Why this matters: Twitter gives more room to photos and video

Jeremy S. ThompsonJune 28, 2016

Jeremy S. Thompson | June 28, 2016

Why this matters: Twitter gives more room to photos and video

Last month, Twitter announced it will soon be excluding photos, GIFs, videos and polls from its character count. That’s right. The next time you want to tweet a photo, you don’t have to use up 24 of your 140 precious characters in the process.

In other words, Twitter is expanding what fits into a tweet and — this is the important part — giving us more room for storytelling.

The Background

Here’s a little history to put Twitter’s move into context: The platform’s 140-character count is a product of its beginnings in 2006, when wireless companies forced consumers to break their text messages into 160-character messages. Twitter’s founders decided that 140 characters would be enough to tweet.

In the past decade, things have changed. The digital world got bigger, faster and smarter. As more users jumped onto social media, they demanded the ability to post more content. Instead of just telling a story with words and phrases, users were sending photos, videos, polls and GIFs. By counting that non-text content against the character limit, Twitter set up some pretty big limitations for itself and its users. While other platforms had no boundaries on how photos are shared, users posting interactive content on Twitter have been forced to choose between telling a story and showing a story.

Users have been flocking to those other, less restrictive platforms where they don’t have to make a choice. As a result, Twitter’s growth has stagnated of late, and others, like Snapchat and Instagram, have caught up, even surpassing Twitter in daily users.

Why? Snapchat, home to what they call “Vertical Video” and interactive content, is simply easier to use.

So now, Twitter is changing with the times. No longer will we be forced to abbreviate text to fit in images.

Why This Matters

At Subject Matter, we’ve consistently seen that interactive media (those videos, tweets, GIFs and polls) increase engagement with social posts by at least 35%. With more space for multimedia, users will see more colorful Twitter feeds — feeds that offer our clients and the users more opportunities to showcase content and interact with it, not just describe it with words.

Take this tweet for example:


At 138 characters (including the link), there’s no room for an image under the current character rule.

Now look at the same tweet with the image, which we’ll be able to post when the new rule goes into effect:



The difference between the two tweets may seem small, but imagine your Twitter feed full of images and videos. Interactive content allows people to make an emotional connection to the story you want to tell. Images can give people a glimpse into a world they’ve never seen before. Videos can drive people to create change in their communities or help them step into someone else’s life. A short burst of text has a hard time doing those things on its own, and Twitter finally seems to recognize that.

On a real-time platform like Twitter, you only have a few seconds to capture the attention of wandering eyes, so I say: Use that time wisely. If you can make your point with 90 characters, don’t use 91. Continue to rely on images, videos and other multimedia to capture users’ attention, imagination and loyalty as they scroll through their feeds.

If you’d like updates on how we’re using Twitter and other social platforms to build communications strategy, make sure you subscribe to The Subject.

Jeremy S. Thompson Jeremy specializes in helping clients develop and manage digital presences. As a member of the content team, Jeremy helps clients reach their key audiences with the right messaging on the right platform, every time. Specializing in what he calls “huggable content,” Jeremy's extensive digital media and communications experience includes acting as the Life Time Athletic Fairfax's Social Media Manager, time in the education space and manager of health and fitness clients on a plethora of social media platforms. Jeremy's clients include the Association of American Railroads and The U.S. Soccer Foundation. Jeremy leads content development on Subject Matter's social media platforms and is currently working towards a Masters in Strategic Communication at American University.