What do the new changes to Twitter's 140-word character limit mean for the company's prospects and its strategy going forward? My Inc.com colleague Salvador Rodriguez has you covered.

But what if you're a regular Twitter user or a newbie thinking of taking up the service and you're more interested in the practicalities of how to make the most of the new format than the larger meaning of the move? If that's you, then here are all the practicalities you need to know.

The basics

First, the news in a nutshell is this: replies, quotes, polls, pictures and other media will no longer count towards Twitter's tight 140-character limit. Twitter, of course, announced the roll out with a tweet:

This means, in practice, you'll often have more space to express yourself, and it will be easier to interact with others and keep within your allotted space.

"This allows for richer public conversations that are easier to follow," commented the social media experts at Buffer, for example. "Previously, having a conversation with two or more participants could become a little difficult as usernames could take up anywhere from 5-20+ characters, leaving little room to get your thoughts across."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has even cited facilitating conversation as a key driver of the changes. "Generally, we want to make sure we're encouraging a whole lot more conversations on Twitter," he told the Verge.

Meanwhile, links will still count towards your character limit.

The specifics

So besides the general point of easing group conversations and making the service hopefully more intuitive to learn, how do the changes affect day-to-day use of Twitter more specifically? Here are a few key points to keep in mind.

  • No more .@ at the start of tweets. Previously, if you put a person's handle at the start of a tweet only that person could see what you wrote. If you simply wanted to tag that individual in a public conversation, you needed to write ".@" before their user name to get around this. No longer. Now all your followers will be able to see tweets that start with a username (and that @whoever won't count towards your 140 characters).
  • Use more media. You now have more room to express yourself AND add that funny gif. Which is good news for engagement. Buffer points out that "studies have shown that visual and media attachments on tweets are a big factor in boosting engagement and retweets." The move is also being hailed by marketers.
  • Retweet your own tweets. Before, if your thought simply couldn't be contained within Twitter's strict character limits, you might consider breaking it into a series of tweets (often marked 1/2, 2/2, etc.) Now, instead, you can just share and quote your first tweet, adding your additional thoughts in the new one.

Do you think these changes will have a big impact on who uses Twitter and how?

Published on: Sep 20, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.