140 No More: Twitter Doubles Its Famous Character Limit


Social Media Week

“This is a small change, but a big move for us,” says CEO Jack Dorsey.

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On Tuesday, Twitter took to its blog to make the shocking announcement that it has begun testing 280-character tweets, 2x the OG 140 we’ve all come to know and love, with the hopes that “fewer Tweets run into the character limit, which should make it easier for everyone to Tweet.”

The move was supported by recent research the company had conducted from which it was able to draw some very interesting conclusions. As a general takeaway, the character limit was a heavier burden for those tweeting in languages including English, Spanish, Portuguese and French compared to those tweeting in Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

As the company details in the post, it was found that the average length of a Tweet in Japanese is 15 characters with only 0.4 percent of tweets maxing out the 140 character limit. Comparatively, the average length of English tweets was found to be 34, with 9 percent of Tweets containing 140 characters. Figures aside, the big picture trend to take note of is that the former group has a much easier time expressing themselves compared to the latter.

“In all markets, when people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people tweeting,” said Twitter. For this reason, and with no surprise, the trial run of the update has focused on the latter group as opposed to former.

Per Fast Company, the original character length dates back prior to the development of mobile apps. At the time, the only way Tweets could be distributed was through SMS messages, which were capped at 160 characters. Twitter simply reserved 20 characters for a person’s username leaving 140 for the actual Tweet. In short, it was purely a technical number, but one that quickly became attributed to the platform’s fame.

Response to the news has been mixed, with negative feedback centering on the critique that Twitter will lose its essence by doubling the character limit. “The 280-character limit is a terrible idea. The whole beauty of Twitter is that it forces you to express your ideas concisely,” tweeted New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik. Others however are welcoming the additional room. Research Vice President at Gartner, Brian Blau, added “Good for Twitter” in his RT of the announcement.

Marketers too, seem divided. Adweek sources reached out to a number of agencies for their insight on the decision. Cons mentioned included that the decision will “dilute” the platform’s marketing potential and make it more challenging for brands to be noticed organically. Separately, advantages like having additional room to more quickly and adequately address customer issues as well as spell out their legal terms and conditions were also identified.

To assuage the fear of those who are less eager to deviate from what has been the norm, Twitter added in its statement, “We understand since many of you have been tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters—we felt it too. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.”

What are your thoughts? Is more better or is less more?

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SMW Staff

SMW News, Social Media Week

@socialmediaweek

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