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Twitter Expands Character Limit: How Brands Can Take Advantage

Twitter’s 140 character limit is no more. Last week, the 11-year-old social network officially rolled out a new character limit policy, which now allows users to tweet messages double in size.

Twitter made the change for users across all languages except Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Tweets weren’t lengthened for those languages because the capability already exists to convey more meaning with fewer characters.

This small, but substantial tweak has brought plenty attention for Twitter. But why were messages limited to 140 characters in the first place? According to Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, keeping tweets to a maximum of 140 characters was an arbitrary decision. It was based primarily on the character limit of text messages, which at the time of Twitter’s founding in 2006 was a maximum of 160 characters.

Twitter’s decision to expand the character limit came following extensive experimentation. The social platform, which currently has an active user base of 330 million people, formally announced plans to run tests on the character limit in late September. Their research led them to conclude that expanding the character limit would enhance, not hamper, the user experience.

During the experiment, they found that only five percent of tweets were longer than 140 characters. Just two percent of messages were over 190. Twitter also saw an increase in engagement as a result of the expanded character limit, noting that users who were given more room to tweet garnered more followers, likes, retweets and mentions. Twitter also found that people spent more time on the platform as a result of the expanded character limit.

So, what does the change mean for brands? How can they take advantage of the extra 140 characters they now have at their disposal? Here are a few ideas.

Expand on humor.

Comedy works well for Twitter users. Brands that’ve taken note of this trend have found ways to use humor to their advantage. As a result, they’ve amassed an engaged and loyal following.

A funny approach on Twitter should, however, be taken with caution. If you’ve determined your business has a voice that allows for witty and occasionally snarky remarks, test the waters.

Example: New York Yankees

Be more detailed.

With an extra 140 characters, brands can provide more value to their Twitter audiences. Offering more insights on products, services or the identity of a brand has now experienced an upgrade thanks to the expanded character limit.

Twitter’s research actually found evidence supporting the notion that longer tweets were higher in quality than shorter ones. The social network determined this by correlating the amount of likes a tweet received relative to its length.

Example: Law & Order: SVU

Stay pithy.

Just because Twitter has given users more room to speak doesn’t mean they have to use it. Twitter’s product manager Aliza Rozen put it best when she explained the essence of the platform.

“Twitter is about brevity. It’s what makes it such a great way to see what’s happening. Tweets get right to the point with the information or thoughts that matter. That is something we will never change.”

Example: Krispy Kreme Donuts

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