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Twitter was my first social media love. I resisted Facebook and thrived on Twitter. It forced me to be concise, to find a way to be witty in 140 characters. It made me more disciplined.
But gradually I came to like Facebook better. Twitter seemed too constraining. I didn’t need Twitter to give me unlimited characters, but 140 seemed like just a bit too small to really express a thought, especially if I wanted to add a picture or a link.
Well, Twitter must have gotten my psychic hints (or maybe they’re reacting to their declining growth). They announced some changes recently that won’t change Twitter dramatically, but will make it just a little easier to be creative, enhancing tweets with media without losing too many characters.
It will, however, make things a bit more confusing regarding replies. If you’re just a casual user, don’t worry about it. But if you work in social media, you’ll want to understand it. Read on.
Ever since they made their announcement a few days ago people have been writing things like “URLs and Twitter handles will no longer count towards the 140 character limit!” Well, that’s just not true. It’s a bit more complicated than that. Some of that stuff will still count, some won’t.
Calm down. The new stuff is coming, but not for a few months. There are a lot of apps and websites that use the Twitter API, like Hootsuite, IFTTT, and whichever Twitter app you use on your phone that isn’t Twitter. Those companies need time to rewrite their code, or whatever it is they do. Twitter is giving them a few months to get it done.
So we don’t know exactly when they’re coming, but here are the changes.
Your Own Tweets
Can’t get enough of yourself? You’ll be able to retweet your own tweets, and quote them. Up until now the retweet and quote tweet options weren’t available on your own tweets, but they will be. Because sometimes you just have to say something twice.
If you actually reply to a tweet (as opposed to just starting a tweet with someone’s handle that you typed in), those characters will no longer count towards the 140-character limit. Understand, I’m talking about the handle (or handles) that autopopulate when you click “reply.” Any handles that you add yourself will count, no matter where in the tweet they appear.
Another change to replies will be who sees them. It used to be that if you started a tweet with someone’s handle, like
@amyoztan love your website! When it comes to blogging, you’re a viking!
it wouldn’t show to everyone who followed you, the writer. It would only show to people who followed the tweet’s writer and the handle the tweet was written to. You had to add some extraneous punctuation before the Twitter handle, or rewrite the sentence so that the handle wasn’t first, in order for all of your followers to see your tweet.
Under the new rules, if you start a tweet with the “@” symbol, everyone who follows you the writer will see the tweet.
However—and this has caused some confusion—if you reply to someone, that tweet will still only be seen by the people who follow the writer and the receiver. Got that? Sheesh, it’s still confusing, I know.
Think of it this way: when you actually click “reply” that tweet will only be seen by mutual followers (and the Twitter handle won’t count towards the 140 characters). But if you simply write a tweet that starts with a Twitter handle, everyone who follows you can see it in their feed (but the characters will count against your 140-character limit).
Want everyone to see your reply? Twitter is suggesting that you retweet it yourself, since that would be seen by everyone who follows you, apparently. OK.
URLs take up a lot of space in tweets. I think the shortest you can get them to is 24 characters. Under the new rules, any URLs that are added by attaching media—images, videos, GIFs, polls, quoting a tweet, and Direct Message call-to-action links (which you probably don’t need to worry about unless you’re a business)—won’t count towards the 140 characters.
Regular old URLs that you paste in though? Those will still count. Sorry.
As far as I can tell from Twitter itself, that’s it. There’s other information out there, but I’m just focusing on what Twitter has chosen to tell us.