Ivan Ivanov posted on 7 November 2017
A little over a month ago, Twitter started testing a new 280 character limit for tweets. Currently affecting only a handful of different accounts from selected groups, the change is expected to roll out site-wide in the next couple of months.
The update itself was announced via the Twitter account of Jack Dorsey, the CEO of the company. After the change was met with a lot of sarcastic critique, Twitter also released a more detailed explanation about the reasoning behind the 280 characters in a post on their official blog.
Coming days after the Instagram 4×4 grid debacle, which was later reverted back to normal, the Twitter character limit change was defined as extremely disruptive. Almost everyone chimed in on the matter, including popular brands and infamous celebrities.
But while the Instagram change did mess up a lot of visual flow consistency strategies on the platform, the new character limit doesn’t seem to affect the audience’s content to such an extent. With that in mind, we decided to tackle the issue from a more serious perspective. Will it affect your Twitter social media marketing strategy in any significant way? Let’s discuss!
For many users, the new change to 280 characters is extremely disruptive. And the comment made by Christine Teigen is as humorous as it summarizes a big part of the issue. Many social media marketers have spent months honing their skills to properly fit the confines of the platform. In fact, posting an update in a mere 140 characters has always been challenging. But the biggest problem comes with pre-existing and scheduled tweets.
A lot of marketers, especially on Twitter, plan their social media marketing strategies with weeks, if not, months in advance. Depending on the time at which Twitter decides to roll out the update, a ton of scheduled tweets will become rather irrelevant. Yet, relevancy has never been a huge factor for pre-planned strategies, thus the change might not be as remarkable as it is currently perceived to be.
literally my only talent was being able to think of tweets exactly 140 characters long. i don't know if I will be able to alter this to 280.
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) September 26, 2017
Of course, there’s the argument that by making such a significant change to the platform, it will change Twitter from the ground up. In fact, the 140 character limit has been there since the beginning and except a few minor link and image tweaks, it has pretty much stayed the same.
The argument of the limit being the “heart and soul” of the platform goes back to the notion that the specific character limit is a defining feature of the platform.
The argument is nicely summed up by a tweet by senior features editor at VICE, Caitlin Kelly. She went ahead and edited out Dorsey’s 280 character long announcement of the feature, down to 139 characters that fit the style of writing in the current twitterverse.
Being limited to such a low amount, most people on Twitter don’t use punctuation, they shorten words and ultimately deliver a strong message in the best way linguistically possible, breaking multiple writing rules along the way.
Another quote that sums up the issue quite nicely is by the infamous Lin Manuel Miranda. As he stated, what defines Twitter is what you can do within the form. By changing the frame of what defines a post on the platform, it can lead to changes in the platform itself.
Of course, the counter-argument is that Twitter is already established and the way people use the social network would not change even if the character limit is doubled.
139 characters pic.twitter.com/WkfdXL8oLh
— Caitlin Kelly (@caitlin__kelly) September 26, 2017
Probly quit twitter, honestly.
Ya don't add syllables to the haiku, or limerick, or sestina.
The fun is what you can do within the form. https://t.co/asQX2pINjw
— Lin-Unwell Mirandead (@Lin_Manuel) September 27, 2017
Yet, the question of what will happen still lingers on every social media marketer’s mind. What would the change mean for a brand account? How to adapt to the new character limit? The first and most obvious answer to this question would be to prepare for a slight transition to a 280-character strategy content-wise.
Here’s our short 5-step guide to dealing with the 280 character limit.
1. Tweak Your Existing Strategy
Especially if you have scheduled tweets for a period longer than a month or two, make sure to consider pausing and eventually editing them for a 280-character limit. Go back to your Twitter marketing plan and make sure to tweak any parts that might be affected by a sudden change in how the platform is being used.
2. Be Prepared to Implement New Elements to Your Strategy
Being able to adapt to constant changes in algorithms, platforms and trends is one of the most valuable aspects that make a social media marketer great. So make sure that you are prepared to adapt your strategy to any new trends that might arise with the new character limit.
3. Don’t Make Huge SM Marketing Moves
While Twitter is relatively stable in terms of engagement and audience growth, unless you already have an existing strategy or have started implementing one, don’t start planning a new one until there is a better understanding of when the 280 character limit will be rolled-out sitewide and how it will affect the audience of the website.
4. Focus on Images and Video First
The way you can best prepare yourself content-wise is to focus primarily on your visual content. Images and video have better engagement rates as it is, so if you don’t want to be inactive during this period, make sure to shift towards better and more visual content first.
5. Consider the Worst, but Look on the Bright Side
Last, but not least, do consider ditching your Twitter strategy if worse comes to worst. However, do look on the bright side. Twitter is a multi-billion dollar corporation that wants to retain its position as one of the top social media platforms. Chances are that if they implement the 280 character limit sitewide and it doesn’t work out, that they will roll it back. In fact, that’s the sole reason they are first testing, before going forward with the change.
It’s been few weeks since the new character limit was introduced to some accounts on the platform. And as expected, the initial change did bring in a lot of engagement to those selected individuals. After all, with the whole Twitterverse having their eyes on those individuals, a rise in audience growth and engagement is only natural. But checking out the analytics, there isn’t any notable difference between when the profiles had a 140 character limit and today.
All three profiles didn’t note any significant increase or decrease from their usual audience growth and engagement rates. What this goes to show is that the switch towards a bigger limit might not affect your brand account in any way whatsoever.
Even though slight speculation, our belief is that there isn’t any notable change in the analytics due to the established Twitterverse scene and the lack of change in the content posted by the aforementioned accounts.
In a sense, if you target a specific audience, whether it would be with a 280 or a 140 characters long post, as long as the content is similar, a change should not be expected.
In addition, the new character limit might be a blessing a disguise. Having a new tool to work with (or rather more of the same), can breathe new life in the platform. Being able to write longer tweets might not only bring a new audience, but it might also make people come back and start using Twitter more. Even though this is best-case scenario and the chances of it happening are slim, it is also a thing to keep in mind. Of course, a new platform might pop up at any second and overshadow Twitter right at that moment, but it’s better to be positive.
Running a marketing campaign via a third-party platform always poses the risk of changes in said platform. Much how running ads on a TV network makes you dependent on the branding of and changes within that network, on social media you are reliant on the platforms of your choice.
Doubling the character limit of tweets is not a small tweak. Yet, considering the current state of the platform, changes in users behavior outside of a few jokes about the new limit, are probably not going to take place instantly, if at all.
That being said, make sure to take into account the new 280 character limit when scheduling your next tweets. However, don’t go into panic mode changing your overall Twitter social media strategy before the changes actually take place and before there is a noticeable change in the use of the platform.
Have an account that is ‘blessed’ with the opportunity to try out 280 character Tweets? Want to see how 280 character Tweets work for others? Make sure to sign up for a free 7-day trial of Locowise today to dive into the insights and analytics today!