration to fit messages into 140 characters that users of other languages do, given that those languages convey more information per character. For reference, tweets sent in Japanese reach the 140-character limit only 0.4 percent of the time — compared to 9 percent of the time for English tweets.

The 140-character limit was originally established to reflect the length of SMS messages, which was how tweets were sent on the go prior to the development of mobile apps. The constraint spurred creativity, but Twitter has struggled in recent years to maintain its user base.

What do these super-sized tweets mean for small businesses?

Given its longtime focus on brevity, Twitter’s move is likely to change the nature of the platform. Whether it will be good for marketing remains unclear.

Those who have perfected crafting snappy 140-character messages fear the change will dilute engagement. The rapid-fire conversations of power users (and celebrities) are a big draw for traffic and a sanctioned way for brands to prove themselves as worthy of engaging with influencers in their communities.

Also, as Twitter continues to experiment with its algorithm and non-chronological tweets, marketers worry longer tweets will make it more difficult for them to pop up organically.

The good news? Brands should have an easier time of tweet-based customer service, given the room for more detailed explanations and instructions.

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