When Twitter burst on to the scene in 2006 it brought a whole new way of communicating and receiving information, the ‘catch’ was, everything you said, or read, had to be no more than 140 characters in length.
(Oh, and by the way, characters aren’t just alphabet letters, they’re letters, spaces, full stops, comma’s, hashtags, and emoji’s. Links, images and videos swallow a chunk of your character allowance too.) In fact, the shortness of the message helped give rise to the name ‘Twitter’ as Jack Dorsey, CEO and founder member explained;
...we came across the word 'twitter', and it was just perfect. The definition was 'a short burst of inconsequential information,' and 'chirps from birds'. And that's exactly what the product was.
Now to be fair, Twitter has evolved, it’s no longer a stream of inconsequential information and those ‘chirps from birds’ that he talks about, well, they’re most likely where you’ll find the breaking news from all over the world.
As a marketer, you soon learn to be pretty smart with your tweets, but sometimes, trying to convey exactly what you want to say in, the way that you want to say it, using only 140 characters, can be as difficult as writing a 500-word blog post.
The good news is that Twitter is introducing some exciting new changes, which means that some of the frustrations of Twitter will soon be a thing of the past!
For me, this is the biggest and most significant change. Attaching an image to your tweet can boost the engagement rate of a Tweet, plus that Tweet is much likely to ‘pop-out’ at you in amongst a newsfeed of text. The problem right now? You guessed it; a media attachment eats into your character count.
So, you go from this:
That's 24 of your character allowance gone! By the time you’ve added a link to send someone back to your website or a landing page you’ll have lost another 23 characters, leaving you just 93 characters with which to get your message across!
The good news is that Twitter is rolling out media attachments for free! Well, not free as such, but going forward they won’t eat into your 140 characters at all, which means that even with a link in your tweet you still have a juicy 117 characters to do as you so wish with. Hooray!
Replying to a Tweet
It’s a positive thing to be as interactive as you can on Twitter, but if someone asks you a question and you reply, his or her Twitter handle uses up the character count. Not so bad if they have a short handle, but if they’ve used their Twitter name maximum of 15 characters, it leaves you with just 125 characters for your reply.
Again, Twitter has seen the light and soon you’ll be able to hit that reply button with the giddy glow of knowing you can give them your full and unadulterated 140 character opinion!
Re-Tweeting and Quoting – your own tweets!
Okay, so it sounds possibly a wee bit narcissistic but given that the life span of a tweet (how long it appears in the twitter feed) is pretty short and that one single tweet can be the equivalent of spitting in the rain, if you think that tweet contains or leads to great content and deserves a second chance, then soon you’ll have the chance to Re-Tweet your own Tweet!
Quote Tweets will no longer eat into your character limit either. So, say for instance you’d already published a great Tweet that led to an amazing blog, but there’s been an update to that blog? You can simply Retweet, using the original Tweet as the ‘quote’ and using your full 140 character limit let your followers know to “check out your brilliant blog because it’s got some very important updates”.
Replies and User Names
This one is a wee bit more complicated and it’s kind of two changes in one. Previously, if you hit reply, the username would be at the start of the Tweet (and still will be). The username counted toward your character count, but your followers wouldn’t see your reply Tweet. To get the Tweet ‘seen’ you could add an extra character such as a full stop or comma in front of the user name, e.g. @yelloveedub , and sure enough, you’re Tweet would be visible to all your followers, but you also whacked a character off your 140 limit!
In the new update when you hit reply, all your followers will be able to see your reply without you having to add an extra character AND the username will no longer count towards your character limit.
Be aware though, this is only when you use the reply function that this applies to. If you start a ‘regular’ Tweet with a username, or use a username in the middle of a Tweet those will still be included in your 140-character limit.
Right now Twitter hasn’t specified a date of when they’re going to roll out their new features, other than saying over the next few months, so keep your eyes peeled!
We’d love to know what you think about the changes or what else you think they could change, so let us know in the comments below.