PRs respond to Twitter’s new 140 rules

Twitter’s latest efforts to improve user and financial growth have seen the platform create more space for users to express themselves through its famous 140 character limit. Gorkana gets feedback from PR and content experts on how they feel about the latest changes and how they might make Twitter more accessible.

The social media and micro-blogging platform confirmed yesterday (24 May) that media attachments such as photos, videos and Twitter tools such as its ‘polls’ and ‘quote Tweets’ will no longer count toward the 140-character limit.

In addition, when users of the platform reply to a Tweet, ‘@names’ it will no longer count as part of the word limit. These changes will allow users more room for text.

Twitter also removed the convention of typing ‘.@’ to allow followers on a user’s timeline to see a conversation; now all users will see a conversation if the ‘@’ convention is used. Users will also be able to ‘retweet’ and ‘quote Tweet’ their own material – something they were unable to do previously.

The platform is a powerful influence in media and an essential tool for PRs, so what do comms professionals feel about these changes?

Ruby Quince, creative content director, Porter Novelli London

“We knew changes were coming and these seem like good common sense improvements. The 140 character limit was a relic from SMS days and it’s good to lose the need for ‘kinky’ hacks to express yourself the way you wanted to, even if they weren’t huge disadvantages and the ways around the obstacles were pretty good disciplines for communicators. The short form suited a world driven through newsfeeds rather well.

“I still value Twitter as a real-time search and conversation platform, and I don’t think that the changes will impact the service that much, as long as it’s still a purpose-built space for the types of thought leaders that are beneficial to us. Proper group conversations will be a plus for small groups and I trust that the changes have safeguards against spam (especially mass ‘@’messages) that would degrade the service.”

Nick Wheywell, head of digital, Rooster PR

“While Twitter won’t be removing the 140 character limit, the most recent (and planned changes) mean you are no longer hindered as there’s significantly more characters to play with. It means more flexibility, and I would expect, be a breath of fresh air to not only the average tweeter, but brands (and developers) alike. For brands, in particular, it means you aren’t, or shouldn’t be, short-changing yourself in your ability to get a desired message across to your audience ‘w/out havin 2 cut corners w/ur wrds’. It will give more opportunity to use your creative flair, one would hope.”

Robert Anderson, executive director, content marketing and digital strategy, Good Relations

“The changes really help make Twitter easier and more accessible for more people and more brands. The flipside is it’s easier for brands to spam users, upload more “push” content or shamelessly retweet themselves. It’s called social media, not anti-social media, and the PR nightmare begins when brands broadcast the wrong type of content in the wrong way.”

Paul Melhuish, digital strategist, Instinctif Partners

“Most are probably breathing a sigh of relief that Twitter is trying to loosen up and adapt. Naturally, some die-hards will be-moan the death of ‘.@’ and of any new changes. We’ll have to wait and see if the new proposals makes it more or less confusing for users (and brands) to have a conversation (and let’s face it, an argument). Whatever happens, good PRs have always been able to be creative and use the platform to share their message, that’s not going to change.”

Nina Sawetz, head of editorial, Bottle

“It’s been in the rumour mill for a while, but it’s finally arriving. Whether it will be a good or bad thing is yet be seen! Personally, I’m in the ‘good’ camp. There’s been countless times when I’ve tried to Tweet from a brand channel, and had to make a choice between image or text. The option of using both will undoubtedly help, but PRs will need to be careful not to overdo it. Tweeting too many lengthy posts could turn some people off.”

Danny Whatmough, head of social EMEA, Weber Shandwick

“This announcement merely increases the potential for brands to use Twitter in new, creative ways. Clearly there is a readjustment that is required when putting content together but potentially a bigger impact will be for community management and brand reputation. ‘@replies’ will now potentially be more visible and complaining, angry customers will have an opportunity to gain more attention.”


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