Why Twitter Really Made The Changes Around Its Character Limit

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Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

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Twitter announced a number of changes this week, which are geared to extend the expression capabilities of the strict 140-character limit.

The platform will no longer count media attachments nor ‘@names’ replies as a part of the character count. In addition, it will allow users to retweet and quote their own tweets. And although the latter received a cynical response from the media, the functionality is a smart move, because it essentially allows users to ‘edit’ their tweets while still counting additional engagement for Twitter.

The announcement’s rhetoric indicates that the main reason for these changes is to improve user experience. But as always, there is a commercial rationale behind the move. The tweaks are clearly designed to achieve two things for Twitter:

  1. Improve the quality of user generated content
  2. Improve content distribution on the platform

Seamless instant communication and rich media content are a necessity to satisfy social network users in the mobile era. The fact that Twitter had until now counted media attachments and @names as a part of the character limit was inherently putting the breaks on both. (i.e. limiting the amount of rich media content that circulates on the platform as well as limiting the number of people who could seamlessly become part of a Twitter conversation).

Both points are critical for Twitter as it tries to find its way out of trouble with Wall Street. The platform has been having a tough time finding new users. The announced changes indicate that Twitter is serious about driving growth through within by tweaking its proposition to the constantly evolving needs of digital audiences.

In the words of Buzzfeed’s CEO, Jonah Peretti, content is king, but distribution is queen and she is wearing trousers. Twitter’s changes are a smart move as they address both parts. Increasing the circulation of rich media on the platform – and consumers’ engagement with it – will lead to more time spent on the platform. This in turn will increase the word of mouth associated with Twitter, which is still the number one way of discovering and adopting apps and digital platforms.

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