November 21, 2014

Compose Your Twitter Tweets At Least 2 Characters Shorter

twitter3You will now need to make your Twitter verbiage a bit shorter, if you plan to include a link to a Web page in a tweet.

Twitter is now allowing you only 118 characters for a tweet (outside of the link itself).  That’s two characters fewer than the 120-characters-plus-a-link we’ve all been used to.  And if you’re sharing a link on Twitter from a secure Web page (one with an https URL), then you will have three fewer characters, or 117 characters – not counting the link.

The change, which went into effect February 20, 2013, is the result of the way Twitter shortens links. Links inside tweets will now be 2 or 3 characters longer, leaving less room for everything else.

Here is how it works:

  • Twitter tweets are limited to a total of 140 characters, including spaces, punctuation, words and any links.
  • When you include a link to a Web page in a tweet, Twitter wraps its URL shortener, t.co, around the link.  Up to now, all t.co links have been 20 characters. That meant the rest of your tweet could be up to 120 characters, and still allow room for the link.
  • With this change, the verbiage of your tweets — not counting the link — will need to be no more than 118 (or sometimes 117) characters.  A single link then will add another 22 characters (23 characters for https) — for a total up to the 140 character limit.
  • This is true even if you already use a link shortener, such as Bit.ly, Ow.ly or Goo.gl. That’s because Twitter automatically wraps ALL links, even previously shortened ones, in its own link shortener.

Here are two tips to make sure that your Twitter messages are not truncated unexpectedly:

1. Check your previously scheduled tweets – If you’ve scheduled tweets well in advance, go back and make sure you’ve left enough room for slightly longer links. Edit them if necessary.

2. Compose short titles – If you use the official Twitter tweet buttons on your blog or website, be careful about the length of your titles.  An anatomy of a tweet using the official Twitter button might be as follows:

This is The Incredibly Long Title of Your Highly Detailed Article Trying to Convey Lots and Lots of Information http://t.co/2longtitle via @smallbiztrends

The above would be 154 characters.  Twitter will truncate the title to fit the tweet into the 140 total character limit.  Anything especially important at the tail end of the title — well, oops, it may get cut off. Make sure you put the most important words at the beginning of the title.

Keep titles short and pithy if you want to allow sufficient space for others to manually retweet your tweets (i.e., repeating your tweet and appending something like “RT @smallbiztrends” to it).  If people have to rewrite your tweet to make it fit, they’ll probably just skip it.

We’ve long known that Twitter forces us to write more succinctly. With 2 or 3 characters fewer available outside of the links we share, we’ll have to be even more succinct.

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Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

5 Reactions

  1. How do you edit what shows up automatically via the Tweet this button though?

    When I clicked on this article’s Tweet button, it was 31 characters over the limit, when I moved it over to Hootsuite to check since it turns into:

    Compose Your Twitter Tweets At Least 2 Characters Shorter by @smallbiztrends http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/02/twitter-tweets-2-characters-shorter.html via @smallbiztrends

    Thanks! (We use AddThis buttons on our site)

  2. Hi Alice,

    To answer your question: you’d have to configure the official Twitter button appropriately. Our IT department handles that.

    BUT – in the above situation, the official Twitter button automatically shortens the link without the person hitting the button having to take any further steps. So that particular tweet would actually end up as 118 characters on Twitter, because the link would be shortened down to 22 characters.

    We use Hootsuite, also, and I know that it does not automatically shorten the link. You have to manually shorten the link on Hootsuite. And even then Twitter is going to wrap it’s t.co shortener around the shortened ow.ly etc. link you used in Hootsuite anyway.

    On another note, I realize that the above tweet looks a little weird because it shows the handle of the author and also of the site. In this particular case both are the same — so it looks like a duplication. However, for the other 400 authors on this site, it actually would make sense, because the author’s Twitter handle would be in there and then the site’s.

    – Anita

  3. Why did they need an additional two characters? Was it for more security?

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