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Twitter controversially increases its iconic 140 character count limit

Since its inception, Twitter has stuck to its guns on its stringent 140 character count – until now. Images became exempt from the count in September 2016 – a move which was welcomed by many users. However, the popular social media platform has now decided to double its 140 character limit for tweets in one of the biggest shake-ups ever seen by the social media company.


Has Twitter made the right move in making the jump and abandoning its core USP or, should it have stuck with the 140 character limit that has posed many a grammatical challenge to users over the years?


Reasons to love 140


Keeping the 140 limit would have meant that the common social media ‘game’ of cramming a message into such a small number of characters would remain. And if I’m being honest – I quite enjoyed it! Yes it was tedious when all you wanted to do is say what you’re thinking, but it tested your brain and made you think. And when you did find the right method to convey your message within Twitter’s rules, you felt a sense of achievement – so it was a morale booster too!


The fear with upping the limit is that timelines become clogged up with longer messages and the easy-to-digest nature of Twitter is lost – resulting in people ‘switching off’ to their news feeds. It’s a gamble Twitter has taken based on findings (which I will expand on later) – let’s hope it pays off. On the first day of the 280 limit, I did see a tweet on my timeline which was made up of 280 dots in a list… let’s hope this ‘novelty’ wears off for the jokers out there!


One big fear among the Twitter community is that a larger character count gives the social media ‘bullies’ more room to express themselves. Abuse on social media is rife, so the last thing we need is more room for abusers to express themselves. Policing this is a massive task for Twitter but one they do need to concentrate on ever harder after this latest move.


Another reason many will miss the 140 is because, as I alluded to earlier, this was Twitter’s USP! Any marketing professional will tell you that you need a USP to stand out from the crowd and be noticed in your industry – and Twitter has to a certain extent chucked this away. Does 280 still make it unique? To a certain extent, yes, – but I think Twitter has sold itself down the river here and made a change for changes sake.


Reasons to embrace 280


Twitter has released some findings from its early tests of the 280 character limit, where it says that “only 5% of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2% were over 190 characters”. This demonstrates that in fact, despite having more freedom to express themselves, users still kept messages relatively short and sweet. Maybe the 140 is so ingrained in people’s brains that it’s second nature to keep tweets short.


It is admittedly a time saver  to be able to write messages that can be up to 280 characters. No more fretting about long words and links, with a better opportunity for people to express themselves properly. Previously, tweets were often missing crucial words or phrases that would ensure that the tweet make more sense in its context, or convey a message correctly. Some people resorted to typing messages in the notes section of their phones, creating a screenshot, and sharing that as a photo on Twitter to convey a message – a clever solution but, in today’s world where we empower freedom of speech, long-winded.


Twitter has claimed that those who had more room to express themselves in the trial, received more interaction with posts. No data or statistics were provided to support this – but this is one potential positive to keep an eye on for those using Twitter for business purposes in particular. If this change drives interaction up, then this is a major benefit for many and essentially, interaction is what Twitter is all about.


As with any significant change, Twitter’s decision has split its users for a variety of reasons. Only time will tell if the platform’s decision has sacrificed significant credibility in its marketplace. I am still unsure on the decision and for me, nothing was broken – so I wouldn’t have tried to ‘fix it’. Change for changes sake can often be misguided. I’ll now try to condense these feelings into 280 characters for the pleasure of Twitter users!

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