Twitter To Change What Counts Toward 140 Character Limit

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Twitter-IPOThere are several challenges to using Twitter for marketing but the biggest reason is easy to see. It’s difficult to say anything meaningful about a product or company when limited to 140 characters. This is a limitation that even Twitter is aware of, and they had planned to change things. But due to largely negative response to the very suggestion of changing the character limit, Twitter had to scrap a plan to increase the character limit of posts.

Twitter is thinking of new ways to give business owners and marketers more space to work with in their tweets. According to a recent blog post from the company, Twitter’s next approach would use a more roundabout way to deal with the issue. Since changing the character limit is off limits, the company will begin reducing the things that count towards the character limit.

Right now, there are a lot of things that eat into the character count of a tweet on Twitter that make it harder for marketers to use. For example, images take up 24 characters, which essentially means using an image takes up nearly 20 percent of the available space off the bat. Similarly, things like user names in replies take away from available space. That will change over the next few months.

“So, you can already do a lot in a Tweet, but we want you to be able to do even more,” the company wrote in a post announcing the changes. “In the coming months we’ll make changes to simplify Tweets including what counts toward your 140 characters, so for instance, @names in replies and media attachments (like photos, GIFs, videos, and polls) will no longer “use up” valuable characters.”

When replying to a Tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count. This will make it possible to tweet large numbers of people at once without having to reduce the number of characters in the message.

The biggest change involves media attachments. Commonly used attachments to Tweets, like photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets, that will no longer count as characters within your Tweet. More room for words. A similar change involves retweeting your own content. Twitter plans to enable the Retweet button on the user’s own Tweets.

Unfortunately, the change doesn’t apply to links, which still count toward the character limit. Links take up 23 characters, and for the time being, it appears Twitter intends to keep it that way. This may be for the best. If links weren’t counted toward the character count, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where that could be used to put large numbers of spam links into Tweets.

Twitter is also removing one of its confusing post visibility issues. Twitter is eliminating the need to begin a reply with a period in order for all of your followers to see a tweeted reply. New tweets that start with a username will now be seen by all of your followers.

This may be a double-edged sword for marketers. Because replying to people about customer service issues will now blast the issue to all your followers. This can be mitigated by using direct messages, so Twitter marketers should get in the habit of steering negative conversation to less public channels.

All things consider, the message should be clear that Twitter will continue to modify the platform in as it tries to make it more appealing for marketers and the public in general. These workarounds for the character limit will make it easier for marketers trying to use social media.

For more recent news about social media marketing, read this article on Twitter’s plan to discontinue the “Buy” button and changes to Facebook.

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