Is Twitter Still Twitter at 280 Characters?

Date: Monday, November 13, 2017

It’s an existential question every company faces when making a fundamental change to their business model: Is this a necessary move to adapt with the times, or are we sacrificing what made us successful in the first place and diluting our brand?

For some companies, that shift is a groundbreaking change that has long-lasting ripple effects -- think of Apple shifting their focus from desktop computers to iPhones and tablets. On the flip side, well, do the words "New Coke" mean anything to you?

Which brings us now to Twitter, that strange, sometimes-lovable, sometimes-hateable microblogging site that permeates the online world in bizarre ways.

This month, they announced that all users would have double the number of characters available to them, as tweets would go from a maximum of 140 characters to the new sum of 280. They came to the decision after testing it with numerous users in September. When they announced that all users would have 280 characters, they cited the following findings from the test phase:

“Only 5% of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2% were over 190 characters. As a result, your timeline reading experience should not substantially change, you’ll still see about the same amount of Tweets in your timeline.”

Twitter also claimed greater engagement among people who Tweeted beyond the 140-character mark:

“In addition to more Tweeting, people who had more room to Tweet received more engagement (Likes, Retweets, @mentions), got more followers, and spent more time on Twitter. People in the experiment told us that a higher character limit made them feel more satisfied with how they expressed themselves on Twitter, their ability to find good content, and Twitter overall.”

It’s worth reading their entire blog post for the full context of the change, but at this point it brings us back to the question we posed in the title of this post: Is Twitter still Twitter at 280 characters?

It’s important to note where Twitter is in the social media landscape of 2017. With Facebook still the behemoth that hovers over everything, and Instagram the go-to spot for #selfies and food photos, Twitter occupies a unique spot in the social media hierarchy.

Twitter is the first place people go for breaking news. It’s the first place where things go viral. It’s where celebrities and politicians can interact directly with fans. It’s the funniest social network, because as Shakespeare once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit”.

Twitter exemplifies the slot-machine effect of social media, where every time you open it you think you might hit the jackpot, and when you don’t, you keep trying over and over again. Twitter is never static, there’s always something new to see.

And at the heart of every aspect of its existence was its simplicity: 140 characters. That’s it. It forced users to be clear and concise and never bury the lead. Nuance? Shades of grey? Not on Twitter. That’s what made it alternatingly great, and grating.

But now the character count has been doubled, and right away brands and celebrities jumped into the fray to have fun. Law and Order: SVU used the extra characters to type out its iconic intro read:


Even Cookie Monster got into the action with a Tweet so long, we have to embed the link rather than include a screen shot since it went on so long. Huffington Post even compiled a best-of on the first day of 280-character Twitter (be warned, author Stephen King used some, shall we say, colorful language to describe his feelings).

So while high-profile accounts are having fun, what about the rest of Twitter's users?

While people had a laugh at some of the directions taken with the added characters, overall, the reception has been mixed at best. While any type of change will be met with consternation, this one seems to be roiling people more than usual. Searching Twitter using the hashtag #Twitter280 is a peek into a world of anger and confusion.

Most users seem to be hoping that very few Tweets get close to the new 280-character limit, as that’s what they’ve come to know and love. Twitter's brevity has always been perfect for people navigating a high-speed world, and more than one person has noted that old Twitter has affected their attention span to such a degree that 280 characters seems like a Dostoevsky novel.

Right now, questions abound. Will users take advantage of the extra characters, or will most of them stay close to the traditional 140-character limit? Is the skepticism of the change typical of anything new, or is Twitter seriously risking its relationship with its users? Over the coming weeks and months, the answers to those questions will start to crystallize.

At Flowerpot, we've been handling social media for clients for 4 ½ years, and the only constant in that time has been change. To effectively run our clients' social media accounts, we consistently flex and evolve with the times. Each client has their own unique social media needs and voice, and we use best practices for each of our customers to generate
positive audience reactions and engagement.

If you're wondering how your business should navigate new Twitter, with Flowerpot you won't have to. Follow us on Twitter for updates on all things digital marketing, and let us know what you think of the new Twitter character count. Then contact us to schedule a complimentary Social Media Review for your business.

About Abigail Diskin, Content Manager

With a B.A. in Journalism and a strong background in both communications and creative writing, Abby is the lead writer at Flowerpot. Her passion for words comes through wholeheartedly, as she researches and crafts high-quality content for client websites, blogs, and email campaigns across a variety of industries. In her spare time, you can find her getting her hiking boots muddy in the Columbia River Gorge, blues dancing at the Bossanova Ballroom, or taming imaginary dragons with her niece and nephew.

About Arthur Lapies, Co-Founder

With over 15 years of experience in behavioral science and consumer marketing, Arthur has applied his education and skills to technology, sales operations and project management teams in multiple Fortune 100 organizations. His ability to tap into the consumer mindset and translate behavior into meaningful marketing actions for business owners makes him a key asset to Flowerpot clients. As Flowerpot’s Data Scientist, Arthur leads all aspects of technology, development and analytics. A Pacific Northwest native, Arthur now enjoys the company of the Bay Area’s Karl the Fog and arduous SF city hill climbs with his Great Dane.

About Laura Bakken, CEO & Co-Founder

With over 20 years of enterprise-level leadership in the high-tech industry, Laura’s knowledge of business optimization, sales excellence, change management and marketing savvy greatly benefits small and mid-size business owners navigating their path to success. As Flowerpot’s Chief Marketing Strategist, Laura leads all aspects of client consulting, content strategy and business development. Outside of the office, Laura enjoys gardening with her husband and their chocolate lab, menu hopping through Portland’s foodie scene, and traveling to sunny locales with friends to get a break from the rainy days of the Pacific Northwest.

Tags: Marketing / Twitter / Viral Content

Subscribe for updates from Flowerpot


Schedule your free call

flowerpot media, LLC

Planting Ideas that Grow