Bloomberg telegraphed it a couple of weeks ago, and today Twitter made it official: the platform is no longer counting @names, links, photos, GIFs, and videos against its 140-character limit. (And hooray! — we can now dispense with putting a period in front of an @name response so that everyone can see it — one of the dumber conventions of any social media platform.)
This frees up the platform for better and more effective use of interactive and visual content — welcome news to most Twitter users but especially to brands and commercial users of the service, which often find themselves wanting for more space to provide context around some of the content they share. This move will probably also relax branding managers who cringed at the idea of using common Twitter abbreviations in a branded post (say it together with me: “that’s off brand”).
Something Jack Dorsey said in his interview with the New York Times struck home with me as really wise.
When people try to cram their thoughts into a 140-character tweet, “then you’re just thinking a lot about Twitter instead of what you’re saying. We shouldn’t make you think about Twitter,” Mr. Dorsey said.
There’s a lesson in there for everyone in social and digital, from individual users to brands. We spend too much time thinking about the platform — whether Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, or anything else — and not enough time thinking about what we’re saying. For too many brands, the platform supersedes the story or narrative. Too often brand digital managers worry about their “Facebook plan” or their “Instagram strategy,” without thinking about what their broader narrative is or how consistent a story they’re telling across all their platforms.
Dorsey has it 100% right — we shouldn’t be thinking about the platform as users, and as content producers we should be thinking of what we’re saying first, then turn to how we use each platform’s strengths or unique features to best say it.
Today’s announcement will make it a bit easier for brand digital managers to do this. The question is just whether brands will take Dorsey’s comments to heart, or will see these changes only in terms of the number of characters they have available to them on Twitter.