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Twitter’s 280 character limit increased engagement without increasing the average tweet length

Published Feb 8th, 2018 3:37PM EST
Twitter Character Limit
Image: Twitter

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After some initial testing, Twitter late last year officially upped the character limit on tweets from 140 characters to 280. In one fell swoop, Twitter changed the most defining feature of the service: brevity. Twitter’s decision, as with most sweeping changes in the tech world, was widely criticized, with many arguing that Twitter timelines would morph from easily digestible tidbits of information into an unreadable litany of screeds.

As it turns out, Twitter’s decision to extend the character limit on tweets has done little to change how people use the service. During the company’s earnings conference call this week, CEO Jack Dorsey explained that the length of the average tweet has not gone up since the character limit change was implemented.

“We completed the launch of 280, so it’s out to 100% of all [users],” Dorsey said. “And just to remind people of why we did it, one of the things that we’re seeing is that people would bounce up against the 140-character limit consistently and actually abandon tweets completely. So, we wanted to experiment with giving them a little bit more room, and one of the things we’re watching for is to see if the average tweet size would go up as a result and it has not.”

Consequently, Dorsey explained that the percentage of users who abandon tweets has declined while overall user engagement has increased.

“We’re seeing a lot more retweets and we’re seeing a lot more mentions and we’re also seeing people get more followers and return more often,” Dorsey added.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems clear that bumping up the character limit gave some users a bit more room to breathe and enjoy the service. As to why bumping up the character limit to 280 has done little to increase the overall character count, the company a few months back said that the length of an average tweet checked in below 50 characters.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.