Todd Defren, Principal, Shift Communications
A social media and PR innovator, he blogs at the award-winning PR-Squared.
It's a valid question for Twitter executives to be pondering, as they watch Google+ offer the speed of the Blue Birdy with the limitless character count and easy-sharing functions of Facebook. Meanwhile, I know I am not alone in admitting that I've lost count of the number of times I've cussed aloud, hampered by that bright, unyielding 140- character limit in Twitter.
While one of Twitter's glories is its "skimmable" brevity, and while that character limit is part of its brand now, it is also true that the limit often feels unfairly applied.
For example, if you want to have a "conversation" with one to three or more people on Twitter, the necessity of adding their handles to the message means your 140 characters are often reduced to near-nothingness. You lose the gist of the thread pretty quickly and heaven forbid anyone else join the fray. Add a bit.ly link and that's another 20 characters gone.
We should not feel the need to create a hashtag just to have a simple conversation across a handful of people.
However, doubling the limit would be a bit too much. That seems like it would lead to an over-ripe experience. One of the things we love about Twitter is its enforced brevity. It forces every gasbag to measure his words carefully. There is value in that discipline.
What I think most folks would appreciate is a means to add user handles and/or URLs in such a way that they are not penalized in terms of character count. Let the content of my tweet be 140 characters, but do not let the "@John, @Mary, @Sue," and the 20-character bit.ly link count against that 140 limit. Find a way to exempt user handles and links from being a "countable" portion of the tweet.
We should all give ourselves credit for our loyalty to Twitter - despite the 140-character limit, despite the Fail Whales - but at some point, succumbing to the laws of evolution (competitive pressures) does make sense. So give me "140 characters-plus."
Holly Pavlika, MD, Big Fuel
Founded Fox Pavlika and Margeotes Pavlika Direct prior to joining her current agency
As the social media space keeps developing new tools and platforms, people are distinguishing how different tools serve different functions. Facebook is for connecting to people we know, sharing photos, and having conversations. LinkedIn is for business connections, sharing intellectual dialogue, and finding resources. Twitter is for meeting new people and sharing what's happening in our lives, our own backyard, and the world at large.
We're already spending an obscene amount of time in social spaces. We all lead busy lives and 140 characters or less caters to the on-the-go person. With a glance, we can see what the world is talking about - viewing trends, catching breaking news, and following interesting conversations.
We aren't on Twitter for long- winded chatter. Fitting the conversation into 140 characters is the challenge of it. Hashtags are fun to create. Tweets can be funny, poignant, insightful, or all of the above. We live in a world where digestible sound bites offer just enough to keep us connected and informed.
At 140 characters, I've made valuable business contacts, informed marketing strategies, and connected to thousands of influencers around the globe. Twitter forces you to be succinct and to the point. This allows for a steady flow of information and conversation.
And there are already a bevy of tools for people who want longer Twitter conversations. If you watch the stream, very rarely do you see users using twitlonger, Twizzle (iPhone/iPod Touch), Twitepad (iPad), or Touiteur (Android). Tweets aren't supposed to be emails.
Twitter is like speed dating online. Hashtags allow us to find topics we care about. And it's amazing what you can learn in 140 characters. Who needs more? It's the rush of conversation. Longer tweets would slow it down and make it boring.
So, should Twitter increase it character count? My answer is a resounding "No." Here's my final word on the matter in 140 characters or less: "Longer tweets would kill Twitter. Twitter fits its audience's desire to keep it short and to the point. #justsaynotolongertweets."
The 140-character limit forces users to be brief and direct, something all communicators should appreciate. There are enough other options for longer dialogue, so it's hard to suggest Twitter lose the quality that helps define its brand.