Media & Entertainment

Twitter’s doubling of character count from 140 to 280 had little impact on length of tweets

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Twitter’s decision to double its character count from 140 to 280 characters last year hasn’t dramatically changed the length of Twitter posts. According to new data released by the company this morning, Twitter is still a place for briefer thoughts, with only 1% of tweets hitting the 280-character limit, and only 12% of tweets longer than 140 characters.

Brevity, it seems, is baked into Twitter – even when given expanded space, people aren’t using it.

Only 5% of tweets are longer than 190 characters, indicating that Twitter users have been for so long trained to keep their tweets short, they haven’t adapted to take advantage of the extra room to write.

Meanwhile, most tweets continue to be very short, Twitter says.

The most common length of a tweet back when Twitter only allowed 140 characters was 34 characters. Now that the limit is 280 characters, the most common length of a tweet is 33 characters. Historically, only 9% of tweets hit Twitter’s 140-character limit, now it’s 1%.

That said, Twitter did see some impact from the doubling of character count in terms of how people write.

It found that abbreviations are used much less than before. Instead of writing in “text speak” like “u r,” “u8,” “b4” and others, people are now using proper words. For example, the use of abbreviations like “gr8” is down by 36%, use of “b4″ is down by 13%,” and “sry” has dropped 5%. Other words have increased as result, including “great” (+32%), “before” (+70%) and “sorry” (+31%).

Twitter also points out that the use of “please” and “thank you” have increased over the year since the character count change, by 54% and 22%, respectively. But don’t take those metrics to mean that Twitter’s community itself has a kinder, gentler tone. Sentiment expressed on the network can’t be tracked by use of polite words alone – especially when they’re a part of less than polite conversations, or used sarcastically, for example. You’d need real sentiment analysis for that.

Perhaps unrelated to character count increases, Twitter found that the number of tweets with a question mark have increased by 30%, and overall, tweets are receiving more replies.

To be clear, the data is for English use of Twitter, but the company says the findings are consistent across the seven languages analyzed.

One thing Twitter didn’t measure was the use of threading, which seems to be the more popular way today of expressing longer thoughts. Threads, which are connected series of tweets telling a longer story, seem to be more popular than ever before. They also appear to take advantage of the extra characters, in many cases. These longform tweets often even announce themselves, by tweeting “THREAD” at their start.

But Twitter didn’t analyze the use of threads, or character counts within them, so it’s unclear to what extent they’ve changed following the increase to 280. (We’ve asked if they have access to this data, and will update if they can provide it.)

As a proxy, however, tools that help Twitter users read threads have seen a boost in usage in recent months. For example, Thread Reader App in August tweeted a chart showing its website’s global ranking climbing.

 

 

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