You’ve probably heard about the new changes to Twitter in the last couple of days. And my, they’re big ones.
After all, Twitter users have been restricted to 140 characters per tweet since 2006.
True, there have been attempts to make changes – last year, direct messages were allowed up to 10,000 characters.
And tools like TwitLonger, Tall Tweets and Longer Tweets all promised to extend your tweets past 140 characters.
But in a tweet posted on Monday, Twitter announced that photos, videos, GIFs, polls and quotes would no longer eat up any of your 140 characters.
If that wasn’t enough, Twitter also want to test changes to the @reply system, meaning @names won’t count either. As they say on their blog, “Characters are for conversations, not usernames”.
So what do the changes actually mean for you?
Twitter actually want you to have conversations with people.
Why else would they discount usernames from character lengths?
It’s not a bad move on their part. When I first started using Twitter in December 2008, it was like a global online watercooler. People dropped in to have chats. I’ve met some amazing people using Twitter, and thanks to hashtag conversations, I expect to keep doing so.
A lot of marketers have jumped onto Twitter to sell their wares. Fine, promote your content all you want (I know I do) but remember to talk to other users too. There are humans on the other side of those @usernames. Get to know them.
You don’t have to stick to clickbait as much.
The golden rule of social media is the awesome headline. You want people to click, to find out what you’re all about. Ideally, you want to help people as easily as possible.
But the downside of clickbait headlines is they can be disappointing. If someone clicks on your title to read your blog post, and it doesn’t bear a lot of relation to the content of the post, they probably won’t come back. (There’s an excellent post about clickbait on State of Digital).
If, on the other hand, your title reflects the content (like this post is all about the changes to Twitter and how they’ll affect you….which is right there in the title) then you’re more likely to win that reader’s trust.
With the new changes to what’s included in the character limit, you can now spend the characters you’d otherwise use on an image or GIF to expand a little on the value of the title. Maybe add another hashtag to help a wider group of people.
You can give those polls and GIFs a bit more context.
At first, the character limit was a brilliant way to hone your ability to communicate a lot in as few letters as possible. You couldn’t ramble. Unless you wanted to split your message across a range of tweets, you had to be concise. Laser focused. On point.
But then someone realised you got better levels of engagement if you included graphics and images. GIFs became an awesome way to quickly make a point.
Those images and graphics took characters away, and the context became lost. Now you can go back to writing excellent, tight short-form content that is enhanced by an image, rather than being cut by the need for an image.
And if you want to add a poll (which is an excellent way to generate engagement), you can now explain a little more what it’s for in the tweet itself. People are more likely to click if they know what it is they’re voting for.
Time will tell if the changes will prove to be positive.
True, some will prefer the old way of working, and I think we might see an increase in marketers targeting several users at once when @usernames no longer count towards character limits. But being able to discuss what you’re posting, and add GIFs without losing characters, is certainly an interesting development.
If you’d like to connect on Twitter, come and follow me @lj_sedgwick.