Even if Twitter goes to 280 characters, brands shouldn’t

Twitter, the social platform loved by media and marketing folks around the world, and recently given an influx of new users, is experimenting with expanding the number of characters allowed on posts from 140 to 280 characters.

Twitter announced the new change will expand a user’s thought-power from one tweet to two, explaining  the character count limitation unfairly impacted those tweeting in certain languages.

For instance, languages such as English, Spanish, and Portuguese use words with a multitude of letters and characters, whereas languages like Japanese, Korean and Chinese use single symbols to represent whole words. In a blog post, Aliza Rosen, product manager at Twitter, cited research suggesting character limit is a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in English, with 9 percent of all tweets in English reach exactly 140 characters.

Basically, 280 characters will get you more bang for your proverbial buck.

“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,” Rosen wrote in the blog post.

At a glance, this update has some positive impacts on the way brands convey their message to an audience. For one, the extra marketing real estate will give more leeway to write explanatory copy and add additional assets, such as links, gifs, and videos – which can benefit brands that deal with customer service and legal issues on a daily basis. Having the freedom to service customers in one tweet with the addition of captivating assets can help increase productivity and successfully deliver a message in a highly visual way.

Lots of Twitter beef derives from misunderstanding and ambiguity stemming from a tweet. Shortened word counts also leave little room for vital buzzwords, nuance or sub clauses (think #sponsored) but having a little more room might help rectify that. This might be a great way for influencers to tap into Twitterverse – especially with influencer collaborations dominating the marketing world and proving as a vital component of any marketing campaign as of late.

Sounds great in theory, right? Well, sorry, we at MRY are not buying it.

Although Twitter data showed more tweets and higher platform usage when users aren’t limited in expressing their thoughts, the opposite might actually come to pass with these additional 140 characters. We generally encourage brands to experiment with new platform features; however, in this case, we would caution against using longer tweets.

It all comes down to what feels natural in a  particular social community. Twitter isn’t meant for paragraph-long synopses of what users are about to engage with next. The purpose of Twitter is to quickly and effectively share information and ideas with people through pithy content. Scrolling through Twitter until a sexy hashtag or colorful gif catches your eye has become intuitive, and you can’t just switch that off. The platform has created a cultural zeitgeist of shortened attention spans that an entire nation has snapped to.

As social advocates for our brands, we’ve long recommended social copy stick to under 90 characters in order to grab users’ attentions quickly and avoid unnecessary wording that may come off as disingenuous and decrease engagement. We also advocate creating and developing content native to specific social platforms in order to better cater to that particular audience.

All brands should strive to remain relevant by jumping in on new platform features; however, shifting to a longer character count that majority of users seem to be rejecting would not be supplemental to their experience.

Twitter’s update has already seen its fair share of backlash from the community, including many celebrities, social media influencers, and prominent voices in tech.

Furthermore, having a limited character count forces brands and agencies to be more creative. In fact, there are already workarounds in place to add more content into a tweet despite the 140 character limit. Users:

  • Upload photos of paragraph-long thoughts written on their phones’ notes
  • Use threaded tweets to tell longform stories
  • Find or create memes that expand on initial thoughts
  • Find or create gifs and videos to further explain their points.

Carrying out an agenda with brevity makes brands think outside of the box when it comes to getting its message across to followers.

At the end of the day, it’s about quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter how many words or characters your message has, but rather whether that message is conveyed.

As new updates are made and technologies emerge, we will continue working with our brands to create relatable content for their audiences that doesn’t obstruct a user’s natural experience on social. With this new update, it seems Twitter had the opposite intent.

Written by Leeor Bronis & Kaitlyn Lee


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