UPDATE AS OF NOVEMBER 7, 2017:
Twitter has officially opened its extended character limit to all English language users, citing increased engagement and a higher frequency of use as the primary reasons for doubling its iconic character restriction.
News and social networking service, Twitter, announced that it would be testing the extension of its iconic 140-character limit within Tweets for certain users, doubling the length to 280 characters. In a blog post publicizing the extension, Twitter cited usability for English speakers as a primary reason for increasing the length.
Why 280? In a Tweet demonstrating the new character limit, co-founder Jack Dorsey admitted the 140-character restriction was “an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit.” Doubling the number of characters available enables users to more fully express their thoughts.
In addition to user-experience concerns, Twitter has also been combating stagnant growth. In its Q2 earnings report, the social network reported a decline in monthly active users in the US between Q1 and Q2 of 2017, dropping to just 68 million users. Although its total user base saw no change quarter over quarter, the company is likely looking for a way to revive growth.
For now, only a select group of users have been granted access to the 280-character beta test. In its blog post, Twitter said that it will be collecting data and gathering feedback to decide whether the increased character limits are beneficial for users and the future of the social network.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MARKETERS
Twitter has reported that 9% of all Tweets in English reach the 140-character limit, indicating a need to extend post length. The social network has also reported that when users are able to share more in a single tweet, they generally share more often. Increasing engagement overall could present brands and marketers with the opportunity to interact with re-engaged legacy users and new users that are attracted to the extended character limits.
For social marketers, increased usage and engagement from consumers is an ideal outcome of the character limit extension. For search marketers, the impact extended character limits may have on branded search is also important to consider. Increasing the size of tweets in the search engine results page (SERP) may push down organic content when searchers seek information on branded queries.
Twitter results as they appear in the SERP with less than 140 characters
A single Twitter result as it appears in the SERP with more than 140 characters
Aligning search and social efforts will also increase in importance as longer Tweets become the norm. With more characters, users and brands will be able to communicate more complex ideas or share greater detail within the content shared. Connecting social with a greater content strategy and aligning keywords across channels will help to solidify this practice.
SIGNS OF TWITTER REPOSITIONING ITSELF
There is no doubt that Twitter is trying to evolve by diversifying its revenue sources and increasing user engagement. This two-pronged approach to attract users and drive revenue could secure Twitter’s position as a hub for social news and culture content. While quarterly advertising revenue declined 14% year over year, revenue from data licensing and other sources rose 27%, totaling $85 million in Q2 of this year compared to $67 million in Q2 of 2016. Streaming TV partnerships with Bloomberg, Fox, and the NFL are helping to drive growth outside of advertising.
The 140-character limit that defined the social network might now be holding it back. The combination of breaking news, streaming television, and longer-form social conversations could be a recipe for success for Twitter. To remain competitive, it must continue to evolve and differentiate itself from existing platforms and networks.
IMAGE SOURCE: Google