Breaking down the Twitter character limit


Social media platform Twitter recently announced they will be trialing a new tweet character limit of 280 characters, twice the size of the usual 140 character limit. Twitter product manager, Aliza Rosen stated that the reason for a higher character limit is to help users express themselves. However, will this freedom of expression come at a price? After all, there’s been controversy surrounding censorship on Twitter and some are saying that this is a bit like fitting a square peg in a round hole.

In practice, the reasoning is sound. Some languages (namely Japanese, Chinese and Korean) have an advantage in the fact that fewer characters are needed due to the nature of the languages. See the graph below as an example.

240 twitter character limit










We’ve all been there – trying to work out which grammar crime to commit when trying to fit several different things into 140 characters, so surely this is a worthwhile move? Not necessarily. In some instances, more characters can potentially mean more trolling, bullying, or even nuclear war depending on who you follow…

I personally think one of the reasons Twitter is so popular is because of its short, simple nature that is embodied by the 140 character limit. Of course, sometimes it’s challenging to fully express what you want to say; but that’s why it’s good. You know that on Twitter you won’t get bombarded with essays and each thing you see will be easily digestible in that moment.

On the other hand; maybe the traditional Twitter character limit of 140 characters has been played out. After all, it was simply keeping in line with SMS character limit from back in the day. But now that’s gone, shouldn’t Twitter move on too? There’s been a huge demand for it since, well, forever. After all, just because you have 280 characters available, doesn’t mean you *have* to use them all. If you want to keep it short and snappy, you can.

I think it will probably be here to stay, but marketers must think critically about what this means for their social media strategies. Twitter is no longer strictly short form and snappy messaging, and the change of the character limit is sure to change the entire conversation in some sectors as well as how brands can be perceived. Here’s hoping that all the customer service teams on Twitter are ready for double the onslaught they already face.

Not only this but also how news is reported and consumed. This move to give users more room to get their point across could potentially become an antidote to fake news. 280 characters should help users distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.

Whatever happens, Twitter certainly has a big job to do to convince people it’s the right decision as well as continue to tackle other problems with the social network.



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