24.05.2016 Twitter: Will a longer character count win back users?

In recent months there have been fears over Twitter’s future due to a number of factors including falling revenues and user numbers.

Rival social media platform Instagram has surpassed Twitter, reaching 400 million users compared to Twitter’s 320 million, putting it second only to Facebook as the social network with the most users.

Now, perhaps in an effort to compete with its upstart adversary, Twitter is apparently planning to extend its 140-character limit to allow room for picture and video links.

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The change will mean users will be able to share links that would usually be cut off by the character limit and give them the ability to share pictures and videos much like they would if they were using Facebook or Instagram.

Twitter initially came up with the 140-character restriction back in 2006 when the average mobile phone message had a character limit much like Twitter’s.


Popular a decade ago

This was a bid to keep social media on the move before the rise of smartphones. But the transformation of the mobile networking world has given us the freedom to take our online social lives with us anywhere we go, and with that freedom we have become restless with restrictions.

Twitter has already made a number of changes in recent months, including the introduction of Twitter Moments and the like button.

It even floated the idea of extending the character limit to 10,000, though the instant drop in its share price might have prompted it to rethink this particular idea.

More recently it expended its push into video, paying the NFL for the rights to stream ten live American football games during the 2016 season across the world for free.

It’s easy to understand why Twitter now wants to emulate Instagram’s picture-led format. After all, tweets with images receive many more clicks, retweets and likes than text-only tweets.


Instagram also allows its users to really engage with the content, unlike Twitter where the sheer mass of tweets can drown out others that may be of more interest.

We think this could be a good way forward for Twitter. Giving users the option to share more visuals on social media, like Instagram and Facebook, may give it the edge to take back second place in the race for the most popular social networking site.

It could also help tempt brands back to the platform after flirting with the new kids on the block – Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat.

Taking images and links out of the overall character count of a tweet will give brands more freedom to be creative; to use images more often, to use more hashtags and to write slightly longer tweets.