Friday, 30 September 2016

Make the most out of Twitter’s new character count rules

Contrary to rumours early this year, Twitter will not be allowing 10,000-character posts anytime soon. But the popular microblogging site has rolled out a new policy that will give social media marketers like you more space—and more words—when you tweet.

Twitter on Monday, 19 September, announced that it will keep the character cap per tweet, but this will no longer include links to uploaded media. “Rolling out now: photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets no longer count toward your 140 characters,” Twitter said.

This means that a post that says “I love @sydney_business!” with a photo of the Abercrombie Building attached now only count as 24 characters (spaces included). Under the old rules, it would have been some 51 characters because the photo upload would have generated a link in this form:

It also means that you may start retweeting or quoting yourself, a feature useful for long posts, explaining a previous tweet without losing the context, or simply for those times that you feel like talking to yourself on the Internet (we absolutely get how you feel.).

When Twitter hinted at the plan in May, it said the goal is to make the 140 characters all about the message. It’s a step in the right direction. You can now add images, videos and GIFs without compromising your text space. How can you maximise the opportunities the 140 characters present to engage your audience? Here are three tips:

1. Add a call to action. When you have to fit a sentence and a media link in 140 characters, the words “Make a choice today” or “Act now” can easily be set aside. The new rules give you more leeway, so you might want to consider prompting users to complete a transaction, share your tweet, or at least check your website.

Without a call to action, your Twitter followers might hesitate about what they ought to do with the content. Your photo might be great or your message witty, but should they share it, like it or just scroll past it? Let them know exactly what you hope they would do.

2. Use infographics. Even with the new character rules, there are some messages that simply need more words. Mechanics for a new promo, for example, or an exciting new menu, won’t fit a single tweet, and sometimes wishing users will click on your website link is too much to ask for.

Work around this limitation by attaching to your tweet a photo with inlaid text. This also makes the tweet more prominent, as the image will occupy more space in your audience’s feed. Of course, it goes without saying that you should use relevant and eye-catching photos.

3. Move with videos and GIFs. When images aren’t enough, you can always go for videos and GIFs to achieve maximum effect. Take note, however, that the videos should be short enough for Twitter. You need to upload the video directly on Twitter, since links to YouTube, Vimeo or any external site will count against your character limit.

Twitter watchers also report ( about plans to exclude from the 140-character limit user handles such as “@sydney_business”. This means that the tweet “I love @sydney_business!” with a photo of the Abercrombie Building attached will only count as 9 characters (spaces included) as opposed to the 24 under the present rules and 51 in the old rules.

The plan also involves broadcasting replies—that is, tweets that start with “@”—to all your followers. It used to be that for someone to be able to read a reply, the user has to follow both you and the other person in the conversation. You no longer need to prefix usernames with “.@” to make your replies readable to all.

Whether on Twitter or any other social media platform, however, it is important to remember that content is king. Make your messages straightforward, active and engaging. Twitter can give you 10,000 characters or more, but if you don’t have a well-thought-out message, what’s the point?

Kim Patria
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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