Twitter has announced that you can now have a longer display name – up to 50 characters long, more than double the previous 20 character limit.
Starting today, your Twitter display name can be up to 50 characters in length! Go ahead, add that middle name or even a few more emojis. https://t.co/QBxx9Hnn1j— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 10, 2017
So, cool, right? Now you can get more creative with your display name – which, it’s important to note, is not your @username. Your display name is your actual name, or business name, which appears at the top of your tweets.
So why has Twitter done this? It’s kind of hard to say.
Last month, as part of Twitter’s response to concerns about their enforcement of Terms of Service violations, the platform released a listing of planned safety work, which included, among other things, a note about new regulations to stop ‘hateful display names’.
At the time, the focus of this seemed to be at least partially aimed at those who change their display names on embedded or quoted tweets - like this one which responded to a quote tweet from Sean Spicer.
It now seems that Twitter had something else in mind, as the expansion of the display name character limit will only provide more opportunities on this front.
Is that a good thing? Probably not. And it also begs the question, who was asking for this change?
Maybe people with longer names have always felt jilted by Twitter’s character limitations, maybe there have been cases where people really, really needed more characters. It’s impossible to say, because Twitter hasn’t provided any explanation as to why display names are now longer. They just are.
Thus far, most of the examples appear to be poking fun, rather than actually utilizing the option in any kind of effective way.
As with longer tweets, no doubt Twitter will say that this is just the initial novelty factor, that people will soon get over the change and go back to using the extra characters as intended.
Okay. And that intended use would be what, exactly?
In terms of brand usage, there could be some value in the option – if you can get over how it might look on your profile.
It’s long been speculated that including relevant hashtags in your Twitter bio can increase your chances of showing up in relevant searches. How true that is has been both 'proven' and 'disproven' by different studies, and as Twitter’s algorithm evolves to include more contextual information, you’d expect that it wouldn’t necessarily provide much of a boost.
But maybe, including hashtags within your display name might help. Maybe?
Maybe you can get more creative with your the of emoji in your display name, as Twitter suggests, or maybe there are ways you can create more attention-grabbing headlines with your display name to help your profile stand out in searches – you could refer to real-time news events, for example, when looking to tap into trends.
You could already do this to some degree, but with more than double the character space, there’s more capacity to experiment and see what might work.
You can't straight up dismiss any update or change without data, and Twitter may have internal insights which support the decision to increase the display name character count. But it does seem like an odd option – an addition no one was asking for which seemingly adds little to the user experience.
But there may some underlying usage trend, some shift we’re not aware of that Twitter’s catering to. The data will tell the tale – and till it does, there’s a new, creative option to experiment with.