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Twitter Tagging: It's Not the Characters, It's the Mileage

Twitter Tagging: It's Not the Characters, It's the Mileage

What makes Twitter Twitter is the 140-character limit on tweets. That can put a crimp in advertisers' styles, though, so Twitter keeps coming up with workarounds. "what it really boils down to [is] how many ads can I sell?" said Gordon Owens, digital marketing professional at GO Digital WSI. "They're expanding the length of a tweet without technically expanding the length of a tweet."

By Kris Holt
03/28/14 11:40 AM PT

Twitter has bolstered its photo-sharing capabilities with the addition of two new features: the option to add up to four photos per tweet, and a function allowing users to tag up to 10 other people in a photo. Both features are designed to make photos more social.

When a user shares multiple photos in a tweet, the images will automatically create a collage. A person who clicks on a preview of one of the photos will see the full image and have the option to flick through the rest of the images. The function will first arrive on iPhone and will soon be added to the Android app and Twitter's website. Adding additional photos does not eat into the 140-character limit of a tweet.

"They needed to do something like that because of the interest in and the growth of Pinterest and Instagram," marketing expert Lon Safko told the E-Commerce Times. "People really like to share more than just text; they like to share photographs. The biggest restriction has always been the 140-character limit. To put [photos] in as an attachment makes a lot of sense."

Privacy In Mind

Users who are tagged in photos will receive a notification. However, they can elect to stop others from tagging them in photos or allow only people they follow to tag them in photos via an option in their settings.

Users also can stop these notifications in their settings. Twitter automatically removes Exif data from photos, which otherwise might impinge on a user's privacy.

To tag another user, one simply needs to tap the prompt, "Who's in this photo?" and add the name of the person to tag. Both photo tagging and the photo collage features will appear in tweets that have been embedded elsewhere.

Users who have protected their tweets from public view can tag anyone who follows them in their own photos. By default, other users cannot tag them in photos, though that can be changed in the settings. Users also have the option to remove their name or username from photos in which they have been tagged by accessing the detail view of a tweet, hitting the ellipsis icon, and accessing the option to "Remove tag from photo."

"It seems to me that on Facebook there's a lot of abuse in tagging," Safko noted. "Even strangers start tagging photos to connect their profile with mine, because I have a higher profile than they do. A lot of times I'll get an email notice that one of my photographs has been tagged. Sometimes, it's not even a photograph of me; they'll use my name just so that they can clamp on to some of my traffic. Limiting the ability to tag I think is a good idea. That way, we don't get these spammers abusing it."

For Twitter, the end goal with the new features might be to keep users' attention on its service.

All About Ads?

"One of the places where Facebook wins a lot of market share is that the average time people spend on Facebook is more significant than Twitter, LinkedIn, or any of the other social networks," said Gordon Owens, digital marketing professional at GO Digital WSI.

"They have more opportunity to sell ads. That's what it really boils down to: How many ads can I sell? I'm sure this is partially an effort by Twitter to have people spend more time on Twitter, and getting more activity. If I'm starting to get tagged in photos, I'm going back to Twitter to look at the photos I was tagged in and making a tweet," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"They've sort of limited themselves in that the whole idea is the 140-character limit," Owens continued. "They keep figuring out ways for people to add more content without eating up the characters. I've also seen that they're talking about taking away the @ symbol in mentions, so that frees up one more character. It's always interesting to me that what started out as 140 characters or less and that's it -- including links, text or whatever -- is expanding. They're expanding the length of a tweet without technically expanding the length of a tweet."


Kris Holt is a writer and editor based in Montreal. He has written for the Daily Dot, The Daily Beast, and PolicyMic, among others. He's Scottish, so would prefer if no one used the word "soccer" in his company. You can connect with Kris on Google+.


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