Beyond 140 – The changing world of social media

The days of Twitter being the bastion of brevity could well be over if recent news stories are to be believed. Twitter are contemplating rolling out a 10,000-word character limit feature that they are aiming to launch within the next few months.

Although, 10,000 sounds a lot, it’s pretty much the full limit of a direct message, Twitter isn’t suddenly going to be clogged up with epic dialogues and long winded personal stories. Twitter are treating this carefully, fully testing what people are willing to read in a tweet before rolling it out fully. They are obviously aware that longer tweets mean that people might not digest as much as they normally would so the new feature will have its normal tweet length followed by a read more button.

Twitter have been tweaking with their modus operandi for quite a while, rolling out Vine in 2012 as a companion service and launching Moments which was supposed to act as a live story telling service and harness Twitters ability of capturing reaction and opinion. Tinkering with one of Twitters core and defining features is a bold step. It’s a step which they’ve felt they’ve had to do, with the rate of new users steadily declining over the last few years and Wall Street shareholders breathing down their necks wanting tangible signs of growth.

Why now? Twitter has changed drastically since its emergence in the noughties with the service becoming more involved with brands and advertisers utilising its potential to engage more frequently with its user base and users themselves beginning to divulge more, link more and ultimately converse more than they ever have before. But in that time, Twitter has seen other realms of Social Media go further including, Instagram, Snapchat and even its old rival Facebook and now, a 140-character limit sounds very 2008.

What does this mean for brands though? In theory, this means that telling a story is an easier proposition than before. Engaging a user on Twitter using 140 characters or less can be tricky (there is a lot of distractions on Twitter) and then asking them to do something within the tweet can prove even trickier. Many brands use the service solely as a customer service exercise and leave the online marketing to areas where creative freedom is a little less restricted, so the possibility of divulging a little and then divulging more will appeal to marketers.

However, for users and marketers, Twitter was the world of the short and the snappy and part of me thinks they are slowly selling out. 140 characters is what made Twitter great, and of course, they’ve added and improved as they’ve gone along but 140 characters was what defined it so it’s a shame that they now feel it’s redundant.

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