Twitter Identity Crisis? What 10,000 Character Limit Could Mean for Social Media

Business.com / Social Media / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Many were shocked when Twitter announced it would be increasing its character limit to 10,000. But what kind of effect will it really have?

If you’re at all in tune with what’s going on in the world of social media, chances are you heard that Twitter will be making some major changes to its platform, such as adding an algorithm to its timeline and increasing the character limit from its iconic 140 characters to 10,000.

While rumors of a Twitter algorithm have been going around for years, the news that Twitter would be substantially increasing its character limit was completely unexpected and met with largely negative reactions.

To give you an idea of just how negative, check out this poll from Brandwatch to see how their audience reacted:

Brandwatch poll results regarding Twitter increasing character limit from 140 to 10k 
Many claim that Twitter is doing away with its signature 140-characters (and moving more in the direction Facebook has gone) to appeal to the masses.

Regardless of how you feel about it, though, “Twitter10K” seems to be on the way and possibly as early as March.

The question is: what will this change mean for social media users?

Related Article: 5 Ways to Use Twitter for Social Selling (No Twitter Account Required!)

1. It May Not Affect Users Much at All

One of the main concerns that most people had was that they would be bombarded by spammers (and other long-winded Twitter users) writing paragraph long tweets that they would have to navigate through as they search for quality content.

However, early reports are claiming that only the usual 140 characters will be visible in the newsfeed, and that users will have to click to read more. If this is true, the appearance of tweets in the newsfeed would not change a great deal.

On top of that, the reality is that most users don’t post lengthy paragraphs on social media.

Twitter did its research before moving in this direction, and they noted that while many social media platforms allow lengthy posts, users rarely create paragraph long updates.

Facebook, for example, allows 63,206 characters and Google+ up to 100,000, but when is the last time you saw posts that long on social media?

During their search into other platforms, Twitter noted that the average social media user only writes one or two sentences… which comes out to approximately the same length as the 140-character count they have now.

Added to all of this is the fact that users were already finding creative ways to get around the character limit, such as creating images or posting screenshots with lots of text (which became even easier when the image size was increased) or “tweetstorms,” where users would post several tweets rapidly in consecutive order.

2. Greater Opportunities for Customer Support

Twitter is the number one place people turn to when they want to engage with a brand over social media, which is the reason brands need to be diligent about monitoring the platform for mentions. 

This chart, published by the Harvard Business Review, shows the increase in tweets toward brands from March 2013 to February 2015 and emphasizes just how important Twitter has become for customer service. 

Harvard Business Review Chart - percentage growth in tweets at companies.

Related Article: Social Media Head-to-Head: How Do Twitter and Google+ Differ?

These numbers are only going to continue climbing.

While you are now able to receive direct messages from anyone on Twitter by simply selecting a check box, direct messaging still isn’t frequently used for customer service issues (possibly because of the amount of spam in Twitter inboxes).

Instead, users tend to address complaints directly in the newsfeed by @mentioning the brand.

The problem? Well in the past, it was difficult to squeeze a response into a short 140-character tweet. Brands were, more often, forced to direct customers to a support line for additional help, which resulted in frustrated, angry, or even lost customers if the experience wasn't positive.

The extended tweets will help to open a more direct line of communication between brands and consumers, which will strengthen a company’s overall customer experience and set it apart from competitors.

3. Greater Visibility in Google

Don’t forget that the in May of 2015, the deal between Google and Twitter went live, giving tweets a prominent place in the Google search results. 

By increasing the character limit beyond 140 characters, users will have an even greater opportunity to engage and educate their audiences and send people back to their websites.

And all of that content can appear in the Google search results, expanding your reach far beyond Twitter.

The Verdict?

While it’s still too early to tell exactly how this change will play out, I think that in the long term it won’t have a major impact on the social network.

As Jack Dorsey shared in a screenshot of a note on Twitter, they, "didn't start Twitter with a 140 character restriction. We added that early on to fit into a single SMS message (160 characters)... We see [people] taking screenshots of text and tweeting it. Instead, what if that text...was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That's more utility and power."

Related Article: Are Hashtags Intellectual Property?

The main issue that users seem to be struggling with is that Twitter is letting go of a feature that made it completely unlike the other platforms, leaving many complaining that Twitter was struggling with an identity crisis.

However, I think that because the overall appearance of the newsfeed won’t change, it won’t have as great of an impact as people fear.

Of course, this is only speculation and only time will tell. But in the meantime, fingers crossed.

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