Michael O'Neill

When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced he was piloting a 280-character limit on user accounts, the internet reacted in a somewhat expected fashion.

But now that the update has been in effect for more than a week, marketers and social strategists are getting over the initial shock and looking for ways to capitalize on having twice as many characters at their disposal.

At the moment, few brands have proven their excellence at “Twitter 280.”

What’s the big idea?

The Sept. 26 rollout impacted just a small base of accounts, so the average marketer has yet to experience the hubbub. As Search Engine Journal noted, a full-scale update across the entire platform will be largely dependent upon whether Twitter deems the trial a success, which would require months of data to analyze.

If anything, in three to six months, Twitter should have a better idea of how users interact with the new character bandwidth and if the number of characters correlates to more followers or higher ad revenues.

Twitter ads
Twitter advertising revenues slowly declining.

Via techcrunch.com

In recent quarters, Twitter’s user growth has flatlined while its stock has not performed as well as many investors and analysts were expecting. The 280-character update was a mechanism to reinvigorate the Twitter brand and hopefully attract new users by offering expanded tweet options.

Twice as much ad space

As much as Twitter is closely watching how its pilot plays out, content marketers are just as interested in what more characters could mean for their brands.

At its core, brands now have twice as much advertising space to work with, meaning every tweet has the propensity to be more impactful or convey more detailed information. After all, 140 characters was an arbitrary figure Dorsey chose during the company’s founding in 2006. A decade later and Twitter users have grown accustomed to the brevity of 140 characters, and marketers have devised their social strategies around it.


Jumping head first into 280 characters will be a learning curve for many. Some brands are already testing out ways to best utilize the update, like using longer tweets as tools for customer-service handling and live event coverage.

Marketers shouldn’t simply use more text – the text they use should scale with the new intent of their messaging (problem-solving online, answering customer complaints, disclosing sponsorship language, for example).

But as Brafton Senior Social Strategist Walt Clark said, “More characters offers more room to create, so brands need to be smart about using it.”

Think videos, gifs, short-form narratives, interactive chats, polls and branded images.

Be careful of over-burdening followers with long tweets

The biggest challenge for the social-savvy marketer will be resisting the urge to produce longer tweets.

In fact, industry vets are expecting the number of tweets to go down as the content within tweets goes up. Additionally, the top brands on Twitter have already reached a level of superior engagement under the 140-character limit; tinkering with this successful formula could result in an audience engagement backslide.

Twitter 280 updateWalt suggested marketers stick to existing Twitter conventions, like threading multiple tweets and using images to show longer text.

By removing the 140-character limitation, however, brands are hoping to capture new followers as more users sign up for Twitter for the first time. Marketers will have to be very careful with how they engage their existing followers if the pilot becomes the new standard.

Colbert tweetVia giphy.com

Twitter is designed to be a highly nuanced, concise platform – tweets that are not expertly crafted with character limits or consumer attention in mind will be received as poorly written and unprofessional. This type of copywriting is virtually a science of its own, and brands that have combined snappy messaging with videos and images (and a little bit of humor) have reaped the rewards of the old Twitter model in the form of higher engagement and greater social capital.

Additional characters could upend this system, enabling other brands to carve out their own social niches and redefine the new voice of Twitter, which could be upsetting to some, but a huge opportunity to others.

As is the case with every component of content marketing, build upon what works and improve upon what doesn’t. If social analytics show tangible benefits from this new content archetype – should 280 become the de facto character length – study your success and push it further.

Oh, and, be creative. Don’t let character limits overshadow great ideas.