What Twitter’s new rules on character limits mean for advertisers

The copywriters of the world are giving a collective sigh of tweet relief now that Twitter has given them a few more precious characters to play with.

Twitter’s move to loosen its strict 140-character limit is meant to make the platform more user-friendly and less confusing for the uninitiated. The new rules make advertisers’ lives easier, too. Media files won’t eat into space for text and usernames won’t count in some cases either. Twitter also dispensed with an odd rule that basically hid tweets that start with “@” symbols.

“Simply adding a photo and a link to a tweet could cut character count down into the 90s, which is particularly frustrating for copywriters and community managers who have to keep a running calculation of what they’re losing,” said Jill Sherman, vp of social strategy at DigitasLBi. “I’m happy to see Twitter returning to their 140-character roots. More space to communicate and no unnecessary rewrites.”

Here’s a look at the changes and what they mean for advertisers.

Free media
Photos, GIFs, videos and polls no longer take up 24 characters apiece, so advertisers can still write a full tweet after they embed media. The changes will especially benefit marketers with strict disclosure rules. For instance, financial tweets sometimes need to be labeled for compliance reasons, and some paid tweets need special labeling in the text, all taking up scarce space. “This definitely means we can focus more on whatever the creative idea is and less on restrictions,” said Dave Surgan of RG/A.

Links, however, will still count toward character limits, so link shorteners will still be needed.

Goodbye “.@”
Many Twitter users probably don’t even know that if a tweet begins with an “@” symbol, it only gets seen by the shared followers of the person tweeting and the recipient. To get around this bizarre rule, the “.@” hack was born, but only the Twitterati know it. So now if a Justin Bieber fan tries to tweet him and wants the world to know, they can start the message with @justinbieber, and it won’t be hidden.

The change could help brands and publishers get a little more visibility for their content, too. Now, when users tweet at them using their handles to share their content, the tweets will go to all of a sender’s followers.

Spam alert?
Not all the changes were welcome or even understood. Twitter handles no longer count toward the character limit, but a tweet could include up to 50 users’ handles, which could be excessive.

To prevent overuse of that feature, Twitter said the change applies only to existing participants in a Twitter chain — only names already in a conversation are exempt from the character limit. New names will eat into character counts.

Still, these were the kinds of quirky rules Twitter was supposed to be simplifying. “Twitter is doing some big changes. Hopefully, it’s not too late,” said Chris Tuff, director of business development and partnerships at 22squared.


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