If you’re worried that you will never be president because you can’t fit your thoughts into less than 140 characters, you no longer need to worry! The world and his dog probably knows by now that Twitter has doubled its character limit to 280, giving people twice the elbow room to share their opinions (or insult other world leaders). But what does it mean for marketers? We take a look…
This update comes hot on the heels of that brought in by Twitter in September 2016, when the platform started to allow photos, GIFs and videos, as well as the 140 characters, into its messages.
This was a major step forward for brands, particularly when it came to sponsored tweets – which often included images or videos. But this development is even more significant; 280 characters of text plus images or videos? Copywriters will be jumping with joy. Or will they? Social media marketing is key to a successful inbound strategy, so these changes and the possibilities and challenges they present are worth assessing.
After a global test, the expanded character count has rolled out globally, except for users in Japan, China and Korea, because, well, they don’t need that many characters. Asian languages can fit more thoughts into fewer characters. The Japanese language, for example, is masterful when it comes to expressing complex thoughts, emotions and sentences in one or two words – a particular favourite of mine is kogarashi: the cold wind that heralds the arrival of winter. Try fitting each one in turn into a 140-character Tweet and you will see which is easier.
The reason for the character limit expansion, according to Twitter, is to allow for easier expression, while still retaining the relative brevity that is the platform’s USP.
However, the important things to note is that, just as your nervous mother, when teaching you to drive, kept telling you that the speed limit was a limit, not a target, the same is true here. Just because you can now use 280 characters, doesn’t mean you have to use 280 characters.
In fact, according to this blog by the verge, Twitter found that while in the previous limit, 9% of tweets hit the maximum count, while during the expansion test, only 1% hit 280 characters. Just 5% of Tweets sent during this period exceeded 140 characters.
What are the considerations for marketers?
Diluting the Market
One of Twitter’s primary reasons for the change to the character limit is to attract more users. For digital marketers using Twitter, more users means more followers, which means more potential customers, and more people sharing your content.
However, while having more users can be a good thing, it can also work against you. Just as we all struggle to have our online content noticed in a sea of other content, especially on a fast-moving platform such as Twitter, it will now be even easier to see your messaging lost in the added volume of Tweets.
Content Creation and Resources
On the one hand, marketers may rejoice at the fact that they no longer need to spend time cutting down their messaging to stay within limit, but on the other, may be left feeling they have to come up with more, just to go with the flow.
As this Forbes blog outlines, having a higher character limit will certainly allow marketers to share more content, but it also means that more time, effort, and money will probably need to go into the content you share. With 140 characters, you probably spent a fair chunk of time coming up with eye-catching, snappy but informative content, but now with 280, it will be harder to expand what you say while still keeping it creative and witty.
That means more time spent creating social posts, which in turn means a need for more resources.
You’ve probably promoted a new blog on Twitter by focusing on one angle for one Tweet, and another angle for a second, and third, and so on, giving you the right amount of messaging to send out. Now, with longer tweets, you may end up with fewer messages overall, because you have said all you can about a post in the first one. This again leads to a need to put more resources into creating a successful social media strategy.
Room to engage
Having more room to say what you want can help with consumer engagement. 140 characters doesn’t give you that much of a chance to cover what needs to be said, so often we need to redirect people elsewhere for further engagement. The expanded limit takes some of that worry away.
However, this does lead us into temptation. If you have had to schedule a series of social posts to go out across several platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, for example – you are probably familiar with having to tailor your messaging to suit each. Your shorter, snappier messages go out on Twitter, longer ones on the other platforms.
Now, you can feasibly get away with using the same, longer messages, across all three. It’s not a good idea, even if it does look like it will make your life easier, because successful Twitter messages within the established framework and limits are successful for a reason. Consumers want punchy, tasty messages, not the leftovers from your Facebook feed.
Making a hash of it
With more character room to play with, you might also be tempted to use a lot more hashtags, simply because you can. Hashtags can be very useful for engagement with consumers and peers, but posts with more than two or three just look bad, and nobody reads them.
According to this blog from oursocialtimes.com, one or two hashtags in a Tweet generates 21% more engagement than Tweets using three or four.
Don’t fall into the trap of hashtag cramming.
Standing out or going with the flow
It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out, and what will make Twitter users stand out in the long run. On the one hand, if relatively few users adopt the expanded limit, those who do will be able to stand out with their bigger, more comprehensive messaging. On the other hand, if the majority of users embrace the 280 character limit, it will be those who stay old school who will stand out and be noticed more. It is likely that consumers will end up simply scrolling by long-winded messaging, given the very nature of Twitter as a fast-paced, punchy platform.
On the practical side, your social media posts should aim to direct people to your website, where you can generate a lead, and start them out on the path towards conversion. Granted, you now have more room to write the message you want users to see, but you also need to be careful not to have your all-important URL getting lost in your expanded copy.
You may now have room to include your ‘Click here for more’ link, but will consumers go there after they have gotten pretty much what they need from your Tweet already?
Whether you decide to try to stick to the original 140 character limit in the hope that its brevity will keep consumers interested and entice them to engage, or want to avail of the chance to expand upon what you have to say while also providing links to your website, is up to you.
Either way, your social media strategy will probably need a rethink, unless Twitter decides to ‘do a Hodor’ again, just as it did with its Buy button, and puts the change on hold.
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