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This was the week where Twitter decided that 140 characters simply aren’t enough after all.
After a brief trial run, the social media platform doubled its limit to 280 characters for all users
While it remains to be seen if more really is better for Twitter, or a novelty which will quickly wear off, brands have been making the most of the shiny new feature by using every last character.
One of those which stood out came from London Ambulance, which took advantage in the best way possible. It’s ‘nee-naw nee-naw’ emoji filled tweet has, at the time of writing, been retweeted more than 6,000 times and gained more than 17,000 likes.
NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑NEE-NAW 🚑#280characters— London Ambulance (@Ldn_Ambulance) November 8, 2017
It also generated a range of similar responses from other emergency services around the world. One British Transport Police for London tweet on the thread even went as far as to include a doughnut emoji.
☎️police?🚓neenor🚓neenor🚓neenor🚓neenor🚓neenor🚓neenor🚓neenor🚓🔮↩️↪️➡️↕️⬇️🔃🔄↘️↖️investigate🎉badguy!✒️paperwork✒️paperwork✒️paperwork✒️paperwork✒️paperwork✒️paperwork✒️paperwork✒️paperwork🍩 donut✒️paperwork✒️paperwork #280characters— BTP London (@BTPLondon) November 9, 2017
Nissan Philippines took a completely different approach to this new found social media space by filling it with, well, a lot of space, to show just how much room there is for baggage in its Almera car.
The NBA Referees account also has some fun with the new limit, tweeting that it expected the new character space to be used to form complaints that were ‘calm, well-reasoned and full of complete sentences’ about its basketball match decisions.
Now that we all have #280Characters, we expect your Twitter complaints about specific calls against your favorite teams to be calm, well-reasoned, and full of complete sentences. Thanks in advance for this positive step forward in basketball officiating-related discourse."— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) November 7, 2017
A number of other sports organisations jumped on the 280 bandwagon, many using the new limit to list their achievements. But Manchester City took the honours here using the new extended limit to revisit some iconic commentary and one of the most memorable moments in Premier League history.
280 characters means we can now go...— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 8, 2017
But arguably the best responses resisted the temptation to reach the new space and highlighted that while brevity may no longer lie at the heart of Twitter it remains the soul of wit.
While in other cases we were reminded that a picture can still tell a thousand words (or at least 280 characters).
These examples, if not particularly meaningful, are all great fun, but what does the removal of the famous 140 character limit mean for comms teams in the long term?
The new limit could certainly be useful in crisis media management situations. Trying to get your message across in a tweet when your organisation is in the public eye for all the wrong reasons can be extremely challenging.
The previous limit was so short that sometimes in these scenarios, as we highlight on our social media training courses, tweets ended up being vague and added to the confusion. The new limit gives more scope to provide the information needed, both by journalists and customers.
Customers would also be able to ask questions and receive more detailed responses the first time without having to go through a potentially lengthy and time consuming exchange involving direct messages. The challenge here will be to maintain the personable touch which has been so successful on this platform and has often led to coverage in mainstream media when done particularly well.
One of the great attractions of Twitter is that its 140 character limit forced organisations to be creative, concise and often witty with their messaging. Until now, reading a tweet has been quick and easy.
The natural temptation with a bigger limit is for organisations for fill that space, which could lead to duller and blunter messaging as well as less interaction and engagement – we’ve probably all already seen at least one tweet from a user saying they will just scroll past the new style tweets because they are too long.
Another temptation will be to use more hashtags in the additional space. But this must be avoided. We tell delegates on social media training courses, that too many hashtags can make tweets hard to follow and appear convoluted.
Of course, its easy to understand why Twitter felt the need to make a change – it needs to address its lacklustre user growth. But destroying its USP is a bold move.
But perhaps, with trial results that showed only five per cent of tweets exceeded the 140 character limit, the novelty will quickly wear of and we can all agree 140 characters are more than enough.
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