The big news for Twitter addicts this month is the increase of post word count from 140 characters to 280. It’s undoubtedly one of the biggest changes for the social media company since it began back in 2006. The trial was launched in September, on 8th November this new post length was rolled out across the whole platform.
But what do people actually think about writing longer Twitter posts? And what does it mean for businesses and marketers?
Twitter Increases to 280 Characters
Reactions to the 280 word Twitter rollout have been mixed. There are those who welcome it, some who think it detracts from the essential purpose of the platform and those who couldn’t care less one way or another.
Some of the pro 280 Twitter users were happy with not having to find new and innovative ways to shorten words. Most, however, were finding it difficult to create 280 character posts after using 140 for so long.
Among those against the character increase, one common theme was that an edit button was needed rather than more content. Others decided that if you can’t say something in 140 characters then you shouldn’t say it all or save it for a blog post.
Of course, you don’t have to write 280 characters. If you want to keep it short, you’re still welcome to, and that seems to be the case so far. According to product director for Twitter, Aliza Rosen, only 5% of the initial Tweets from the trial period were longer than 140 characters and only 2% breached the 190 character mark.
280 Characters for Marketing
The big question for businesses, however, is going to be how to best utilise this increase of space. It’s true that you don’t have to use the full 280 characters thought it certainly gives more scope to develop stronger messages.
Cramming your thoughts or marketing message into 140 characters has always been a little frustrating for businesses. It can mean taking out words which could well create stronger connections with customers and improve conversions. It’s also a problem more peculiar to Western languages. Those in China and Japan can fit a lot more meaning into their short Tweets because of the way their written language is structured.
The other major change for Twitter came when links, gifs, images and videos were no longer included in the character count. Combined with the increase to 280 characters, this certainly gives marketers a good deal more leeway.
Use Characters Sparingly
That doesn’t mean you should forget all you’ve learned from tweeting short messages and there are probably some practices you should stick to. For example, you should definitely resist the temptation to throw in more hashtags. The key mantra for Twitter should still remain: Less is more.
Longer tweets in a timeline might catch viewer attention, at least initially, but this trend will probably reverse once users become used to it. Including an image will continue to greatly increases your chance of being retweeted and the old adage that a picture paints a thousand words still applies.
One area where the increase in characters will almost definitely help businesses is when handling customer help issues. Many companies respond to customer queries online, using direct messaging to send more complete explanations or information to customers. If you want a generic customer support response to appear in the general timeline, so other people can see it, the 280 character limit gives you more scope to work with. This is certainly an area where better customer loyalty can be improved if you are able to handle communications sensibly and in a focused way.