Recently, Twitter increased it’s 140-character limit to 280, and as usual, the response has been as funny as ever. Many took advantage of the increase by posting all types of comical content.
But the change has also received mixed reviews. While some gladly welcomed the change, others seem to be bothered by the move. Most users didn’t want more characters — they wanted an edit button, but it doesn’t seem we’re getting one anytime soon.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the increase. I’m a Twitter purist who appreciated 140-character limit. But since I work in communications, it’s my job to make lemonade out of the extra 140 lemons.
My advice to anyone trying to do Twitter well: Use it, but don’t abuse it. 280 characters can be a gift and a curse. If used wisely, it could benefit your platform. But if used poorly, it will decrease your engagement and ultimately hurt your platform.
Don’t Overdo It
As the saying goes, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” When Twitter increased the limit, people used up their characters like they were going out of style. But is this a good idea moving forward?
Most Twitter users don’t come to the platform to read dissertations — they come for short, skimmable sentences. This is Twitter’s niche. Before the switch, the platform demanded brevity, forced the user to get to the point, and therefore, was easy to skim. Less equals more.
Ultimately, I think a continuous use of the maximum character count will negatively affect user engagement. In other words, your followers will ignore you if you’re always posting long tweets. Therefore, I believe, longer posts will equal decreased engagement — fewer retweets, likes, replies, and follows. While engagement isn’t everything, it may be a sign of whether or not we’re communicating well which means engagement matters.
Use It to Your Advantage
So should you restrict yourself to 140 characters? I’d love it if you did, but I don’t think that’s necessary. There’s a way to use the new character limit without annoying your followers. Here are three tips.
1. Publish one long post for every five posts.
Every once and a while, you’ll need the extra characters (if you always need them, do yourself a favor and start a blog). A good rule of thumb is to post one long post for every five short posts. There’s no science behind this, but it seems like a healthy balance.
2. Only use what you need.
If a post only requires 180 characters, there’s no need to use all 280. Remember, less is more. You don’t get additional points for using the extra characters.
3. From time to time, post something creative and fun.
Instead of using the extra characters for rants and soapboxes, use it for fun facts or creatives. Besides, we all know Twitter is at it’s worst when filled with long threads of controversy and trivial arguments.
Serve Your Followers
Ultimately, most of us are on Twitter for two reasons: to give and receive. We believe we have something valuable to offer our follower, and we feel those we follow have something useful to give us.
Don’t use your extra characters for selfish gain or a weapon against your opponents. Use them to encourage and build up, rather than discourage and tear down. Twitter can be a vicious place, even among Christians. It’s easy to use the platform to harm our opponents and build our mini-kingdoms.
Instead, use the platform to love others and serve your followers selflessly. If you do this well, you’ll be just fine — even if you ignore my tips. But I recommend you do both.
Phillip is director of communications at Reformed Theological Seminary and a digital strategy consultant. He oversees branding, print publications, digital marketing and social media for RTS. Prior to this, he served as co-founder and vice president of the Reformed African American Network and content strategist at Desiring God. Phillip and his wife, Jasmine, have one son.