When Twitter first arrived on the scene, smartphones were nowhere near the mainstream phenomenon they are today. The notion of apps and an app store was still some time away and the only way you could send out a “tweet” was by sending a text message to a specific number. That’s also how you read the tweets from the friends you were following.
It’s because of this original configuration and dynamic that the 140 character limit was born. Tweets could only be 140 characters, because SMS text messages could only be 160 characters in length and the 20 “extra” characters were needed for a few different reasons. Eventually, people came to update Twitter via the web and through mobile apps and the rest is history.
We’ve Got More to Say Than Ever Before
Social media has changed a lot in a relatively short time and limiting tweets to just 140 characters in length seems so archaic by today’s standards. Your Facebook update can be far longer than that. Your Tumblr post can be longer than that. Your Google+ post can be longer than that. And even though Twitter has changed with the times, adding its own image hosting and URL shortener, among other features, the character limit has survived.
Until now. Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey recently exclaimed that the company is considering raising the limit to 10,000 characters, which works to about 1,700 words. That’s much more than 140 characters and it would put Twitter more in line with these other social networks.
What More Characters Really Looks Like
From the perspective of an online business or an Internet marketer, what does this really mean?
First, we have to understand that our Twitter feeds won’t suddenly get flooded with super long tweets that fill out the entirety of the screen. Instead, you will still only see the first 140 characters of any given tweet. If it’s longer than there, there will be a “see more” or similar expansion feature.
You might remember when you had to click through on a link to a third-party service like Twitpic in order to see an image someone attached to their tweet, but not they can be included right in there, along with the ability to embed the tweet on websites and other features.
I imagine the “see more” dynamic on third-party social media dashboards and apps would operate similarly. The “read more” expansion link would operate much the same way as the “see conversation” link works in Hootsuite.
A Different Value Proposition
In many ways, raising the character limit on Twitter is both good and bad for those of us who make money online. On the one hand, it means we can have more meaningful conversations and engagement with our followers. Rather than having to edit our responses to fit into the tight confines of 140 characters, we can just write out a normal-length response without having to worry about length.
It also means that we can now avoid the rather ugly workaround of the multi-tweet, spreading an answer out over several tweets, denoting that the tweet continues along with a 1/4, 2/4, 3/4 and so on (or whatever other stylistic option you prefer). The Twitter feed can actually be much cleaner as a result.
On Clicks and Conversions
Twitter can become another great content publishing platform and another content marketing channel. There’s much more flexibility in 10,000 characters than there is in 140, making it easier to provide real value to readers.
However, this also means that you may need to be more creative in writing tweets that encourage followers to click on a link to your website or landing page. They may wonder why you’d send them elsewhere when you can provide an answer of reasonable length right in Twitter itself.
Click-thru rates may suffer, especially if the link is positioned beyond the first 140 characters. If it is, the follower would first have to click to “expand” the tweet and then click again to visit the landing page. This adds an extra hurdle and another opportunity to back out.
The Changing Face of Twitter
What do you think of changing the character limit on Twitter? Is it a necessary step to stay relevant in today’s social media world or does it destroy the unique charm of the Twitter platform?