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Twitter’s Hint at New Character Limit Could Mean #longertweets 

 This first line is less than 140 characters, which means I could easily post it to Twitter and even chuck in a witty hashtag or two. Twitter’s character limit is so tightly wound up in its identity.  It’s been there since its inception and it shapes the way in which we use it.  However, Twitter has recently hinted that that’s all about to change. This could be big news for everyday users, brands and publishers alike.

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Twitter could try their hand at 10k characters

Co-founder of Twitter and CEO Jack Dorsey gave pundits a tiny clue about the big changes when he tweeted this to his personal account:

We’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it.”

(After posting that, he then self-referentially took a screenshot and tweeted it. #Irony). He then added:

“Instead, what if that text…was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power.”

Just how much Twitter will expand the character limit, no one is sure yet. Some speculation suggests it could be 10,000 characters, which is the current character limit for direct messages. Worried about being bombarded by essays? Fear not, for many observers are suggesting that if the 10k limit were to be introduced, Twitter would still only display the first 140 characters, but will include a persuasive call to action to encourage users to read further.

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It’s all about the bottom line (probably)

Obviously, more searchable text on Twitter would mean even more exposure for the company. However, some argue that it goes a little deeper than this. After all, Twitter is a large company that’s driven by generating more profits. So, why might they want to get rid of the current character limit?


Stickier is better

The move might not be so much about getting users to tweet more content, but about getting “publishers to produce native content”, as observer and Guardian journalist Alex Hern wrote. To translate, Twitter wants to keep users – and eyeballs – on their site, which means creating stickier content so that users remain engaged.

Hern continues to say that:

“It’s pretty nice to have hundreds of millions of users, but it doesn’t help you rake in the cash if their engagement with your site is to login, scroll a bit, then click a link and spend the rest of their session reading an article on a newspaper’s website (and seeing the newspaper’s adverts, to boot).

What if, Hern asks, Twitter took ownership of that whole process from start to finish? What if publishers of all kinds pasted the full text (or at least 10,000 characters of it), straight into Twitter for users to read right there and then?

This makes sense. How many of us use Twitter as a curated list of the most up-to-date content, which we then scroll through before leaving the Twitter platform completely? It’s an interesting development that advertising and marketing professionals will need to keep a close eye on. So, watch this space, stretch your thumbs and prepare for some #longertweets.

By Cassie Chorn

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