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The expanding Twitter character limit

If you, like me, have a tendency to like to use more words, rather than fewer, to get a point across, the 140 character limit on Twitter has no doubt proven incredibly frustrating. It’s almost impossible to tweet informatively and wisely with such restrictions, without resorting to clumsy text speak or endless hashtags – and if you want to add media to your tweet, well saying anything substantive is an issue. Perhaps in recognition of this limitation – which you won’t find to the same extent at all on other networks such as Instagram and Facebook (both of which have more users than Twitter) – news recently reached us that Twitter is thinking of increasing its character limit from 140 characters to 10,000.

While 10,000 characters might sound like an immense volume, it’s actually the same limit that is currently applied to direct messages. The change is being mooted by Twitter because the company says it has noticed that a significant number of its users are including screenshots of longer texts in their tweets as a way of circumventing the 140 character limit.

Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey has made it clear that the platform is not set on sticking to 140 characters – it prides itself on ongoing evolution, listening to the needs of its users and supplying solutions. This new change could mean that, instead of short snippets of news and information our tweets could be up to 1,700 words long.

Now, the problem with this change is that when Twitter first began, it was the cropped messages that it presented as its signature style. Is Twitter sacrificing its very identity by moving closer to a Facebook format of posting? In case you’re already planning on exiting Twitter to avoid having to wade through reams of 1,700 word posts, the idea is – apparently – to keep the 140 character limit for what will appear in your feed and then offer the option to ‘expand.’

For those of us who need a bit more space to express ourselves, this is of course very welcome news. However, the change could also have a positive impact on businesses, for example those that are using Twitter as a way of delivering customer service.

The previous 140 character limit prevented any real discussions from taking place between a customer/client and a business – or any genuine assistance being given other than providing a phone number or directing that person to someone else. Now, however, Twitter could be a genuine, unrestricted, channel of communication.

Brand awareness, thought leadership and audience-building will all be taken to new levels with the increased character limit and the problems that used to come with having to direct users to leave Twitter to see the entirety of a chunkier piece of content could now disappear.

The new limit will also offer greater potential for more in-depth analytics, including total time spent engaging with the tweet and how far down in the content the user scrolled as well as what we already have (follows, replies and retweets etc). So, while Twitter may be changing what many saw as the basis of its USP, perhaps this is not a step back but a move forward – after all, don’t they say that to create, you have to first destroy?

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