Twitter and 10,000 characters

We’ve had a number of calls today asking us about Twitter changing from 140 characters per tweet to 10,000 characters.

We felt it might help if we gave some thoughts on it and tried to answer some of the questions we’ve had.


Is it true?


Social media moves at fast pace.  Platforms that stand still don’t last long (look back at MySpace).  Whilst the unique nature of posting on Twitter has been a fundamental factor in its success, it doesn’t mean it’ll be enough for it to survive in the long term.

Whether it’ll be 10,000 characters or not, who knows?  Direct Messages are limited to 10,000 characters but they’re a more personal form of communication.  It might make sense to apply the same limit to tweets and Twitter did say they were going to monitor the change to direct messaging.  Was this the reason why?  Your guess is as good as ours.


My timeline will look ridiculous

Probably not.

Just because a tweet might be allowed to be up to 10,000 characters long doesn’t mean Twitter would change beyond recognition.

In fact, you’d probably not notice much difference.  If that sounds silly, think about it this way:

You read tweets with a 140 character limit.  If they have a link in them and you’re interested, you click on it.  The reality is that this will be very similar to how you’d use Twitter with 10,000 characters in tweets.  The reason is that you’ll probably see no change whatsoever in how your timeline appears.

Twitter aren’t stupid.  They know what users like and what has made them successful.  The chances are that you’ll still see something almost identical to that which you do now.  The only difference might be that you’ll have the option to “Read more”.  Sound familiar?  It isn’t a million miles away from what you’d do in our previous example of clicking a link.


Why do it?

Twitter wants you to stay on their platform.  If someone can publish content in a tweet (albeit an extended tweet that you need to “Read more” to see), instead of on a link, then they’re keeping you on their site.  That is good for them.

They want your content.  Their advertisers want your content.  Put those two things together and Twitter has served two purposes.

Firstly, it gets your content on its site and that will inevitably bring more visitors from search engines.

Secondly, they’ve got more of your data to harvest and sell to advertisers.

Please don’t think we’re saying that the latter is a bad thing.  You might think you don’t want adverts in their Promoted Tweet style on your timeline and the better targeting of an audience could actually be a good thing for you.

Financially, Twitter has been under pressure to show better returns.  You might want to think of the above benefits to them as helping it survive by delivering those returns.  If it doesn’t, it is much more likely to be swallowed by another internet giant (or fade into oblivion, as unlikely as that might seem).

Twitter‘s CEO and Co-founder, Jack Dorsey (below), has mentioned some of the benefits in a post of his own.  He’s also said that they’re patently aware of what users want and that they won’t lose sight of that.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO and Co-founder
Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO and Co-founder (image under CC 2.0 licence, attributed to Brian Solis)

It is also worth noting that Twitter has a good track record when it comes to adding new features.  There have been very few incidents of users turning away purely because of a platform change.  In contrast to when Facebook changed the appearance of user timelines, Twitter hasn’t had anything like the number of unhappy users when it launches something new.


When will it happen?

If we had a crystal ball (which we don’t) and if the reports are correct (and we suspect they are), then you’re likely to see it in the next 2-6 months.



We think a change along these lines was inevitable.  Times change, social media ups its game and companies need to react quickly.

The appeal of additional search traffic and being able to offer advertisers more data to target consumers with is obvious.  Similarly, keeping your users on your site is essential.

It’ll also increase the appeal of Twitter to new users.  Look at the number of people that have taken to posting content in blog-style posts on LinkedIn, often because they don’t have their own writing platform to do so on.  A change to Twitter could be seen as a viable alternative.

Twitter will ensure there is adequate protection to ensure you don’t get swamped with spam too.  Re/code, the people who’ve published the original story, reference this.

You shouldn’t panic or be up in arms.


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