Twitter: Goodbye To The 280 Character Limit | Ideal Insight

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  • Nick Twigg

Fellow digital marketers and business leaders will relate to the pain of having to edit down informative social media captions to align with the short-form character limit of Twitter – but no more! 

Leaked plans claim that Twitter is planning to ditch its 280 character limit, and is working on a new feature, ‘Twitter Articles’, to allow brands and thought leaders to post long-form Tweets. Read on to find out more!


What Was the Original Twitter Character Limit?

Upon its conception back in 2006, the Twitter character limit was 140 characters. Back then, it was an SMS-based service, and 140 characters was the normal SMS character limit imposed by mobile carriers. This was the era of short-form text-speak and hardened abbreviations. Despite the rapid change in technology and communication that was quick to follow, they would keep the Twitter word count limit at 140 for another ten years.

But, back in 2017, Twitter changed the game when they doubled the maximum number of characters in a tweet to 280 characters. More than three years have gone by and Twitter users are used to their new allowance. Yet, as we’ll discuss, the Twitter character limit increase has had an interesting mix of results which are now coming through as hard data. 


What Impact Did the Increase to 280 Characters Have?

Back in September 2017, just two months before the Twitter word limit was increased, product manager Alizar Rosen published an official article. The title is Giving you more characters to express yourself. Their message was clear. They increased the maximum number of characters in a tweet to give users more room to express themselves. They said people, particularly English speakers, found the character limit ‘frustrating’. 

Incidentally, this was just after the 2016 presidential election. Twitter was at its peak in popularity and became a political talking point. Twitter must have believed increasing the word count limit was a positive step toward clearer communication for such important matters.

But, since its conception, enough time has gone by for research and data enthusiasts to find out exactly how this doubling of the Twitter word count has changed the landscape of communication on the platform. And the findings are intriguing.

Although it all sounded good on paper, some of the findings from Twitter themselves have revealed only 5% of tweets are longer than 190 characters. Even with the increased word count. And when the Twitter word limit was only 140 characters long, the most common tweet length was 34 characters. Since the increase, it has gone down to just 33. 

These findings from their own data must have been surprising. They must have thought everyone would begin taking advantage of the doubled Twitter character limit. It seems brevity is part and parcel of the Twitter world. But, while it is a surprise, there is some interesting data that might explain why most users haven’t jumped ship and taken full advantage of the increase. 

According to Buddy Media, tweets shorter than 100 characters get 17% more interaction. It might be that users, especially veteran users, understand that shorter tweets simply perform better. Despite this surprise in how few people have taken advantage of the increased Twitter word count, there has been an uptick in people taking advantage of Twitter threads. This makes sense. People who want to talk in-depth and at length about a specific topic will not find a single tweet with a word limit of 280 characters particularly helpful, but a thread of them very helpful.


How Did Language Use Change After the Previous Increase to Twitter's Character Limit?

The increase in the maximum number of characters per tweet has meant a big change in people’s language use. More specifically, people’s language has gotten grammatically better. 

Before the increase to the Twitter character limit, people would find all sorts of ways to squeeze in what they needed to say. Text speak, abbreviations, and tweeting in nouns and verbs conveniently forgetting important conjunctions was normal. Now, the data suggests people enjoy using the extra characters to speak well enough that even their professors would approve.

Twitter has crunched and shared the numbers on the way language has changed since the maximum amount of characters per tweet has increased. Text-speak abbreviations such as ‘gr8’ are down 36%. And people are sending more positive tweets, too. Positive words and phrases have increased dramatically. Simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ messages have increased by 54% and 22% respectively. 

And with the increased maximum characters in a tweet, conjunctions, which are words such as ‘the’, ‘and’, and ‘but’, are no longer seen as a waste of space. Instead, users are putting them back where they belong, making their punctuation and overall language use clearer and better. Another interesting finding by Twitter has been that tweets that include a question mark have increased by 30%. This indicates people are asking more questions and perhaps provoking more thoughtful conversions on the platform.

These findings indicate people are using the increased Twitter word count limit to make their language clearer and improve their punctuation. More so than they are using it for longer single tweets with more information as might have been first thought.


Predictions for the Future of Twitter After the Character Limit Change

Twitter has evolved immensely since its inception. The communications tool has exploded in popularity and use since its humble beginnings as an SMS-based messenger back in 2006. And some of the most famous people and biggest and most important names on the planet use it every day. With Twitter being so popular and with as many changes to the platform as there have been, it’s natural to speculate. Where the platform is headed after its big overhaul of the Twitter word count limit makes for some interesting predictions.

One prediction for the future of Twitter is that newsrooms will dominate people’s Twitter feeds. It’s no secret that Twitter has played an increasingly intricate part in political discussion in the west in recent years. According to a study by Pew Research, 67% of Americans get some of their daily news from social media. And a lot of that is from Twitter. 

The quick punchy tweets based on the word limit of 280 characters are popular with journalists, presidents, and politicians who want to spread news easily and fast. The fact that it’s all in short form makes it popular for busy consumers of important topics who lead increasingly busy lives, too. So, it’s fair to assume the future of Twitter looks even more news-based. It may even become one of the top sources of news in the west or even worldwide.

And it might be that the future of Twitter and how people’s language on the platform may once again change as it looks likely they will increase the maximum characters again. Or, perhaps, they might even rid of the word count limit altogether. Since Twitter increased the word count to 280 in 2017, people have continued to speculate they may budge and rid of the limitation altogether. It’s difficult for some to imagine Twitter getting rid of one of its core characteristics, though. The short-form communication is one of the key factors that makes it popular.

But, it looks likely Twitter will want to experiment again with increasing the word count after its findings, such as the increase in positive language results and deeper discussions. Also, since increasing the Twitter character limit, the platform has seen an increase in content creators and other types who might not have been active on the platform before. And it may just be that by fully opening the gates and ridding of the word count limit they attract a more diverse and robust audience that will help the platform grow to new heights.

Is your brand up to date with the latest developments online? At Ideal Insight, we are a video-first video production and social media agency located in the heart of London. Our expert team of content creators, social media strategy specialists and videographers are ready to take your brand to new heights.


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