This week, the news broke that tweets are likely getting longer. Twitter plans to extend the maximum length of a tweet from 140 to 280 characters, and has already rolled this feature out to selected users. What are the implications for advertisers, especially those struggling to cope with the need to disclose material connections to endorsers, qualifications to advertising claims, and other information in their marketing tweets?
The FTC has already asserted that endorser disclosures within a tweet, not merely on your profile page, are necessary. The Commission’s recent spate of cautionary letters to Instagram advertisers and endorsers has stressed that, when required, disclosure of the material connection has to be in a form understandable by average users, who may not be familiar with conventions such as an #sp tag for “sponsored.” In prescription drug advertising, the FDA similarly declined to give advertisers much of a pass in omitting or shortening necessary side-effect disclosures, stating in its 2014 Draft Guidance for Industry on Internet/Social Media Platforms with Character Space Limitations that such information still has to be squeezed comprehensibly into that 140 character limit, though with a limited allowance for abbreviations not permitted in other contexts.
Double-sized tweets will make the agencies even less likely to forgive inadequate disclosures on Twitter or to cock a sympathetic ear at the excuse of character limitations. More than ever before, Twitter marketers and endorsers should be attentive to compliance with required disclosures. The silver lining on this cloud is that the extra characters will give marketers a little more room to do this, while still putting out effective marketing messaging.