Why Twitter Needs 280 Characters

Twitter released 280 characters last week. All the Internet took to Twitter to talk about Twitter. Pretty funny that there’s more room for rants now.

But with such a massive change (it’s really very tiny in the real world), people felt uncertain, off-balanced, confused that Twitter — one of the original social networks — decided to change a core tenant of their value proposition: 140 characters.

When I started on Twitter it was fun. A quick spot to see what people were thinking, sharing, little notes and thoughts in a quick fashion. Making it fit to 140 characters evolved a new language of abbv. with the OMG FOMOs that you would quickly lose if you weren’t jumping in to the tweet stream regularly to keep up.

Still today, no other platform is as valuable or efficient for real-time event coverage or fluid distribution of a single thought. But where Twitter broke down was the very thing that made it unique: the brevity. People wanted to share YouTube videos, articles. Brands wanted to sell things with URLs. People wanted to push off the platform.

Like every other social network that becomes universal, Twitter had become a content publishing platform. And where the audience engages, the brands follow. But Twitter wasn’t built to push off platform. No true social network is built to push off platform — or you lose the engagement. And while this was the thinking at the time, everyone has struggled with the native engagement vs the push away effort from the network.

Twitter started to languish. The buzz about Twitter dying was/is strong. So they have been looking for ways to grow again or even just stabilize. But why? Because Twitter became a giant stream of trash. Thoughtless, small, and low relevance without strong tools to filter the noise. But besides that issue, the real reason is that Twitter has never done anything to encourage dedicated and thoughtful content creation in the platform.

Rants, novels, diatribes, mini-blogs are posted every day on Instagram and Facebook. The composition of a YouTube video, of Instagram posts are complex and involved now. But Twitter simply became throw-away bullshit that everyone got tired of reading. I really had no reason to visit anymore and neither did anyone else.

If your business is dying (losing users and engagement), how do you pivot without losing your audience and to grow engagement? One idea is to change a core tenant around platform content creation by expanding tweets to 280 characters.

Twitter needs 280 characters to attempt to regain the reason why I came and many people came in the first place: native platform engagement. Actually I think the character limit should be unlimited. Bring engagement back by encouraging content creation in the platform. But even with 280 characters, the users are encouraged to breathe and expand their thoughts directly in the platform … and reduce pushing off platform.

Twitter needs engagement. It needs to drive time spent in the platform and with 280 characters, it could effectively double the user time in reading posts and distance between thumb-swipes. By expanding to 280, Twitter has the opportunity to regain native platform consumption through the enablement of content creation directly in the platform. If people take to the change and give it a chance, tweets are still short enough to keep comments punchy, keep the platform fluid and dynamic, while driving more engagement. It’s a small step, but an encouraging step, as Twitter looks to stem their losses and bring back the magic that made this one of the most dynamic and interesting global social media channels.


Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter at @tuckross