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Twitter ups its game and character limit

It’s one of the biggest updates to Twitter since it began in 2006. A new 280-character limit has been introduced to all users. Here, we discuss why the character limit is changing and what effect – if any – it will have on marketing.

The dawn of Twitter

On the 21st March 2006, at 8.50pm, Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, posted the first tweet.

The tweet is simple, catchy and straight to the point: the core concept of Twitter.  11 years on, Twitter is now the fourth largest social media network with over 320 million monthly active users, 500 million tweets per day and on average, 170 minutes a month spent on the network, per user. The social networking website has been known for its restrictive 140-character limit since it began – which is why doubling it to 280 has raised questions. Twitter hasn’t released an update as large as this since 2016, when it stopped counting images, GIFs and links as part of the 140-character limit. But why the sudden change?

Testing the limits

A recent study by Techinfographics showed that 86% of Twitter’s advertising revenue comes from mobile devices, and 47% of people who follow a brand on Twitter are more likely to visit the company’s website. Considering these statistics, the increased character limit could mean more opportunities and versatility in b2b marketing communications.

Since the beginning of Twitter, users have been quick to cram witty puns, emojis and hashtags into a limited 140 characters. Aliza Rosen, Twitter’s product manager, explains in her blog that the increased character limit was their answer to allowing easy and convenient self-expression, with no restriction.

However, Rosen highlights that the struggle for users to get their point across in 140 characters is not a problem everywhere in the world. Japanese, Korean and Chinese cultures can covey more information with fewer symbols, therefore it is understandable that Twitter excluded these countries from both the test and newly instated character limit.

The advantages for marketing

Twitter is about brevity. Take this away, and people start to question the point of Twitter. Both the old and new character limits bring benefits to marketing. 140 characters allow marketers to use their creativity to draft short, innovative tweets. AdWeek suggests that “some of the most successful brands on Twitter, including Wendy’s, JetBlue and DiGiorno Pizza, have gotten to the peaks of brand engagement because of the discipline and rigor it takes to fit a message into 140 characters”. Currently, short tweets have the upper hand, as visually appealing information has a higher engagement rate, meaning your message goes further. Longer tweets have the potential to get lost in the depths of consumers’ Twitter feeds. In fact, The Drum released new figures showing an 8% drop in users reaching a 280-character limit.

However, longer tweets could bring new users, who are looking for extended snippets of information, to the platform. An increase in Twitter users broadens a company’s opportunity to reach more of its target audience, offering the potential to grow follower numbers and even generate leads.

Interestingly, 83% of the 193 UN member countries currently have a Twitter presence. Many of these languages require more symbols to write information than others, therefore the increased character limit adds extra accessibility. Marketers will now have better opportunities to target a larger audience.

Out with the old and in with the new

Currently, Facebook is the most popular form of social media, with 1.6 million more unique monthly users than Twitter. This is quickly followed by Instagram, which has 280 million more unique monthly users than Twitter. Both examples regularly update their technology and features, trying to improve user experience. Still, Twitter has barely changed since it began. It is easy to presume that Twitter has released this new update to keep up with other key players.

Change is inevitable. Twitter has made the decision to double the character count because it sees it as an improvement to users. Ultimately, it will provoke marketers to get their creative juices flowing, trying to come up with new ways of engaging their audience. Watch this space!

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