February 26, 2013 - Comments Off on Twitter Cards – from 140 characters to 410

Twitter Cards – from 140 characters to 410

Question: On Twitter, what is the maximum number of characters you can have in a tweet? Did you say 140? Then I’m afraid you’re wrong. You can actually have up to 410 characters. And even a photo.

“How?!” I hear you cry. Well, Twitter is rolling out a new feature called Twitter cards which allow publishers to embed extra media into tweets.

You’ve probably already noticed these “cards” as some big organisation such as The New York Times, YouTube and Wired are already making use of them. But they’re not open to just the big guns, anyone can use them. And as we’ve found out, it’s rather easy.

Twitter’s documentation is superb so we’ll leave it to them to explain the technical side of it (don’t worry,it’s super simple so you could have an entire blog fully functioning with Twitter cards in under 15 minutes) and there are only two steps involved; add some special meta-tags and then fill out an application form.

The application form mentions you should “expect a few weeks for turn-around time”, but we were accepted and up and running within 24 hours. We do anticipate this waiting time to increase, however, as more people catch on!

Normally when you share a link on a site such as Facebook or LinkedIn, they use standard meta-tags or OpenGraph tags to pull out content.

Twitter has introduced their own meta-tags, but you don’t actually need to use them. If you already have OpenGraph tags on your site, Twitter cards will fall back to use these, so all you would need to do is follow Twitter’s guide and everything should just work. However, as these tags will only be displayed on Twitter, we would suggest putting some time into crafting the copy to encourage your target audience to click through. Remember this is an extension of your tweet.

When using the “summary” Twitter card (one of three available), you are given an extra 70 characters in the ‘title’ of the card and up to 200 characters in the ‘description’, plus a “unique image representing the content of the page”. Notice they say “unique image”? They go on to say “do not use a generic image such as your website logo, author photo, or other image that spans multiple pages”. Creating such unique content for your less important pages could be problematic. But fortunately there is a way round this.

Twitter cards respect your robots.txt file, so you can turn them off for certain pages. This is actually really useful, and again we would recommend spending some time on this. There may be pages on your site that aren’t suitable for cards. There’s probably no need to add extra mark-up to your Terms and Conditions page or Cookie Policy, so add them to your robots.txt file and they won’t be crawled by Twitter cards.

We’re now looking into some creative ways to use Twitter cards for our clients. What do you think of Twitter cards?