Since its inception, Twitter has been infamous for being the only social network limiting posts to bite size chunks of 140 characters. That’s about to change forever.
Several publications have reported that Twitter is planning on increasing its 140-character Tweet limit in a project known as “Beyond 140.” Many sources are stating 10,000 as the new limit. That’s what Twitter allows for direct messages, so it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s true. But even if it’s not, Twitter will still boast a higher character limit.
These sources say that a user’s timeline will still display only 140 characters, but users will have the option of clicking to see more content. Twitter users have been lobbying for highers character limits for a while, and the company is currently attempting to grow its user base, so the change makes sense.
The raised character limit is also most likely a way for Twitter to stop sending users to other sites. With the new limit, stories that would normally publish as blog posts could be published solely on Twitter.
So Why Does a Few (thousand) Characters Matter to You?
It depends. The new change will have several pros and cons, and they’re all worth looking at if you’re a serious Twitter user. If you’re new to Twitter, you’ll probably have a different perspective on the changes than a veteran of 5+ years. The changes are good for certain types of users and bad for others.
With that in mind, here are some of the pros and cons of the change.
- Better engagement. When the change occurs, Twitter users will probably develop a tendency to stay within the site more and click on outbound links less. Since your Twitter followers will be interacting with longer content, you’ll have the opportunity to hold their attention longer and develop better engagement.
- Promote more content to your Twitter followers. If you have an good-sized follower base and want to start publishing longer content, you can promote that content without leaving Twitter. You won’t need to build up a blog from scratch to get your content seen. Of course, this depends on exactly how the long the new character limit is.
- More freedom to write. For some, Twitter’s 140-character limit has made it difficult to write Tweets that are both short and sweet. For the writers who need a little extra length, the change is welcome. You’ll no longer have to worry about shortening words to “text speak” in order to Tweet.
- Less “tweetstorms.” This controversial Tweeting technique, started by Marc Andreessen, has grown into one of the site’s most despised conventions. Since tweetstorms were a way of getting around the character limit, the new change would effectively render them useless.
- Less outbound traffic. If you use Twitter to drive traffic to your blog or site, this update could be bad news for you. If Twitter users do stop clicking on outbound links, then posting to generate traffic will become a useless tactic. Bloggers will have to rely on other social networks and sites to drive traffic.
- Increased Twitter dependence. If you get less outbound traffic, you could end up becoming more reliant on Twitter. This could cramp your style and limit what you do. Will product selling or other forms of monetization be allowed on Twitter in the future? Hard to say. We probably won’t see the end of landing pages or blogs anytime soon, but Twitter could make visiting those sites much less appealing.
- Potential loss of followers. If the character limit goes up to 10,000 and you start posting 10,000-word articles, there’s a good chance not all of your followers will appreciate it. Tons of Twitter users are lambasting the change, praising the 140-character limit as the backbone and appeal of Twitter. If your followers are among this group, they could unfollow you because of your longform content.
Why you shouldn’t worry (too much)
Given the different pros and cons, the raising of the character limit seems like it could fracture the Twitter community. It also seems like it has an equal chance of causing the number of users to skyrocket or plummet. In reality, it’s unlikely either of those events will occur.
Over the years, every social network has made some sort of large-scale change. Nevertheless, people continue to use them. For millions, the benefits of social networks vastly outweigh the negatives.
So while you might experience some of the cons listed above, it’s also entirely possible they might not be that devastating. Maybe 50 out of 10k people unfollow you. That’s not particularly good, but it’s also not horrible. The point is that you most likely won’t take a huge hit from the character limit change.
Preparing for the new Twitter
As with most matters in life, it’s a good idea to prepare for the future. Start thinking about how you can use the new character limit to your advantage. The possibilities are endless. You could entice people to follow you on Twitter by publishing Twitter-only content. Or you could work the other way around and grow your audience on Twitter.
It’s still difficult to forecast how the Twitter user base will react, especially since the character limit hasn’t yet been decided. A 2k character limit will elicit much different reactions than the predicted 10k limit. How you use Twitter will largely be dictated by how users and (more importantly) your followers use Twitter.
It might even be a good idea to survey your followers after the change occurs. See how they feel, and adjust your Twitter strategy accordingly.
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