Twitter Releases Data on Usage Trends Since the Change to 280 Characters
When Twitter first announced that it was considering switching from 140 characters per tweet to 280 characters instead, users immediately expressed a mixture of outrage and confusion. The Twitter that they'd come to know and love was all about short, to-the-point messaging, and the character limit was a fundamental part of this. The fact that Twitter would even consider this change (or indeed, any change) was viewed as sacrilegious, an affront to their day-to-day existence.
Regardless, Twitter pushed ahead anyway, and this week, almost a year after the switch, the platform has released some 'I told you so' data which underlines the added value of those extra 140 characters per tweet.
First off, Twitter has reported as assuring usage trend - since doubling the tweet length, only around 1% of tweets are ever hitting the 280-character limit.
Twitter previously reported that around 9% of tweets were reaching the 140 character capacity mark, which is a big part of what triggered the change. In testing of 280, less than 1% of tweets were making the expanded limit, and that same trend now playing out in application.
Also interesting - even with the additional space, only 12% of tweets are actually ever exceeding the original 140 character limit.
This was another trend that Twitter highlighted trend based on its initial testing - while people did have more room to move, their test data showed that few people chose to use it to full extent. This has meant that Twitter timelines haven't been changed into massive walls of text as a result - in fact, there's not been a significant change at all in how tweets are presented on screen.
And those trends are universal too - across all languages, only 6% of all tweets are now longer than 140 characters, and 3% are longer than 190 characters.
It's almost a perfect reflection of their initial test findings - again, Twitter had flagged these trends based on its initial research, which suggested that users simply appreciated having increased capacity for their messages if they chose to use it. It hasn't transformed the platform or shifted it away from its roots.
It may even have helped to make Twitter a better, more friendly place. Twitter also notes that messages which include the word "please" have increased by 54% since the change, and 22% more tweets now include the words "thank you". Of course, there are still concerns about trolling and abuse - which Twitter has also been working to address - but you can't underestimate the value of manners in social interactions. This simple change may have had a huge impact on overall tweet interaction.
Twitter could also be reversing the trend it started in regards to abbreviations - since the advent of 280 character tweets, Twitter says that there's been a decline in the use of abbreviations.
Those include "gr8" (-36%), "b4" (-13%), and "sry" (-5%) in favor of the full words — "great" (+32%), "before" (+70%), and "sorry" (+31%).
Also, 30% more tweets now include a question mark, and there are more replies to tweets. This shows that the added opportunity to create full sentences could be leading to more civil, common interactions, which has helped Twitter in a range of ways.
So expanding the tweet limit hasn't lead to a wholesale change in the platform - in fact, Twitter also notes that the most common tweet length is now 33 characters, down from 34 characters when 140 was in place. The added tweet capacity has, at least based on these stats, been largely positive, providing new ways for users to connect and interact in a more civil, engaging way.
Does that mean people will be less freaked out next time a social platform announces a major move? No - any major proposal will still trigger a level of panic (case in point: Twitter reportedly looking at removing Likes). But it does show that there is value in the platforms taking risks like this, that regardless of user opinion, if the data suggests a move of potential value, it should be investigated.
There might be a backlash, but those responses tend to calm down - and if there's a strong case for it, like expanded tweets, that could help improve the platform.
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