While an individual tweet is still limited to 140 characters, Twitter has redefined what counts as a character. So while everything might still look/feel the same, you actually have quite a bit more room to get your thoughts out in a tweet these days than in the Twitter of old.
Many of these changes happened below the radar of the non-avid Twitter user. So I thought it would be a good time for a round-up.
Twitter is changing all the time. If I missed any new functionalities, let me know. I’d love to add them to my list.
Twitter now has a built in GIF library. If you haven’t played with yours yet, you are missing out on some serious storytelling fun! Why type “Sad!” when you can demonstrate it in a fun video format.
To access the library, open up Twitter and start composing a new tweet. Then simply click on the GIF icon.
Twitter will automatically populate a wide-array of GIF emotions to search through.
And per the theme of this post — it will not count against your character count!
Please note though, you cannot add a GIF to a tweet containing any other media, or as part of a Quote Tweet (more on Quote Tweets below).
The default (and minimum option) is two “choices,” but click "+ Add a choice" and you can tack on a third or even a fourth.
If someone takes your poll, they will see the breakdown of votes by percentage. Voting is anonymous. You won’t know who took your poll, nor will anyone else. But it is a fun way to engage your audience and let them tell you directly what they think about any given question.
Quick note: each “choice” is limited to 25 characters. Prepare accordingly. Also, like GIFs, you can’t insert a poll into a Quote Tweet or a tweet with media.
The original solution to this problem was the link shortener. bit.ly is the most famous, but there are others.
Twitter eventually realized how untenable it was to have a platform that had become synonymous with news, forcing users to employ workarounds in order to share most news articles. So while you weren’t looking, they changed the way they count link characters.
Whether it’s 12 characters or 1200 (eek — that would be quite a long url), all links now count as 23 characters. So keep bit.ly bookmarked for some of its other fun features. But never again waste time shortening a link just to save space. Twitter has got you covered.
Use your pictures to help tell you story.
But don’t just tweet pictures. Be sure to always tell your audience why you are tweeting them. It should be easy when you still have ALL of your precious 140 of your characters to play with!
4b) Tagging People
This is a tool however that I’ve found few people are aware of. And if they are, I find many don't truly appreciate its power.
When you add a picture (or 2, 3 or 4), you can “tag” people who are in the picture. I put tag in quotes because they don’t actually have to be in the photo for you to tag them.
To do so is simple: after you add your picture, click “Who’s in this photo?”
Quick note: some users have privacy settings that won’t allow them to be tagged in pictures. You can still tag them in your tweet, you just can’t tag them in your picture.
5) Quote Tweets
Once upon a time, if you wanted to retweet something, you had to do it sort of manually. You would take the tweet's content, add an RT before it and then send it to your users. This was problematic for numerous reasons, the biggest being tweet length. If a tweet was already 140 characters you couldn’t add an RT. And even if there were three characters to spare, you might not be able to add in the original sender’s handle. That led to awkward MTs, or modified tweets (if you don’t know this acronym, here's a bunch more you also might not yet know), where you retweeted an edited version of what someone else had already said. You could modify for length, content or accuracy, but whatever your reason, it certainly complicated the heart of the RT.
So Twitter adapted. They changed the way RTs work. You still occasionally see old school RTs, but it’s rare.
Then Twitter added the Quote Tweet.
When you go to retweet on your tablet or your smartphone, you’ll see be asked if you want to Retweet or Quote Tweet. Or your computer, you’ll have the option to Retweet, or to “Add a comment…”
But Twitter realized that people were struggling with what came to be known as “tipping canoes:” Twitter conversations that were so full of handles that there was no place left to actually add your thoughts.
So now when you hit reply, the original sender and all tagged handles will still automatically be tagged in your response, but they will be tagged outside of your actual tweet. Meaning you can respond to one handle, or a big group, without worrying about tipping that Twitter canoe.
So let’s say that instead of Quote Tweeting a response to @BarackObama, I replied to him.
I still have all 140 characters for my response.
But note, you can’t deselect the original sender’s handle. You are stuck with them. Don’t want to mention them? Then maybe don't reply to their tweet!
Bonus) Thread Tweets
But the Twitterverse still wasn’t satisfied and they are notorious for finding clever workarounds to problems that bother them.
Sometimes what you have to say won’t fit into 140 characters, no matter how many other tools you have at your disposal. At that point, you can thread together your tweets to tell a longer story.
Anytime you reply to a tweet, from anyone including yourself, Twitter will connect those two tweets with a blue line.
To do this is simple: send your first tweet. Then reply to it. Then reply to that one. Then that one. And so on.
FYI — Threading tweets like this is sometimes referred to as a Tweet Storm.
There are many different ways people choose to differentiate a tweet from a threaded tweet. After all, your followers won’t know there’s more to come if you don’t tell them.
The most common approaches are as follows:
- Ellipses (either at the end of each tweet OR at the end of each tweet AND the beginning of each one that follows)
- 1/, 2/, 3/… x/x
- 1/x, 2/x, 3/x… x/x
- 1/, 2/, 3/… <end>
- Sometimes people just write:
- That’s it
- I’m done
- All finished
- Or the close-off of their choice.
Do you have any additional tips or tricks you've found to get more out of Twitter? Respond in the comments and/or share them with me on Twitter. I want to hear from you!