Category:  Social Media

From 140 to 280: How Twitter is Changing What Made It Great



Condensing your thoughts into 140-characters isn’t easy. It takes work to convey your message in few words. However, this difficulty is why the 140 character limit should stay. People have to actually think about what they are writing and how they should write it instead of throwing words into a post and clicking send. Brevity takes work and will lead to better content.

In a world where Twitter has become the new medium for possible declarations of war from the President of the United States, people argue that the social media platform should expand its thinking and allow users to expand upon their thoughts and create more detailed posts. It is true that Twitter’s 140-character limit is self-imposed and brought upon by the SMS message limit of 160-characters. Another argument is that the limit stops people from posting. Twitter has found that people tweeting in languages like Japanese, where you can convey meaning in fewer characters, reach the 140-character limit only .4 percent of the time. Twitter users who post in English reach this limit 9 percent of the time. Twitter is hoping that this change will allow more people to tweet. In a blog post the company stated: “When people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140-characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people tweeting — which is awesome!” 

Working in public relations, I understand that this could make my job easier. I can post for clients and provide more content, which could possibly generate more buzz for my product or event. However, I still place my belief in the “Twitter-friendly Headline”. It can be challenging and often times frustrating condensing big ideas into short, concise statements. Yet the power of these headlines can become immensely more powerful when done right. Steve Jobs showed us this even before Twitter had its impact on the business world. Statements like “The iPod is 1,000 songs in your pocket” or “The MacBook Air. In a sentence, it’s the world’s thinnest notebook” were revolutionary in that they changed an industry forever but never exceeded 70 characters (38 and 66 characters respectively). 

While this update is only for select users for now, it could expand to all users soon. Yes, an increase to 280-characters would make life a little easier. Steve Jobs himself even said “simple can be harder than complex”. But do people really want the Trumps of the world to ramble on in a 280 character tweet? While limiting these people to 140 characters won’t stop Twitter rants, it will at the very least force them to sit and think how to best pose their arguments. Brevity may be hard, but it’s what we need right now. 


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