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Twitter Update: Annotating Posts is Going to Get a Lot Better

Twitter Update: Annotating Posts is Going to Get a Lot Better

Twitter recently announced major changes in the way the 140-character limit will be counted in the near future, allowing for longer Tweets. These changes bring significant advantages to users and social media marketers in particular. Among the changes are the ways Mentions, Retweets and media attachments are being handled; which will open the way to more expressive annotations and better content sharing.

Since the introduction of the Tweet, this simple text based message has evolved into a rich communication method including hashtags, mentions, photos, videos, polls and more. Despite all these additions, one property of the Tweet has remained constant over the years: the 140-character limit. The limit is what made Twitter unique – it even forced the internet to adopt URL shorteners. However revolutionary, the character limit proved to be often frustrating, especially when including links or media which further limited the text available to the user.

After Twitter allowed longer direct messages last year, many have contemplated a possible change in the Tweet length itself. Now, it seems, that the addition of all the new media types to a Tweet, and possibly the need to cater to marketers and compete for marketing departments’ budgets, prompted the company to exclude links, mentions and media attachment from the 140-character limit, thereby indirectly allowing for longer Tweets.

The Changes

Over the next few months, Twitter will roll out changes that will, for the most part, improve the way people tweet. These changes will include more than just the Tweet’s length, for example the way Retweets, Mentions and attachments work. Here is a short overview of each major change as appeared on the Twitter Blog:

Replies: When replying to a Tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count. This will make having conversations on Twitter easier and more straightforward, no more penny-pinching your words to ensure they reach the whole group.

Since replies won’t be counted into the character limit, this change will allow to have more meaningful communication with multiple participants and removes the need to consider who to include in a reply.

Media attachments: When you add attachments like photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets, that media will no longer count as characters within your Tweet. More room for words!

This change will help marketers to express more when annotating a post and provide more perspective, all without the need to compromise between using media or writing a better text.

Retweet and Quote Tweet yourself: We’ll be enabling the Retweet button on your own Tweets, so you can easily Retweet or Quote Tweet yourself when you want to share a new reflection or feel like a really good one went unnoticed.

Since Twitter published their post, this feature already became available. For marketers, the option to retweet their own Tweets allows to resurface a post and potentially generate additional engagements with it. This is useful because engagement rates on posts influence the visibility of future posts on Twitter. However, engagements with a Quote (embedded Retweet) don't attribute new Likes and Retweets to the original post. These can be used to add an extra annotation on a past Tweet (for example, if there was a major change since the original Tweet and now you would like to reflect on it).

Goodbye, .@: These changes will help simplify the rules around Tweets that start with a username. New Tweets that begin with a username will reach all your followers. (That means you’ll no longer have to use the ”.@” convention, which people currently use to broadcast Tweets broadly.) If you want a reply to be seen by all your followers, you will be able to Retweet it to signal that you intend for it to be viewed more broadly.

This is the only change where I’m not certain about the benefits. Essentially, it means that people will no longer be able to Tweet to a single user (those Tweets that start with a @username). Instead, Tweets starting with a username will be treated the same as any other Tweet and will be broadcasted broadly, making the use of the current dot-at (.@) syntax redundant. In addition, all your past Tweets to users will become visible on your main feed as well.


The changes that Twitter is introducing are some of the most significant in the social network’s history. The ability to express more in an annotation will prompt more meaningful communication, while retweeting your own posts helps to generate additional engagements with content. So, as Twitter becomes an even better channel for marketers, that leaves us with just enough time to start redrawing current tactics to capitalize on the upcoming improvements.