September 27, 2017

Intentionally or not, Twitter created chaos in the world yesterday when they announced they were testing the extension of tweets to 280 characters on Twitter. The world immediately divided into 3 categories: those jumping for joy, those complaining of Twitter losing its identity, and those who think the other two groups are crazy for even caring about this issue 😉

If you fall into either of the first two categories, you're passionate about your thoughts.

Those jumping for joy are thrilled at the idea of having more space to write an actual thought without truncating it or casting out valuable letters or spacing. Those who are upset are complaining that Twitter has more important things to fix, other issues to resolve, and that they are giving up the single component that most defines the platform.

So, what does any of this mean to you, if anything?

Well, first of all, let's all take a breather and remember that social media is rented land. You can applaud or complain all you want, you won't change the inevitable from happening. Whether Twitter moves forward with this plan or not is up to them, not us as users. Yes, they are testing it, and vetting interactions and responses to the changes. But they're still going to do whatever they choose to, regardless of how much any one voices an opinion.

Let's also take a second to remember that Twitter has proposed (threatened) to expand tweet lengths since 2015. This is not a new idea. Although, the 280 character count limit is a new proposal from past conversations in the media.

Tweets are currently capped at 140 characters (you know this). That's not a lot of space to write a lot of content - especially for a verbose, long-winded, run-on-sentence writing, emoji-charged person like yours truly. Oh, and a grammar loving fool like me hates Twitter and the need to remove all semblance of grammar in an effort to fit into 140 tiny character spaces. It's ok to skip commas, apostrophes, and even periods when you have more important things to say. Or at least we tell ourselves that, until you try to read a tweet with no grammar and it takes 5 minutes to decipher the damn thing!

And, just to get all cynical on you, Twitter has ruined communication in proper English. Even when we're not using Twitter, we've learned to write in abridged sentence structure with no emotion or personality. We no longer say "I hope you had a wonderful birthday", it's now "hope u had good bd". I mean, really, people - we can do better!

Will longer tweets change any of this? I can only hope so! But honestly, for us old folk - and yes, I put myself in that category, meaning we actually learned sentence structure in school - it'll probably be something that allows us to better communicate on Twitter and use more inflection through grammar and vocabulary. For others, we're so trained to use Twitter (and now all communication) in such an informal way, that doubling the character limit will have little to no impact on that approach to tweet structure.

However, for better or worse, this proposed change could drastically change how many tweets are generated. A tweetstorm is where you create a whole conversation of tweets in a long chain of conversation by replying to each previous tweet, starting with the original one. This creates a chain of tweets where you, or anyone else viewing it, can read the entire conversation in one thread. Super handy. Doubling tweet lengths will likely reduce the need for this type of Twitter conversation. Rather than writing 3 tweets in response to the original, users will cram their thoughts into one long (280 character) tweet and move on. This could actually reduce the amount of back and forth conversation between Twitter users.

But, then again, maybe those tweetstorms would continue, but instead would be easier to read as they are more succinct and organized into better, clear responses.

For those of you who love a good Twitter chat (like #chatgram), this proposed change is probably some pretty darn good news. Being able to actually answer a question or provide advice or give examples or just have a conversation in a longer form tweet would be pretty darn awesome.

It'll be interesting to see how creativity and fresh ideas evolve from the longer tweet format. There's always some genius out there with fun new ideas and I'm sure we'll see some of those come to light during the test phase, let alone if this actually rolls out.

Of course, with change comes concerns though too. Will the longer tweets increase or decrease engagement? Will Twitter's algorithm sort for preference on longer or shorter tweets? Will calls-to-action have more impact or less in the new tweets? Longer tweets will mean less tweets viewed in a screen (desktop or mobile) before scrolling. Will this mean smaller fonts or layout redesigns?

Will the purists who love Twitter for what it is/was rebel against the platform?

Will this change increase users and encourage much needed growth for the somewhat stagnant platform?

Personally, if you want my opinion, which I know you do, or you wouldn't still be reading this, I don't think this is, overall, a bad thing. If Twitter does go to the 280 character limit, those purists out there will whine and complain and rebel. But the majority of users will appreciate the extra space and use it to their advantage. We'll likely see some redesign and formatting changes on the interface (both mobile and desktop) which is more likely to annoy Twitter users (and those who teach Twitter marketing) more than anything. Yes, for those of us who teach Twitter marketing, this change SUCKS - we have to reformat every piece of training material created. But for the average user and for a small business owner, this isn't a bad thing. It's an evolution that we'll all adapt to, if it even ever happens.

What do you think? Are you for or against this change? Join in the conversation in the comments below!

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  1. The power of Twitter was always fast communication. If they extend the character limit. Twitter will lose speed. I also do not know which problem they are solving with this. We are the users. Why should we need more space to communicate fast like Twitter was intended.

    Please think of the users and make tweets edible and stop the harrasment.

    1. Hey Rudi, I’m sorry that this potential update frustrates you. But we all need to remember that the 280 is only a limit, not a goal. Just because we have the extra characters doesn’t mean we have to use them. And, for me, not having to take the time to figure out how to remove two characters when I’m over 140 will actually make it faster 😉
      You may be right and it may slow down the feed a little bit, but I honestly don’t think this will have that dramatic of an impact.

  2. Potentially, it’s an opportunity to expand one’s message and increase visibility.
    But it also presents the danger of drowning in verbiage and losing people’s interest with too much content.

    1. Of course, there is some risk of long winded tweets, but 280 characters still isn’t *that* much text and we need to remember it’s a cap, not a goal 😉

  3. I really like that you focused some critiques on ways that this change could negatively affect social media communication! I haven’t seen much talk about the impact it could have like this! Very interesting!

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