The prospect of Twitter increasing its character limit from 140 to 10,000 signals a likely step change in the way the platform positions itself, and raises questions as to how it might be used by brands and individuals alike, writes Gina Roughan, content director at digital agency Zone.
From a marketer’s perspective, the plan could look like a threat – another example of a platform encouraging users to stay within its own ecosystem and away from owned channels
Jack Dorsey’s announcement yesterday that Twitter is considering removing its restrictive character count was greeted with dismay by many, including its own shareholders, as a step too far away from its core business model and too far toward becoming a Facebook-lite. From a marketer’s perspective, it could look like a threat – another example of a platform encouraging users to stay within its own ecosystem and away from owned channels over which our brands have more creative control.
However, this really misses the point. The modern consumer is used to operating in a completely interconnected world and perfectly capable of moving from one walled garden to another – if there’s the incentive to do so. Our industry is built on providing that brands with that incentive, in the form of content.
Now, there’s no doubt that Dorsey’s new limitless approach will offer some benefits to brands in terms of communicating more detailed messaging on the platform. The real-time nature of Twitter, and the ability to use it for one-to-one conversations, has led to it becoming the customer service channel of choice, and not being constrained by character counts will make it even more effective in this regard. Oh, and any promotions teams who have had to shoehorn a T&Cs link into 140 characters will no doubt be cheering young Jack to the rafters.
But when it comes to content marketers, Twitter’s development of its medium to offer a long-form blogging functionality akin to, well, Medium, brings benefits that are less easily defined… but not something to be afraid of.
Yes, Twitter might be moving away from its USP as it redefines itself as an information/news portal, but it’s the users who will decide what works and what doesn’t. Finding success for brands on the platform has usually been about offering pithy, timely and funny content – witness the social-media totem that is the now tediously overexposed Oreo Super Bowl tweet – and that won’t change. A 2000-word essay on the wonders of Tesco isn’t going to get 20k retweets and drive brand reappreciation; a nine-word gagabout rapper Drake, on the other hand…
A 2000-word essay on the wonders of Tesco isn’t going to get 20k retweets and drive brand reappreciation
Outside of that kind of TOV work, one of the key things we use Twitter for is signposting, and Dorsey clearly isn’t happy with that – he wants his platform to be a final destination. But, again, it’s the users who will decide. The fact that a platform is capable of presenting more detailed information doesn’t mean that it is the best place to present it – especially as, character count notwithstanding, there are still huge limitations on Twitter. If a user is given directions toward great content, they’re not going to begrudge the journey from Twitter to, say, a brand website.
So my message to content marketers concerned about another platform making a grab for their audience remains the same: if you build great content, they will come.