Twitter Character Limit

Why Marketers Should be Careful With the New Twitter Character Limit

Andrew Brookes 6 days ago

Good things come in small packages. Or, at least that’s the phrase that ‘diminutive’ people like me regularly trot out.

It’s something that Twitter would ascribe to, as a platform that relies on a lot of attention being given to a series of ‘small packages’. Yet now, as you’ve all undoubtedly noticed, the social media platform has doubled its 140-character limit for all of its 300 million-plus users (after a trial with a select few).

While some will celebrate the extra breathing space the new Twitter character limit allows, others fear it could spoil one of the key features of the platform. Someone has even created a Chrome extension so that refuseniks can stick to a timeline populated with 140-character messages.

Personally, I’m no fan. Indeed, these tweets reflect my views on the move:

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Best of all, when the trial was announced – by Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey – journalist Caitlin Kelly showed him how to trim his post back down to within the 140-character limit.

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Still, regardless of my views, there are two issues with the new 280 Twitter character limit that marketers need to be aware of.

  1. Don’t annoy your customers with too many longer tweets
    It’s important to remember that 280 characters is a limit. I think marketers and brands should think of this in the same way you should a credit card limit. It’s a maximum number to be used in extremis – not a total to ‘aim for’. The point here is that you could easily annoy followers by clogging up their timeline with big chunks of text. 280 characters is hardly War and Peace, but it can take up an awful lot of space on a mobile device and we should all be well versed in the importance of mobile-friendly content by now. It’d be very easy for an irritated customer to unfollow you and no-one wants to shrink their social audience. Twitter itself has said that only nine per cent of tweets in English used to hit the old 140 character limit so there really shouldn’t be a need for the vast majority of a brand’s messages to ever go beyond this.
  2. Don’t lose the art of brevity on social media
    I’ve written before about the lessons writers can learn from social media and it’s important that these aren’t lost. 140 characters was an ideal limit for a perfect intro to your content, for example. I’d still argue that being able to sum up your content within 140 characters is a good test for whether or not you are clear about the key message of what you’re putting out. The same goes for all of your key marketing messages – if it takes you 280 characters to explain what you’re trying to say then you probably need to go back and refine your message.

Like it or not, the new limit is here to stay and it’d be wrong to ignore that some good things could come from this. Many people have, admittedly, found fun and creative ways to use the new space and it might well help brands to have a little more space to @ more people, slot in more hashtags or maybe even naturally deploy keywords in order to enhance the conversations they have with their audience and expand the potential reach of their social media messages.

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It is, however, important not to overdo it – or lose the art of brevity – if you’re to continue to reap the rewards to be had from social media marketing.

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