Twitter tweaking character limit: #Above140 and What it may mean

twitter-10KWith Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey back at the helm as CEO, after Dick Costolo’s controversial exit in June 2015, bold shake-ups were expected at the micro-blogging website. Faced with the challenge of stagnating growth, and infiltrating into new user groups, Twitter has been tweaking its character limit as observed in multiple instances.

Giving users the ability to comment on re-tweets (Quote Tweet) meant giving them more space to articulate. Next up was lifting the 140 character limit on Twitter DMs (Direct Messages). The stream of thinking in both moves was one: enable more space for better articulation. A secondary benefit could be posing as a viable group messaging option to Whatsapp.

The next logical move was going beyond the sacred 140-character limit. For the longest time, Twitter held dearly to its minimalistic principles. Truly, 140-characters are the very base of Twitter, as we know it. Short, to-the-point messages, to communicate with followers: Simple enough. While it gave Twitter a legion of loyalists, it also left new users with a lot of figuring out to do. Brevity does not come naturally to all.

The news of Twitter thinking beyond the 140-character limit has been doing the rounds since September last year, and only got a fresh boost, when Recode recently wrote that the Website was considering a 10,000 character limit.

What it means:

140 may not be dead

It does not mean that the 140-character limit might be dead anytime soon. That would kill the very soul of Twitter. Think of long, boring messages flooding your Timeline, with pictures, GIFs, videos, and what do you get? Just another Facebook! What Twitter might instead do is leave the normal Tweet option untouched, and only offer a way to post long articles, without having to leave the website. In all likelihood, this will not interfere with how your feed looks. Longer tweets might just appear as normal tweets, with an ‘expand’ option.

Beware: Social media moves to conquer publishing space

So, in effect, the micro-blogging website ceases to remain ‘micro’, and moves toward becoming a publishing platform.  Facebook and LinkedIn are already moving towards that space, with ‘Instant Articles’, and Pulse ‘posts’ respectively. If Twitter was about breaking news, now it may also become a platform for longform, opinions, and articles. For media companies, Twitter will become another platform to power their posts, and not just to generate traffic. They may consider posting whole articles on Twitter at times, instead of posting a bit of text and a link to their site.

Marketers get new freedoms…and challenges!

For digital marketers, this brings new challenges, and freedoms. For long, conveying the right message with a call-to-action, a link, and a creative—all within 140 characters—has been a challenge. That changes for sure. Judicious use of the long-tweet option, at least in the initial days will be imperative. A good mix of short and long tweets will be a good Twitter strategy to start with.

Instead of a hookline and a link, more posts will happen in the form of the whole article on Twitter. The former helps in generating traffic for your website, while the latter helps in brand positioning and establishing thought leadership role. Having a Twitter presence will become more important than ever for brands that deal with research, or content.

Content remains king

It cannot be emphasized enough as to how content is and will continue to be the king. With large brands, political parties, governments and NGO’s shifting budgets and attention to story selling and content marketing, the ability of skilled content professionals to create, aggregate and curate within the social media stream becomes even more important. We at Digiqom have a cutting edge process in place for the creation and curation of top-quality for brands’ social media channels. As a complimentary part of that process, we also engage in 24/7 social listening, to make sense of the chatter surrounding a brand, and the kind of engagements it is receiving.

Great responsibilities

To borrow from Spiderman movies, with great power, come great responsibilities. Having the power to post longer tweets, comes with the responsibility and the occupational hazard of boring followers to death. Nothing like a good mix of the long and short!

So what’s your plan to experiment with short and long content forms?

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