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Capitol Hill Figures Out What to Do With 280 Characters

Members finding creative ways to use Twitter’s expanded limit

Members of Congress are already making the most of the 140 extra characters available for tweets. (Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call)
Members of Congress are already making the most of the 140 extra characters available for tweets. (Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers are experimenting with new ways to communicate with the extra characters Twitter has given them.

The increased 280-character limit for tweets is already being used to post full statements, Q&As with experts or the member, more hashtags and longer lists in a single posting, instead of a series of tweets.

Here are how some members are using those extra 140 characters:

Lists: Users now have more space to tweet out long lists. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. on Friday tweeted a list of seven items that he said Americans want from the government. Included on the Virginia Democrat’s list were climate action, background checks and health care fixes.

Hashtags: Using hashtags helps tweets get picked up and seen by more eyes because interested parties search for them. Rep. Lou Barletta used five hashtags Thursday to share his message about President Donald Trump’s tax plan. The Pennsylvania Republican’s hashtags included hot button words such as #China, #Jobs and #TaxCuts.

Threads: Twitter threads have always been a popular way to get a statement out because you can use as many characters as you need in multiple tweets. But threads just got more substantive. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto used six tweets on Thursday to talk about DREAMers. Half of the Nevada Democrat’s tweets used more characters than she could have a week earlier. 

Retweet yourself: Retweets, like threads, can also help boost your messaging. But now members can take it a step further. Rep. Jim Costa tweeted a lengthy message about legislation he is leading that protects farmers. The California Democrat then retweeted it to add a shorter statement.

Q&A: Rep. Cedric L. Richmond held a Q&A session Thursday called #AskTheExperts. The Louisiana Democrat tweeted out questions from constituents about the Republican tax plan and the experts from groups such as the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors had plenty of room to explain complicated issues.

Meanwhile, Arizona Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran embodied what every lawmaker must have felt when they got 280 characters.

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