JWT’s Florence Lujani: why Twitter needs more than 23 characters to reverse its fortunes

In 2006, when Twitter limited the length of each tweet to 140 characters, they made a strong statement favouring brevity and instantaneity. So it’s only to be expected that rumours around new options that might tamper with this distinctive feature generate buzz and reactions from users as well as the marketing industry.

When Re/Code reported in January that Twitter was thinking of expanding the character limit to 10,000, people started imagining what that would be like (some cynical users suggested that the format already existed, something widely known as ‘blog’). This has yet to become a reality, but the last rumoured change is that photos and links will stop counting in the 140-character limit. This means that users will get back the extra 23 characters they used to lose every time they added a link or a picture.

If this seems like a logical fix, it also feels like a tactical announcement that will not change much for Twitter and its users. I’m sure users will enjoy the extra 23 characters, but I don’t believe it will affect the way they use the platform. Or change the way agencies create and develop content strategies for brands.

Most importantly, it does not address any of the top-priority issues that Twitter has at the minute. Twitter’s current active user base has plummeted and is now around 320 million, which is small compared to competitors like Facebook (1.8 billion users daily), Instagram (400 million users daily) and Snapchat (seven billion views daily). Twitter advertising is not cheap, prices for a Promoted Trend or Promoted Moment are very high especially when considered in relation to the small user base, which makes the platform less appealing for brands. And as a consequences of the above Twitter’s shares hit an all-time low in May this year.

The social platform needs to introduce more features that will help break down the barriers for new users and make it easier for marketers to adopt the tool. For example, ‘Moments’, a feature that collates ‘the best pictures, highlights, and headlines’ from relevant stories, was introduced because Twitter had identified that users were leaving the platform because they could not find relevant people to follow.

Whatever Twitter does implement in future it needs to be a little more than offering a few more characters.

unnamed-6Florence Lujani is social team lead & head of influencer relations at J. Walter Thompson London.

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