What Does the New Character Limit on Twitter Mean for Marketers?

The 140-character limit on Twitter may soon be just a memory- Twitter announced on its blog that they are rolling out a character limit of 280 to a small group of users, and if it is successful, it will be launched to everyone.

Twitter, anticipating potential backlash at the new development, said “We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters – we felt it, too. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.”

There is, in fact, a fair amount of backlash to this announcement. Soon after the announcement was made, #Twitter280 was trending on Twitter, and was filled with people who had access to the 280 character limit using it purely to show their disdain for it.

A large portion of these tweets are calling out Twitter for implementing this new character limit that nobody really seemed to be asking for, while failing to address other improvements to Twitter that have been highly requested, like the opportunity to edit tweets, better harassment reporting tools, and a zero tolerance attitude towards hate speech.

While the general public seems to be reaching the consensus that the longer character limit is not a good thing, many marketers are wondering how this will impact their strategy and ability to engage with their audience. Right after Twitter announced the change, many brands didn’t think too much but instead jumped right into testing out/tweeting about the new character limit. 

After the dust had settled, however, AdWeek reached out to several marketing agencies to get their take. Rachel Spiegelman, CEO of Pitch, said ““The 280-character tweets will likely dilute Twitter as a receptive marketing platform for consumers engaging with brands. Some of the most successful brands on Twitter, including Wendy’s, JetBlue and DiGiorno Pizza, have gotten to the peaks of brand engagement because of the discipline and rigor it takes to fit a message into 140 characters.”

Science seems to agree that shorter tweets perform better. Twitter’s best practices reference research by Buddy Media found that 100 characters is the ideal tweet length:

“Creativity loves constraints and simplicity is at our core. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so they can be consumed easily anywhere, even via mobile text messages. There’s no magical length for a Tweet, but a recent report by Buddy Media revealed that Tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate.”

Social media scientist Dan Zarrella performed research to find out which tweet lengths resulted in the highest click-through rates (CTRs). He found that tweets between 120 and 130 characters long had the highest CTRs.

Others expressed that they didn’t feel that the change would  allow them to better deliver what audiences were actually looking for. Jennifer Ruggle, SVP of digital solutions at The Sandbox Agency said, “Users don’t go to Twitter to read long text blocks.”

In terms of changes in strategy, some marketing professionals are expressing fear that brands will jump into usage of the 280-character limit without really considering the effects that it will have. John Sampogna, co-CEO and founding partner at Wondersauce, said “I’m sure the brands and users who truly ‘get’ the platform will find new creative ways of using it. My concern is most will not.”

One potential upside is that the increased character limit may allow brands to deliver better customer service and better address complaints. The increased character limit allows for better explanations and more in-depth responses. It will also help brands more clearly list legal terms and conditions in Tweets. This is particularly relevant for brand influencers. “This also gives no excuse for brand influencers not to disclose transparency or sponsorship language when applicable as well, which is better overall for consumers,” said Hannah Redmond, group director of strategy and innovation at The Marketing Arm.

It may take some time to fully understand how the new 280-character limit will shape marketing strategies, for better or worse. For now, brands should tread carefully and not lose sight of what draws people to Twitter and what type of content they are looking for. That means not posting longer tweets simply because it is now an option. Brands and marketers should still try to use the character limit as a driver of creativity, by attempting to deliver messages that resonate in a short amount of characters. That being said, brands and marketers should not ignore the opportunities to better engage with consumers that the 280-character limit may create. A big component of this will be improved, or more in-depth customer service.