What does Twitter's 280 character limit mean for businesses?

February 3, 2018

 

This blog was originally written for a digital agency and can be seen here. 

 

There’s been a seismic change in the social media world, but if you’re not already a Tweeter then you probably wouldn’t have noticed it. For regular Tweeters, you might have noticed that you suddenly have more characters to express yourself with.

 

It hasn’t come as a huge shock to those in the industry. There have been rumours going around for months about Twitter’s plans. However, judging from Tweets about the character limit this morning, it did come as a shock to a great many people. It may also be one of Twitter’s most opinion-dividing moves yet. Why? Because people have become so accustomed to shortening their phrases to fit the old 140 character limit that to suddenly have it doubled is almost…disorientating.

But what does it mean for businesses?

 

Well, firstly you do have more space to play with. You’ve got double the characters to get your point across. However, that doesn’t mean you’re going to end up using all of those characters.

 

According to trials that were run by Twitter to test the 280 character limit, only 5% of tweets were sent out with more than 140 characters and 2% with over 190 characters. It appears as though we still love being succinct on the app.

Therein lies an important lesson for businesses. You might have more scope for long posts, but that doesn’t mean they’ll resonate better with your audience. We’re so used to short and catchy tweets, that anything too long is going to be a shock and potential turn-off.

 

In fact, some of the complaints about the new character limit centre on how cluttered users’ feeds are going to be with longer posts. We’re already in the age of attention-overload, so imagine what more words are going to do?

 

There’s the second lesson for businesses. Your posts are going to have to engage and catch the eye like never before. Images and videos will be a very good idea in the age of the 280 character limit. It’s ironic that, with more words, we’re probably more likely to swerve towards video and imagery.

Images cut through text on your Twitter feed. With an image attached to your post, your audience are more likely to stop and check out your tweet when scrolling through endless lines of text.

 

Likewise, if it suits your brand, consider adding Emojis to help break up your text.

 

Avoid the temptation to try one of the new ultra-long tweets that you can create with the new limit. Yes, it’ll get your attention… but probably the wrong kind. Think about how annoying it will be to a user to have your tweet take up the entirety of their screen.

 

Twitter has suggested that those in the trial who had more characters did seem to get more engagements and follows. This hasn’t yet been backed up with any hard data, however, and with almost everyone now granted the new 280 character limit, only time will tell if it really impacts a business’ analytics.

Ultimately, this recent move by Twitter might be less about impressing its current users and businesses and more about attracting new users. By making the service less restrictive, the company is hoping to appeal to a broader group of people (those who apparently cannot communicate in less than 140 characters). 

 

For businesses, it can be tempting to embrace this new limit with essay-long tweets and huge posts that take up an entire twitter feed. However, the same rules as before pretty much apply. Your posts must be engaging, perhaps more so now, as users’ feeds will be so crammed. You must use imagery or video where you can, because text-heavy tweets are going to be overwhelming consumers. More than anything, you must still produce and send out good quality content. There’s not point wasting 280 characters on a tweet nobody is interested in reading.

 

be overwhelming consumers. More than anything, you must still produce and send out good quality content. There’s not point wasting 280 characters on a tweet nobody is interested in reading.

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