Twitter Goes 280

Blaise Pascal would not be impressed by Twitter’s latest action.

In 1657, the eminent French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian wrote a letter apologising for his lack of brevity: “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

Winston Churchill expressed similar sentiments.

Twitter, however, thinks otherwise. It’s decided that longer is better.

Apparently, 9% of us have been bumping up against the micro-social network’s long-standing 140-character limit, according to Twitter’s own data. So in September this year, Twitter doubled the number of characters for selected tweeters.

Here’s what happened.

twitter-280

Twitter reported on the results:

During the first few days of the test many people Tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel, but soon after behaviour normalized. We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often. But importantly, people Tweeted below 140 most of the time and the brevity of Twitter remained.

So Twitter is now rolling out 280-character limits globally (except for Japanese, Korean and Chinese, which will continue to have 140 characters because, says Twitter, cramming is not an issue in these languages).

Predictably, the Twitterati are unhappy. This Chicago Tribune opinion piece sums up their mood:

For too long, I’ve been forced to respond to a friend’s humorous tweet with a mere: “LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL.”

Now I can craft an appropriate response, like: “LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL.”

(The 35 extra LOLs really nail the sentiment I’ve been after.)

Of course this social media sea change isn’t just about me. It’s about everyone who wrongly thinks they have something important to say and will now be able to say twice as much of it at once.

And what about the internet trolls? The added character space will surely enhance the richness and depth of tweets coming from people who heretofore have had to call me “a idiot” in 140 characters or less.

Now they’ll be able to expound on my horrid looks and overall stupidity in detail that was previously impossible. They can even veer into insulting my mother while still having space to home in on how uniquely untalented I am.

And generically hateful tweets won’t abruptly end with a disappointingly derivative: “DIE!” There will be room for exposition detailing the desired manner of death, undoubtedly enhancing my nagging feelings of existential dread.

Implications for marketers?

Nothing much, really, except that we won’t have to try so hard to squeeze our headlines and calls to action into a tweet.

Oh, and we’ll be tempted to add in lots more content, diluting our messages, simply because we can. A bit like this:

 

Our advice: use the extra characters wisely, if at all. To mangle the old acronym, K.I.S.S. (“Keep It Short & Simple”).