Last week, a little bird told us that Twitter is considering increasing their 140 character limit count to 10,000 characters, and then the news spread like wildfire across (you guessed it) social media. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged these rumors with a long tweet of his own, about how people have already been getting around the character limit by screenshotting text (which he duly demonstrated). He ends his post by stating that if they do decide to move forward, they’ll tell developers in advance, so they can prepare accordingly. But it’s not just the developers who will need to prepare, it’s marketers.
It’s no secret that social media is in its prime, and that Twitter is in good company with leading contenders like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, each offering unique ways for marketers to advertise and reach their target audience. Now that everyone (and their mothers and grandmothers) is on Facebook, it’s one of the best places to humanize your brand by sharing status updates, photos, and videos. While Instagram acts as a virtual diary of pictures and videos, it’s a great way to promote your brand, products, and culture visually. LinkedIn is known for being a professional social network, so you can network, build relationships with influencers, become an influencer via its Pulse publishing platform, and easily identify and connect with prospects across industries.
And Twitter? Although its limited character count can be frustrating at times (doesn’t everyone want proper punctuation in their tweets?), its virtual watercooler format offers a quick and easy way to blast short tidbits of information. And that’s more important than ever. People are easily distracted and have short attention spans—in fact, the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the average attention span is only 8.25 seconds. Whether it’s by scrolling through apps while waiting in line or flipping through channels during commercial breaks, people are always looking for new ways to satisfy their interests. So while Twitter’s limited character count may mean less punctuation and some creative abbreviations, it has been helping us practice sending snackable information. Let’s take a look at four ways Twitter’s character limit has helped marketers:
1. Marketers need to be agile
A short character count allows marketers to be quick and nimble to react to real-time activities. Consider the flood of messages that erupt whenever anything newsworthy happens or something goes viral. Marketers have adapted to become fast-reacting engines, churning out content within seconds. Gone are the days when social media messages need to be planned out days or weeks in advance. With Twitter’s character limit, marketers react quickly to current events and trends and tweet on-the-spot. Who could’ve foreseen that a white and gold, wait no…black and blue, dress would become viral? Tide quickly took advantage of this moment to advertise their Tide Plus ColorGuard detergent, which got an impressive amount of traction.
2. Marketers need to make every word count
With just 140 characters, Twitter forces us to tell our stories well. This means we have to cut out all the “fluff” and get right to the point. There’s no time and certainly there’s no room for rambling. Also, with a shorter character limit there’s less room for errors. Marketers have learned to become quick, effective communicators, identifying the main point of the message and how to get that across in interesting ways.
Marketers are also excellent curators. It’s a tough task to cut down a chunk of “necessary” information. But with resources like Thesaurus.com to replace certain words with shorter ones, hashtags, and abbreviations, you can do this without sacrificing the meaning.
3. Marketers can achieve higher engagement
Many people use Twitter because it’s an avenue for them to read and share quickly. By posting short tidbits of information, people don’t need to put too much thought behind deciphering your message. Your content is clear and concise, and thus easily digestible, sharable, and ultimately more engaging. In fact, Buddy Media reports that tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate. And if you add a hashtag or graphic to it, it becomes even more engaging.
4. Marketers can vary their social media strategy
The unique differentiators of social media platforms help you define and test your content strategies. Each platforms’ advantages and limitations help you determine what you should post on each one. By expanding the word count to 10,000 characters, there is not much that differentiates Twitter from other social media channels. Wouldn’t Twitter just be another Facebook? Facebook already has hashtags as well. How would you determine what to post on which channel? Essentially, you could post the same exact copy to each, but would this be effective? Your followers could be following you on multiple channels and posting the same content across channels is redundant, not to mention annoying. Instead, leveraging each channel’s strengths allows you to target the appropriate audience with the right type and length of content.
If this character increase does go into effect, just remember that 10,000 characters is the maximum, not the minimum. Because of Twitter’s quick-to-post, quick-to-read platform, there are already massive amounts of tweets flooding a user’s stream. If Twitter transitions to long-form text, it will be important for marketers to consider: how their followers engage with the material, how often they want to use long-form posts versus short posts, and how it affects their social goals like driving traffic back to their website.
Too much of a good thing can be bad, so it’s important that marketers understand the value that short-form content like a tweet offers and continue to share digestible content. What do you think about Twitter’s proposed changes? How do you think it will impact your social media strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.