Did you know that Twitter was not originally intended to become a social network? Jack Dorsey, the CEO and co-founder of Twitter, actually intended to use it as a SMS service for a small group. Back when Twitter was created in 2006, the SMS character limit was 160. It seemed only logical for Twitter to add a 140-character restriction with tweets, as it would make it easier to read as a single SMS message. But should we still be living in the past? Today we no longer have a character restriction with our text messages. We can send out messages with our smartphones without feeling constrained. Should Twitter change their character limit?
I remember when Twitter first came out. Many people were calling it a place for just status updates. Facebook hadn’t been around long but platforms such as MySpace and Tumblr were popular. I remember that I wasn’t sure about using Twitter because why would I add another platform to my list of social networks? I could easily update on Facebook if I wanted or needed to. Today Twitter has become so much more than a platform for posting status updates. It has become a place for building relationships, growing businesses, connecting, and sharing breaking news.
The social network hasn’t made too many changes since launching in 2006. Last year we saw two new features, Twitter Polls and Moments. Recently there has been a lot of talk about going from 140-character limit to a 10,000-character limit. On January 5th Jack Dorsey tweeted an image on twitter (the image at the beginning of this post). He discusses the possibility of tweeting more text instead of taking a screenshot of text simply to say more. We can only assume Dorsey is talking about increasing the character limit on the platform but there is no way of knowing for sure just yet.
I am conflicted with how I feel about the idea of having that much change to the platform. After all, we have seen Mark Zukerberg toy with us over making Facebook changes that have yet to take place. Remember the dislike button? They made such a big deal about it this past fall and look where it is now. Nonexistent. So part of me doesn’t want to panic over this idea, at least not yet. Perhaps Dorsey was merely throwing the idea around to see how the world would react. Is this part of Twitter’s testing? It very well could be. Or did Dorsey just want people to talk about Twitter again? It could be a marketing tactic, but I’m guessing that is not the case.
Twitter has blown up since Dorsey tweeted that image on January 5th. You can find trending discussions under the hashtag #Twitter10K. Many are upset with this idea. People are concerned that increasing the character limit will turn the platform into a blogging site or become a place where people tweet long and boring rants. Instead of the character increase, some people wish Twitter would add other features such as an edit button. Twitter is a platform that forces you to be concise. 140 characters are long enough for you to get a point across while being crafty and creative, leaving little room for fluff. The 140-character limit is what defines Twitter. That is what has set them apart from other platforms.
Here are some of my favorites tweets about the possible character change on Twitter.
— Historical Pics (@HistoricalPics) January 7, 2016
— Henrik B (@henrikbmusic) January 6, 2016
#Twitter10k authors are getting very excited to promo their 3 trilogy novels on twitter
— King Wolfie (@wolfieraps) January 7, 2016
So what does this mean for businesses and those trying to market themselves on Twitter? I think it will depend on how Twitter decides to change character limit on the platform. If they decide to use a “more” button to read more within the platform, then it might not make a huge difference. However, it Twitter decides to show the entire tweet, this will definitely change things. Twitter is crowded enough. Approximately 6,000 tweets are tweeted each second. It can get noisy. Then if you have to scroll through these extremely long tweets, people are going to get frustrated. They will just keep scrolling because they probably don’t have the time to read it. This could create less engagement with your fans. How can your tweets be seen then?
On the other side, this transformation can allow you to say more without feeling as limited. You can tweet entire blog posts! You can pretty much tweet whatever you want. Have a short story? Twitter could possibly be another place for people to read it. Of course with these changes, there will need to be new marketing strategies implemented to allow for more opportunities.
I hope that Twitter is smart about how they execute the character increase. What do you think about Dorsey’s tweet from January 5th? Do you think #Twitter10K is a good or bad idea? Share with us in the comments below!