Twitter is Doubling Its Character Limit. Is That a Good Thing?

In a surprise move, Twitter just doubled the character limit for tweets. We’re cautiously optimistic about this change.

This is a big move for the platform, and we’re looking forward to testing and learning with slightly-longer-form content on Twitter. A 280-character tweet feels a lot longer than a 140-character tweet, and it’s entirely possible user preferences will still compel us to keep content short and sweet as we observe engagement and click rates. On the other hand, we’re looking forward to trying out more robust CTAs (calls to action) in tweets and to seeing more cogent responses to the latest Trump news. Brevity is still the soul of Twitter — there’s just a bit more flexibility now to go longer when you need to.

So suffice it to say that many BSDers had strong feelings about this news. Here’s what some of our strategists had to say:

Billy Silverman, Director of Content, BSD NYC

I wasn’t too shocked by this change — it’s the latest in a long line of updates to the platform designed to give tweets a little more breathing room. After auto-shortening URLs, having images not count against the character limit, and making it easier to thread tweets together, the writing has been on the wall for years: Twitter is ready for longer-form content.

And I think the idea of this change is a good one, but I’m not convinced that 280 is the right number.

Jack Dorsey is right: 140 characters was a somewhat arbitrary length from the outset of the platform — but just doubling that number strikes me as equally arbitrary. I do find the 140 character limit a little too constraining — it can often be a struggle to fit some context, a CTA, and a link into a single tweet — but 280 characters might be too much.

The tweet above illustrates this perfectly — sometimes forcing brevity also forces clarity of thought. As Lorne Michaels once said, “There is no creativity without boundaries.”

Chris Coletta, Senior Strategist, BSD DC

When it comes to Twitter, brevity is beautiful — it’s what makes Twitter Twitter, and not, say, Medium. A perfectly crafted tweet is one of life’s most indelible pleasures. To wit:

There’s a reason that Tweet went viral last weekend: It is perfect, straight down to the “U” substituting for the “you.”

That said, are there positive applications here for brands, nonprofits, and other organizations? You bet:

  • In a world where the single most influential organizing tool of 2017 has been a Google Doc, it’s easy to see how progressives can use the added characters to continue to demystify the political process, providing critical context for the things we ask our supporters to do every single day.
  • It used to be nonprofit fundraising canon that it’s harder to make the case for a donation on social than it is in an email. Today’s news doesn’t radically change that — but it does give you a little bit more room to operate and experiment.
  • What about short-form storytelling? 280 characters are just enough to do some really interesting things. Can you condense a story from the field down into 280 characters? (Before you say no: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” is 32 characters long, and that fact has not escaped Twitter people.)
  • This also gives you the opportunity to stand out VISUALLY in people’s feeds — with more line breaks, more bullets, and even, if you’re feeling saucy, a little old-school ASCII art. Try some things out to see if you can’t get more engagement by experimenting visually with the form!

Reece Jackson, Strategist, BSD London

Social media is a place where people exhibit opinions, not statements. Twitter’s angling for more complex opinions that 140 characters don’t allow for. Every day, more and more users try to circumvent the character limit by linking their posts together into longer opinion streams (a.k.a. “tweetstorms”).

Plus, most of Twitter’s user base is young — aged 18-29, who typically are more liberal — and I think it’s great to give them the ability to fight with more nuance on Trump’s battleground!

Sprint cadence with prototype testing toward the end of sprints

I’m interested to see how Twitter’s evolution will affect other platforms like Instagram — will they feel a need to diversify their walled garden approach to let their users link to deeper content?

Missy Kurzweil, Associate Creative Director, BSD NYC

Editor’s Note: Missy’s thoughts on this are best summed up by a single Slack message:


Want to talk about what this brave new Twitter world means for your organization? Get in touch with us.