Twitter changes – what they could mean for marketers

After years of forcing users to keep their messages short and concise, Twitter is apparently working on a programme to enable users to extend the length of their posts. This would mean saying goodbye to the 140-characters Twitter has become known for. With 22% of online adults now using the social media platform, it provides marketers with a stage to interact with a large audience on a daily basis, but what will these changes mean for marketers?

140 Characters Or Less

The exact form the change would take is still unknown, but it is said to enable Twitter users to publish long-form content on the service. Since the announcement there has been much discussion over the implications of this change. Earlier this year Twitter tinkered with aspects of the social media platform to enable users to extend the length of their content, such as removing the limit on direct messaging and allowing users to comment on their retweets.

However, it can be speculated that perhaps removing the 140-character limit may be a step too far for the social media giant. If Twitter does flip the switch and increase the character count, it will have major implications for how marketers use the service to engage with consumers.

If Twitter goes ahead with this change, it risks camouflaging itself into the sea of social media networks. Other social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr have never had a character limit, and this often results in lengthy posts which most of us try our hardest to avoid seeing on our newsfeed. The 140-character limit imposed by Twitter has for some been a sanctuary that stood in stark contrast to long-winded posts on Facebook. The changes may cause Twitter to alienate their core users, bad news for brands using the service to connect with their consumers.

So what can marketers do if this does happen?

Longer content

One implication for marketers is that they will probably have to spend longer writing their tweets. It may also cause a shift from a few short posts throughout the day towards larger posts, less often.

Longer posts mean more information and more opportunities for marketers to interact with consumers. However, marketers must be careful not to bombard their followers with masses of useless information and must still remember the benefits of being concise and to the point. It will be recognising when to use short and snappy posts and when to use lengthy, more descriptive ones that will be the challenge to marketers if these changes go ahead.

Images, images, images!

Images will now be more important than before. In a social media platform now awash with text, images will increase in important for consumer engagement. It is a well-known fact in marketing land that images increase engagement by 200%, and these potential changes may even prompt an increase in this figure.

Images are always going to be quick and easy for consumers to interact with, and this will not change. So don’t give up on image strategy just yet, and arguably they will become even more prominent on a timeline crammed with text.

New audiences

The changes may be good news for marketers, with Twitter predicting the change to attract a host of new users to the site. The increase in character-count, may encourage the less concise social media users to switch to Twitter. Many “mainstream” social media users who have previously stayed clear of Twitter, may be encouraged to begin to engage with the social media platform. This would mean expanding audiences for brands and marketers, therefore it is key for marketers to understand the needs of these new audiences in order to change and adapt accordingly.

Customer service

Brands should be prepared for the increase in customer service related tweets this change may result in. Although many brands are already utilising Twitter as a medium to engage in customer service, the extent to which they can fully answer questions is severely limited.

The changes would have a positive effect, allowing the customer the extra space to fully describe their problem and allow the customer service operator the chance to properly engage with the issue. The result would probably be longer and more helpful answers and an increase in general customer satisfaction with that brand. This would probably result in a further shift away from traditional methods of contact for customer service related enquiries, such as phone calls and email, and a focus towards social media.

Social

Unfortunately, the extra space would also allow users more room to publicly complain. The 140 character count allows a certain cap to be placed on the extent to which a user can criticise a particular service or product. The extra space may completely escalate the situation, and make it more difficult to respond to with a helpful solution. In this case, the increased character count has the danger of being more damaging than helpful to a brand.

So, clearly dropping the 140 character limit presents new and complex changes for marketers to react to. Whether the increased character count will increase brand engagement and be a positive force for marketers is yet to be seen.

Author Jen Haughton Photograph

Jen Haughton

Community Manager