Get to Know Twitter’s Character Count Changes

Get to Know Twitter’s Character Count Changes
September 20, 2016 Dan Wunderlich

Starting this week, Twitter is changing what counts against its iconic 140-character limit. This should come as great news to anyone who has scoured every word for shorter synonyms or stressed over which grammatical rule to break to make everything fit. Let’s look at what’s changing and what it means for you.

  • Anything that gets attached does not count against the limit. When composing a Tweet, you are given the option to attach an image, video, GIF, or a poll. These no longer count against your 140-character limit.

This is great news, as tweets with media or an interactive poll tend to have higher rates of engagement. You can now craft full-length tweets while still adding the elements that make users more likely to stop scrolling.

Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case with links, as they are added in the compose window and are not attached.

  • Usernames within replies will soon not count against the limit. When you hit reply, any usernames that automatically appear due to having already been in the conversation will soon no longer count against your 140-character limit.

All social media is at its best when it facilitates conversation and the exchange of ideas. However, if you have ever tried to have a conversation and keep more than two or three people in the loop, you get stuck replying with incomplete phrases or even single words as you may only have a handful of characters left.

Adding new usernames will likely still count against the limit since it’s not a true reply. A workaround might be to hit reply, leave the current usernames, tweet something like “looping in <@NewUsername>,” and then reply to that tweet to continue the conversation.

In addition to character count changes, Twitter has a few other rules changes coming:

  • You can retweet and quote tweet yourself. While this feature has already been available for a couple of months, you may not have noticed the change. Just as you can retweet or quote tweet (retweet with your own comment) someone else’s tweets to your followers, you can now do that with your own tweets.

This can be an effective way to re-share a message, a piece of media, or an announcement multiple times. One benefit of this practice is that it preserves and displays all of the likes, retweets, and comments the original tweet has received. This makes it easier for you to keep track of the conversation, but it can also build a sense of momentum.

Quote tweeting yourself is a great way to add commentary while reminding people of the original message. For example, let’s say you promote an upcoming local service project with a tweet. After the event, quote tweet the original message and add something like “We had an amazing time serving our community! Hope to see you next time.”

  • You will soon be able to start tweets with a username. You could always start a tweet with a username, but it would only appear to your followers if they also followed that person. Users got around it by placing a period before the @-symbol. You will soon no longer need to do that with new tweets.

If you had a guest preacher coming up and you wanted to tweet “@GuestPreacher will be with us on Sunday!”, only those people who followed both you and @GuestPreacher would see it. Twitter saw starting with a username as a way of initiating a more focused conversation. Soon, new tweets that start with a username will be treated like every other new tweet.

I specifically say “new tweets” because replies are still only seen by followers of both parties. Twitter recommends retweeting your replies if you want them to be widely broadcasted, but that’s an extra step. I imagine users will continue to use the period trick in replies. Another option is to quote tweet and reply via comment rather than using the official reply function. The drawback here is that the quote tweet will not appear in the stream of replies and conversation connected to the original tweet.

While these changes don’t drastically change the Twitter experience, they truly do have the potential to make sharing and engaging on Twitter easier — and that’s what social media is all about!

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