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Twitter Announces 280 Character Limit

No limitsThere were rumours last year that Twitter was considering taking its microblogging format into longform.

Really longform – 10,000 characters.

This week, that rumour has finally been put to bed with the announcement that the limit will expand to 280 characters. And the internet, of course, has mixed emotions.

What Twitter says influenced the new character limit

The party line is that some places in the world have to cram their thoughts into a tweet while other countries are doing just fine – and that’s not fair in Twitter’s cutesy vision of users ‘expressing’ themselves. 0.4% of tweets sent in Japanese hit 140-characters, while 9% of tweets in English reach the limit.

Hey, I’ve been there! Tweeting from a personal account is hard enough because you have to compromise on how you’d really talk but tweeting as a brand is a nightmare. When Twitter removed links from the character limit, we all sighed with relief. My life might be about to get even easier.

Of course, a copywriter had to step in with a bit of editing wit. But their point is fair: the ‘essence’ of Twitter has always been brevity and the announcement tweet itself could have fitted comfortably within the 140-character limit.

What’s this going to do to how we use Twitter?

Twitter is changing all the time because of how its users evolve their self-expression. Think of this year’s trend of #thread – a user replying to their own original tweet in a long string to tell a story. I adore this and it seems everyone else does too.

So…is that going to die? Although 280 characters isn’t very much when you’re writing a web page, it looks practically obese when you see it on Twitter. Will people tell their stories in strings of 280-character blocks now?

We’re used to WhatsApps – seeing conversations in one-line thoughts as if we were actually speaking to someone. 280 characters feels a little calculated to me, less organic.

Donald Trump is infamous for long Twitter rants. He doesn’t tend to reply to himself as is the fashion of the time – he does a tweet that trails off, followed by another tweet that usually trails off as well. Imagine what he’ll be able to do with 280 characters. Is this Twitter pandering to the Trumpian rant????

I’ve always thought of Twitter as the place for rapid-fire, off-the-cuff commentary on stuff developing live (though I definitely didn’t see Trump’s take on that coming). With this change, I will 100% be drafting my 280-character tweets outside of Twitter, rather than writing them straight into the character counter.

What it means for brands

Twitter reckons it will keep its brevity, nothing will change, blah blah blah. And they may be right. Regular users are quite likely to stick to the length they’re used to and split up their thoughts in the way they’re used to.

Brands, on the other hand, will have a much easier time getting messages across without having to ditch personality and accuracy. I just look forward to seeing the analytics because it’s hard to say whether people will engage more or less with a bigger chunk of content. Even at this early stage, I’d say VARIETY will be very important – and it might be a good policy to err on the side of 140 characters rather than relaxing into the full 280 every time.

Good news: you won’t have to choose between a product’s name and what it actually does ever again!

Keep a weather eye on your tweet limit

Right now, Twitter is just testing the new 280-character limit. A select few accounts have the power and the platform says it will roll out gradually to other users.

I suspect we’ll all probably have a week of writing verbose essays, then slip back into the habit of single-thought live tweeting. Although copywriters may save some of the time they’d previously spent agonising over grammar.