News of Twitter’s character count changes have been greatly exaggerated. For the past several months, reports of imminent Twitter updates have circulated, including rumors of increasing the character count from 140 characters to 10,000; changes only to the way Twitter counts links and images; and/or no changes at all to character counts for the foreseeable future.

On May 24, Twitter put an end to those rumors, confirming that it would be making changes to give users more flexibility in their tweets. The character limit will remain 140, but the way Twitter counts those 140 characters will change.

The Revamped Rules
The four updates Twitter announced will allow users more freedom to express themselves in tweets.

  1. Replies When replying to a tweet, @usernames will no longer count toward the 140-character limit. This will make having conversations easier and more straightforward, since @usernames will not “eat up” valuable message space.
  2. Media — Tweet attachments (e.g., GIFs, videos, polls and Quote Tweets) will also no longer count against the character limit. This will allow for more visually engaging content without sacrificing space for calls-to-action (CTAs).
  3. Retweets and Quote Tweets — Users can now retweet their own tweets, so they can easily retweet or Quote Tweet themselves when they want to resurface an old tweet.
  4. No More .@ — For years, users wanting to start a tweet to their followers with an @username had to use a period at the beginning to signify that it was a tweet for everyone and not a reply. Without the “.@” convention, only users following both accounts would see the tweet. Twitter will now simplify this process, showing new tweets that begin with an @username to all of a user’s followers.

What It Means for Pharma
These updates open up more opportunities, increase flexibility and reduce complexity for pharma communicators using Twitter. Brands can now craft 140-character tweets with a link to a registration page or product promotion without worrying that they will have to choose between an engaging CTA and an image. Furthermore, marketers have more characters at their disposal to respond to user questions or engage with influencers.

These changes also reduce tweet complexity for content creators. Historically, users have had 116 characters for tweets that include a Quote Tweet, GIF or photo; 139 characters for a tweet starting with an @username; and a variable amount of characters for replies. These updates mean all tweets will now be 140 characters, making it easier for content creators to develop content.

It’s important to note that links to third-party sites will continue to count as part of the 140-character limit, accounting for up to 23 characters.

Twitter says these changes will be rolling out “in the coming months,” and while these updates won’t allow marketers to post full important safety information in branded tweets as many pharma brands had hoped, they do continue to give marketers and users more flexibility, which is always welcome.