What was once a rumor that Twitter would update its 140 character count guidelines is now official in the social media sphere:
— Twitter (@twitter) May 24, 2016
Twitter announced Tuesday morning that within the next few months, usernames, quoted tweets, photos, and other media attachments will no longer count against the tweet’s 140-character limit.
Twitter co-founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey told the BBC that “It doesn’t make sense to anyone. People have had to work around it. That just looks ugly, and it’s confusing.”
This big, new Twitter update will surely change the way people use Twitter personally and how social media marketers use Twitter for business.
Now that it’s imminent, let’s jump into what the newest Twitter update will mean moving forward and how marketers can maximize those 140 characters for your business or brand.
We’ve come a long way over the past 10 years! What began as a simple 140-character text message has evolved into a medium that allows people and businesses to express themselves with everything from photos and videos to polls to animated GIFs.
just setting up my twttr
— Jack (@jack) March 21, 2006
So what exactly will be featured in this newest Twitter update?
Media Attachments in Tweets
How many times have you written what feels like the perfect Twitter update and the second you add the obligatory animated gif of a puppy doing adorable puppy things, the character count falls to -1? If you’re anything like me, it happens nearly every single time.
Twitter’s recent announcement details that when your tweet includes attachments like photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets, that media will no longer count as characters within your tweet!
Every single character in a tweet is super important, especially when you only have 140 characters to work with. Being able to add highly engaging media attachments in tweets without having to sacrifice any characters at all means that we’ll soon be able to use the full 140 characters to craft the best updates that we possibly can, with more context than ever – this feels like a massive win for social media marketers everywhere!
@Replies on Twitter
When replying to a tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count. For now, we want to emphasize the word ‘replying’ here since we know that those will definitely be free characters. However, when it comes to the initial @name tweet, there are some conflicting reports on how Twitter will be counting those characters – most seem to believe that those will indeed count against your allotted 140 characters.
For marketers, this will make having conversations on Twitter so much easier, especially when replying to several people at once.
It’s not uncommon for a Twitter conversation to pick up so many usernames that it makes having an actual conversation nearly impossible (Hello, Twitter canoe!). This change in @replies will allow marketers to continue that conversation without sacrificing the quality of the tweet due to a rapidly shrinking character count.
Goodbye to .@replies
Twitter is aiming to simplify the rules around tweets that start with a username. Currently, if you want to broadcast a tweet to all of your followers that starts with a @username, beginning the message with a period is the common practice. Without the initial period, only people who follow both you and the person you’re tweeting at will be able to see the message in their feed.
With this change, all new Tweets that begin with a username will now reach all of your followers. This means that you’ll be able to drop that first period at the start of the tweet and have it reach all of your followers, despite it being directed at a single user. Bonus tip: you can use that extra character to add a happy face emoji to your tweet
Retweet and Quote Tweet Yourself
If having your reply being transparently visible to all of your followers isn’t quite enough emphasis, you can now double-down by retweeting yourself. This will push that tweet back out for all of your followers to see (again!).
This update to Twitter adds some powerful new tools for smart marketers as well. Retweeting key business or brand messages will now be easier than ever and with Quote Tweets, you’ll be able to repush an older message and add some new context to the tweet. If a really great tweet goes largely unnoticed, perhaps from the timing of the tweet, using these new features will allow you to give that update a second, or even third chance!
Over to you
Twitter says that these updates will be available to all users over the coming months and they further explain why they’ve made the announcement but haven’t quite flipped the switch yet:
The updates have a significant impact on Tweets, so we want to provide our developer partners with time to make any needed updates to the hundreds of thousands of products built using Twitter’s API.
They’ve also announced that in addition to all of the exciting changes that we’ve covered here, there are even more changes in the works!
I’d love to leave things with a quote from a recent blog post of ours on How We React When Our Favorite Social Networks Shift:
Our favorite, apps, social networks and products are all going to change. Change is necessary for survival and innovation. Sometimes the change will sit well with us, overtimes it may not. But, as marketers, the key learning here is that we need to adapt to these changes if we want to continue to maximize the potential of social networks.
How are these upcoming changes to Twitter going to affect your content strategy? Do you think these are positive changes for the platform, or would you prefer things to stay as-is? If you could make any other changes to Twitter, what would you do?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!