Go big or go home: Twitter Shoots for the stars by Eliminating 140-Character Limit

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By Vlad Vidaeff

One of the aspects of Twitter that has made it so iconic and different from any other social media platform is its 140-character limit.  Along with creating the use of hashtags, the character limit has become synonymous with Twitter.  It has also had a major impact on how users and brands communicate on the platform.  Due to the character limit, you have to be concise and brief in getting your message across.  All of this is set to change.  Twitter has announced that it will axe the character limit and institute a new character limit of 10,000 characters as early as March.  This blog will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this major change as well as its impact on marketers.

It’s no secret that Twitter is in a state of flux.  The social media giant has cycled through executives at an alarming pace in the past year.  Furthermore, Twitter’s user growth has slackened in the past year, as rivals such as Instagram and Snapchat continue to grow.  Twitter’s stock has fallen close to 40% in the last year.  With all of the issues surrounding the platform, Twitter hopes that this major decision will jumpstart the brand to an era of future success.

It is true that users have sought workarounds around the character limit when they feel that their message cannot be expressed adequately so succinctly.  Users will take a screenshot of text and attach it to their tweet as a picture to allow more than 140 characters.  This is something I have used as a social media manager when necessary.  Others have posted consecutive numbered tweets to get their message across.  Using screenshots for text is not an ideal method of using the platform from an analytics perspective.  Google and Twitter recently reached an agreement where tweets will now be given top exposure in Google’s search results.   Text screenshots will not come up in Google search results as they are viewed as a picture and not text.  Thus, screenshots do not have the same potential impact on SEO that the text in a tweet does.

Critics of Twitter’s announcement cite the impact that the decision will have on their timelines.   However, users will not have to navigate through paragraph-long tweets.  Reports claim that tweets will still appear with the usual 140 characters on your timeline and you will have the option to expand a longer tweet to reveal the additional text if you would like to see more.  The bigger question is whether the change will turn off a significant amount of users to such a degree that they will stop using the platform.  This decision does significantly alter the core of Twitter.  Twitter’s character limit is part of what has made the platform special.  Or is this not really a big deal at all?  Are we just complaining because people generally do not like change?  Facebook has made many changes to its timeline which are often viewed negatively by the public when they are first introduced.  However, after a couple days, we adjust and continue to use the platform with the same fervor.  Will Twitter’s big decision end up shaking out in the same way?  I personally see the decision as a negative one but one that in the overall scheme of things will not have much of an impact on Twitter’s long-term usage.


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