The 140-Character Limit Is Dead. Long Live The 140-Character Limit! Essay
One-hundred and forty characters. What was your first association with that phrase? I bet you're thinking: Twitter.
At least that was (and still is) the character limit for the network. However, on September 19, the platform relaxed the rule: Now, photos, videos, GIFs, polls and Quote Tweets no longer count toward the limit.
This new update will make Twitter conversations so much easier, even richer. How many times have you struggled to cut the last two characters needed to fit the limit? Have you ever felt more like a robot and less like a human when tweeting all sorts of awkward sentences full of abbreviations? What about efforts to have meaningful conversations when the tweet you were replying to or quoting was stealing valuable character count?! Well, you're not alone and Twitter has finally heard you!
While this change is a huge step for the network, it is also a logical one. When Twitter launched a decade ago (yes, it’s hard to believe, but it’s been exactly 10 years already!), it was operating in a much different space from today's. Nowadays, there is an unmistakable shift toward multimedia content. Images, short videos and GIFs have practically taken over the social space.
Since Twitter was hit with , these changes were long overdue. A plausible reason for Twitter losing its appeal is because the space just became too noisy. Partly because of the character limit (and also because of the desire to automate everything), most marketers tweet out the name of an article, sprinkle in a few hashtags, slap on a shortened URL and voilà, the Franken-tweet is ready to be published. How can they expect to get any meaningful engagement from that?
The other instance is to upload an image with tons of text on it, include a call to action in the body of the tweet and slap in the shortened URL once again. That's a bit better on providing some context, but is still not very human. Plus, not only is it not the prettiest workaround, it has technical implications for businesses.
Not so long ago, to make sure tweets appeared in search results. But, when you post a screenshot with lots of text on it, the text is not searchable. Meaning: Twitter’s biggest media partner cannot read your updates, and thus cannot count them as relevant to search queries.
Hopefully, the new update will modernize the network and its etiquette, encouraging more meaningful conversations, more colorful visuals and fun, short video snippets. After all, we are so used to these things on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, right?
, @mentions have not been affected by the recent change, but they likely will be soon. The company already announced this. We are really ready for the rule to be lifted from usernames as well, because if you’re trying to engage in a chat with two or three handles at the same time, half of your tweet will be wasted just for @mentions! It is especially important to encourage real conversations instead of spamming one other with links.
Because Twitter has its major space in the social media game, the network really needs to start considering the breadth and the depth of conversations taking place online every second if it wants to stay at the top. This flexibility in character limits is the first step in the right direction. Your message can still stay brief and to the point, but the media you use should enhance that message instead of cutting it short.
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So . . . well done, Twitter, well done.