The rumours are true – KFC really is following 6 guys named Herb and all 5 Spice Girls on Twitter. Yep, the colonel follows 11 herbs and spices, the same as his secret mix of ingredients, and no one else. Genius.

Hang on – that is true, but that’s not the right rumour. What we really want to talk about is how Twitter is now giving its users the freedom of 280 characters. That’s double the previous 140-character limit, and exactly the same amount of characters as this paragraph. #Content

But that paragraph seems a bit long to be a tweet doesn’t it? The micro-blogging platform has just got a little less micro, with the company claiming this switch will make it easier for people and brands to express themselves.

There has of course been outcry, with social media purists bemoaning the loss of what makes the platform different from its competitors; brevity. However, there are a few ways the change could prove to benefit brands and social media managers all over.

Less time editing

Now anyone who has used Twitter for pleasure will have spent a considerable amount of time agonising over how to fit their idea for a great tweet into a coherent 140-character sentence, without losing crucial bits of context, wit and grammar.

Move over to a business account and throw in tagging other accounts, branded hashtags, adding links etc. and you’ve got yourself hours of edit-based frustration. Reassuringly, Twitter has been testing out the 280 limit since September, and has reported that users in the test groups spent less time crafting and composing on the platform, and could ‘send Tweets faster than before’.

More clarity

Part of the problem with all that afore-mentioned editing was that clarity would sometimes be sacrificed to satisfy Twitter’s character limit, therefore dissatisfying confused readers.

This issue has been particularly problematic in customer service circles. Now brands have more room, there’s no reason why they can’t start giving more detailed responses to customer plights, without the need for cryptic acronyms.

It’s a benefit many tweeters have already labelled NNFCA (no need for cryptic acronyms).

More engagement (apparently)

Perhaps best of all for brands, Twitter claims that those in the test group ‘received more engagement (Likes, Retweets, @mentions), got more followers, and spent more time on Twitter.’

It makes sense that having a little more room to tease your new video campaign, a little more room to sell your new product’s benefits and a little more room to entice a click-through to your blog should be a good thing for your engagement rate.

If that space is used well of course.

Don’t feel obliged to use the full 280

It’s important to note that none of those benefits imply that you should actually use the full 280 characters. No-one wants their timeline filled with 280 character tweets from their friends, let alone from brands. Unless it’s completely justifiable, don’t do it.

Thankfully, Twitter reported that of tweets sent by those in the test group, only about 1% hit the 280-character limit, compared to 9% hitting the previous 140 barrier. Only 5% of the group’s tweets were longer than 140 characters.

So the message is: brevity is still key.

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