Monday 7 May 2018

STUDY: Will The New Twitter Character-Limit Affect Your Digital Marketing Efforts?

When it comes to marketing your products online, social media is a key player in generating awareness of your brand and connecting you with your target audience. Different social channels are geared towards different demographics, which allows you to focus in on your target audience. Social platforms work in various ways, and their different functions allow you to express your brand's message in different ways.

Facebook has always been the place for long, compelling posts about what your business does and how you do it. LinkedIn is where professionals can network in a more formal online setting. Instagram is the visual channel, where you sell your products through engaging images. Twitter is the platform where busy users scan concise posts for important information.

Over the years, marketers have grown accustomed to the way that each of these social channels works, creating strategic posts that get the most out of the network in question. That was until Twitter decided to change its character-limit from 140 to 280.

This got us thinking whether we should be doing things differently for our clients as a result of this, and whether businesses should change the way that they communicate with their audiences on this platform. So, we got in touch with our friends at Manchester Metropolitan University and arranged to carry out a study about how users engage with different tweet-lengths.

Our hypothesis

Our initial thoughts were that having the ability to write twice as much in a Twitter post would be valuable to us marketers, because this gives us the opportunity to cram in plenty of information about our brands and what we do. But, Twitter users are used to the short and snappy bursts of information.

There are two elements to our hypothesis that we had to prove:

  • Twitter users don't consume 280-character tweets in equal measure to 140-character tweets.

  • Tweets with media will receive greater attention, regardless of character-length.

The experiment

We headed down to the MMU usability lab and used its eye-tracking software to monitor how a group of Twitter users reacted to tweets of different lengths.


We decided to make this research qualitative, and asked our 10 volunteers for their Twitter handles. This allowed us to create test accounts that would feature accounts that were similar to the ones they followed on their own personal accounts. We then hooked the volunteers up to eye-tracking software and instructed them to browse their Twitter feeds as they normally would. We split users into mobile and desktop in order to establish any differences that may occur between devices.

Our findings

On average, users engaged more with tweets that were longer than 140 characters across mobile and desktop.

  • Users who read less than 140 characters focused on each tweet for an average of 1.7 seconds.

  • Users who read more than 140 characters focused on each tweet for an average of 2.2 seconds.

These findings prove that users don't skim over longer tweets; in fact, they take the time to read them. Although half a second doesn't seem like a big difference, it is in terms of social media engagement.

What does this mean for you?

Our findings demonstrate that marketers should take advantage of the longer character-count on Twitter, because users take the time to read longer tweets whether they contain images or not. If you feel that you need to utilise the full 280 characters to express your brand's message, then by all means do.

About The Author: Danny Sefton is a Content Marketing Executive at theEword, a digital marketing agency based in the heart of Manchester.

Did you find this study helpful? What do you think of the increase in character-limit on Twitter? Please let Danny and myself know by leaving us your valued comments below.

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Related resources:
Twitter Study Infographic

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  1. Stephen Burns8 May 2018 at 17:02

    I find longer tweets work best. I seem to get better engagement.

  2. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info.


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