If you're a fan of Twitter, you should sit down.
The social media company announced yesterday that it is increasing the amount you can tweet to 280 characters--and the news sparked mostly underwhelming public reactions (no surprise there). The change is clearly in the infancy stages, but it is global. It also applies to every language except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Those languages are not included because they naturally allow you to say more with fewer characters.
First, I acknowledge It's a gamble...
I can't imagine being in those product roadmap discussions a year or so ago where everyone unanimously agreed that this feature would be the game changer (or Tweet changer, literally). And it's hard for me to think that this was prioritized over some of the most requested features (looking at you, edit button ) -- it shakes the entire foundation Twitter was build on.
People really, reeeeeally like what's familiar. Some users thus might not like how the new limit changes the look and feel of the posts and platform overall -- aka, it could cannibalize engagement or stickiness. Secondly, one of the charms of 140 characters is that you generally take the time to think through what you write (unless, you know, covfefe).
There's value in being forced to cool your jets and consider the connotation and phrasing in everything you post. And it's one reason Twitter isn't Facebook.
Have to say, though, the responses have been pretty epic so far.
literally my only talent was being able to think of tweets exactly 140 characters long. i don't know if I will be able to alter this to 280.-- christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) September 26, 2017
Twitter will support 280 characters yet Marvel vs Capcom only has 30. Really makes you think-- John Bain (@Totalbiscuit) September 26, 2017
But in the long run, 280 characters is probably brilliant
Alright. I'm going to blindly give Twitter the benefit of the doubt in saying that there is a strategy and vision to this roll-out, albeit incredibly risky.
Be honest. Don't some topics deserve more than 140 characters? You'll still need to be brief, but your followers won't get flooded with 1/8 of a soapbox rant as often. Personally, I find scrolling through those incomplete thoughts pretty exhausting. So, half of that problem is solved.
It's also arguably more visually appealing and helps maintain a better train of thought. And as BuzzFeed's Alex Kantrowitz notes, Twitter maintains that "in all markets, when people don't have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people tweeting." And if accessibility is better, you've got better odds of more people hearing you. Isn't that kind of the whole point of social media in the first place?
There's commerce, too. If you want to tag multiple people from your network in a tweet, your characters go bye-bye in a blink. The same is true when you want to include a URL to a blog, product page, or other online document. A slightly longer character count gives professionals and their customers just enough wiggle room to market better.
It's currently being rolled out to a 'small percentage' of Twitter users, but there are already hacks emerging on how to authorize yourself in. The jury is out if it's empowering enough to more deeply activate users that drive actionable impact.
Now if we can just get that edit button, too...