What was once a rumor that Twitter would update its 140 character count guidelines is now official in the social media sphere:

Twitter announcement May 24, 2016

Twitter announced Tuesday morning that within the next few months, usernames, quoted tweets, photos, and other media attachments will no longer count against the tweet’s 140-character limit.

Twitter co-founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey told the BBC that “It doesn’t make sense to anyone. People have had to work around it. That just looks ugly, and it’s confusing.”

This big, new Twitter update will surely change the way people use Twitter personally and how social media marketers use Twitter for business.

Now that it’s imminent, let’s jump into what the newest Twitter update will mean moving forward and how marketers can maximize those 140 characters for your business or brand.

We’ve come a long way over the past 10 years! What began as a simple 140-character text message has evolved into a medium that allows people and businesses to express themselves with everything from photos and videos to polls to animated GIFs.

So what exactly will be featured in this newest Twitter update?

Media Attachments in Tweets

How many times have you written what feels like the perfect Twitter update and the second you add the obligatory animated gif of a puppy doing adorable puppy things, the character count falls to -1? If you’re anything like me, it happens nearly every single time.


Twitter’s recent announcement details that when your tweet includes attachments like photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets, that media will no longer count as characters within your tweet!

Every single character in a tweet is super important, especially when you only have 140 characters to work with. Being able to add highly engaging media attachments in tweets without having to sacrifice any characters at all means that we’ll soon be able to use the full 140 characters to craft the best updates that we possibly can, with more context than ever – this feels like a massive win for social media marketers everywhere!

@Replies on Twitter

When replying to a tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count. For now, we want to emphasize the word ‘replying’ here since we know that those will definitely be free characters. However, when it comes to the initial @name tweet, there are some conflicting reports on how Twitter will be counting those characters – most seem to believe that those will indeed count against your allotted 140 characters.

For marketers, this will make having conversations on Twitter so much easier, especially when replying to several people at once.

It’s not uncommon for a Twitter conversation to pick up so many usernames that it makes having an actual conversation nearly impossible (Hello, Twitter canoe!). This change in @replies will allow marketers to continue that conversation without sacrificing the quality of the tweet due to a rapidly shrinking character count.


Goodbye to [email protected]

Twitter is aiming to simplify the rules around tweets that start with a username. Currently, if you want to broadcast a tweet to all of your followers that starts with a @username, beginning the message with a period is the common practice. Without the initial period, only people who follow both you and the person you’re tweeting at will be able to see the message in their feed.

With this change, all new Tweets that begin with a username will now reach all of your followers. This means that you’ll be able to drop that first period at the start of the tweet and have it reach all of your followers, despite it being directed at a single user. Bonus tip: you can use that extra character to add a happy face emoji to your tweet ?

Retweet and Quote Tweet Yourself

If having your reply being transparently visible to all of your followers isn’t quite enough emphasis, you can now double-down by retweeting yourself. This will push that tweet back out for all of your followers to see (again!).

This update to Twitter adds some powerful new tools for smart marketers as well. Retweeting key business or brand messages will now be easier than ever and with Quote Tweets, you’ll be able to repush an older message and add some new context to the tweet. If a really great tweet goes largely unnoticed, perhaps from the timing of the tweet, using these new features will allow you to give that update a second, or even third chance!


Over to you

Twitter says that these updates will be available to all users over the coming months and they further explain why they’ve made the announcement but haven’t quite flipped the switch yet:

The updates have a significant impact on Tweets, so we want to provide our developer partners with time to make any needed updates to the hundreds of thousands of products built using Twitter’s API.

They’ve also announced that in addition to all of the exciting changes that we’ve covered here, there are even more changes in the works!

I’d love to leave things with a quote from a recent blog post of ours on How We React When Our Favorite Social Networks Shift:

Our favorite, apps, social networks and products are all going to change. Change is necessary for survival and innovation. Sometimes the change will sit well with us, overtimes it may not. But, as marketers, the key learning here is that we need to adapt to these changes if we want to continue to maximize the potential of social networks.


How are these upcoming changes to Twitter going to affect your content strategy? Do you think these are positive changes for the platform, or would you prefer things to stay as-is? If you could make any other changes to Twitter, what would you do?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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Written by Brian Peters

Humbled and grateful to be living the social media life at Buffer! California coast born and raised, but always on the go with my lovely wife Katelyn. Love reading, designing, writing, running and adventuring.

  • How will this affect tweets with “RT @xyzxyz”? When designing tweets, I’ve had to leave enough character count for someone to retweet via the standard method. BTW – Within Tweetcaster for iPhone, when “Add to Buffer” is chosen, it adds the dreaded “RT @xyzxyz” gobbling up character count.

    • Brian

      Great question, Gretchen! From what we can tell the rules around RT @xyzxyz will remain the same 🙂 Allowing you to plan accordingly with your tweets. The bonus is now you’ll have a little more room to work with!

      P.S. thanks for the heads up on Tweetcaster – We’ll check it out!

  • I’m curious how this will affect support Twitter accounts like Buffer and others. I mean, when you’re reply to some tweet, all your followers – in many cases hundreds of thousands of them – will see the reply. That will hurt marketing efforts, right? You want to share lets say 3 tweets per day and by this you’ll share hundreds of them. Will this be a final switch to DMs? Or will be replies different and won’t shared with all the followers?

    • Oh, I’ve found what I needed, phew 🙂

      Twitter will now automatically show those stage whisper tweets to all your followers — so long as it’s not tweeted in reply to something else. Those actual replies will remain limited in reach, in the same way they are now. But Twitter has a way to make sure you can force all your followers to see your witty comeback, should you wish to do that.


      • Brian

        Nice find, Petr! Really great piece from The Washington Post there! You made a great point in saying that a change like that would have highly affected marketing efforts from companies on Twitter – especially those looking to connect one-on-one with audience members!

        Phewww! 🙂

  • vivalapa

    Call me old fashioned – and a lot will – but if I wanted to write an essay, I’d use LI or FB. Twitter is (was) about short, sweet and pithy and 140 characters concentrates the mind. I seem to remember when the accepted wisdom was that a tweet of about 100 characters was just about right.
    Yes, Twitter has to evolve and indeed it has since I first started using it in 2011 almost beyond recognition. But it’s going to be even more TMI to take in. So, I’m busy pruning my lists and unfollowing casual follows, because I think this new evolution will make it difficult to see my target interests and people I want to interact with.

  • Personally, I am very excited to have images and @names not be included in 140 character count. I would say that 95 of my tweets are over and then it all about pruning the tweet to be shorter. This update will give those extra 30 characters to complete an idea, full sentence, and additional tags. Great job Twitter and great post Brian! 🙂

    • Brian

      Awesome thoughts there, Steve! I quite often find myself only a few characters short and will certainly love this new feature from Twitter 🙂 We really appreciate your continual support of our posts and comments!

  • Such a great compromise!

    • Brian

      Agreed! Love that, Stuart 🙂 Think Twitter did a really great job here of finding the happy medium.

      Thank you for the read and comment!

  • Francis Evans

    This is a backward step I think: “all new Tweets that begin with a username will now reach all of your followers.” Using a period (or full stop, as we say in Britain) to decide this was simple and elegant. This change removes a degree of control from the user, it will just lead to more ‘noise’ on people’s feeds. Everything else gets a big thumbs up!

    • Brian

      Loving your insights here, Francis! I totally agree with you that the unintended consequence of that move from Twitter is that there will be a lot more noise on the feed (and scrolling!) Really curious to see how that one plays out 🙂

      Thanks so much for your comment!

    • Yes, there will be more noise from bots and also better spam filtering options as promised by Twitter, so it might be fine in the end.

  • Joseph Miller

    Great article, Brian. I was hoping to find a Buffer article explaining the process of embedding links into a tweet without adding the URL. In the image of Marcus Synder’s tweet you used above, he tweets out a link to an article with an image and a brief description; how is this possible? Is it an extension, code of some sort, or a third party program? Any insight would help. I’ve been searching for this answer for a month!

  • About time!

  • Dan Gimeno

    update the android twitter app design first folks — where’s the material design???

  • Adam Paciorek

    Thank you for this article Brian, very insightful! I think am joining the “not sure” crowd about “all new Tweets that begin with a username will now reach all of your followers” – this is how you could actually connect with your followers, join conversations and be social (see how @GaryVee managed to connect with his audience). But we will see how it works out. All other changes look amazing an useful and will definitely make Twitter even more awesome :). Looking forward to see how Buffer will respond to those updates 😀

  • Brian, these are extremely positive changes! These are the kinds of changes that make Twitter fresh again, and could cause users to spend more time on the platform.

  • evelyn

    That sounds great. With these new progress in Twitter, sure they are going to give a additional support to the posts and comments as they tend to bring a major in character count.
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