Increase in Twitter’s character limit fails to enthuse digital experts

Twitter Co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey’s announcement yesterday (September 27, 2017) that the micro-blogging site is undergoing a test project increasing the character limit of tweets to 280, which is double the existing limit of 140 characters, has generated a lot excitement amongst the twitteratis. But what does it imply for brand activity? 

The company’s official blog explains, “We want every person around the world to easily express themselves on Twitter, so we’re doing something new: we’re going to try out a longer limit, 280 characters, in languages impacted by cramming (which is all except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean). Although this is only available to a small group right now, we want to be transparent about why we are excited to try this.” 

Meanwhile, Twitter recently appointed Httpool as its ad sales partner for India from October 1, 2017, expanding the advertising support for marketers in India. 

Reactions are pouring in from all quarters – digital media experts and even from Mumbai Police’s Deven Bharti – on implications of the latest developments at Twitter. However, not everyone views the increase in the character limit as a positive development. 

Good news for brands 

Muddassar Memon
Muddassar Memon
According to Muddassar Memon, National Head – Social and Creative, iProspect India, “Twitter as a platform has always been known for the impact it creates through crisp content. Increase in the character limit for each tweet enables people and brands to interact on the platform with more content per tweet, leading to an increase in traffic and in turn, an increase in the effectiveness of brand communication. Longer tweets will also improve search within the platform as well as SEO potential. Furthermore, brands will now be able to derive more insights on user behaviour and target them efficiently due to longer tweets. This move comes as good news for brands, as they find it challenging to express themselves in a single tweet and have to communicate through multiple tweets. Twitter as a social media platform didn’t evolve over the years as much the others did, especially keeping the users and audience in mind. We can expect brands to positively alter their marketing strategies with respect to Twitter going forward.” 

Sanjay Tripathy
Sanjay Tripathy
Sanjay Tripathy, Co-founder & CEO, Agilio, elucidated, “Twitter’s objective behind this move is to eliminate a barrier that kept people from tweeting more frequently. One significant barrier, according to Twitter’s internal research, has been the stringent limit on character count. Last year, Twitter tried extending its character count by allowing people to post photos and GIFs without counting them against the overall character limit. Twitter says it looked at the way people tweet in different languages too. In Japanese, for instance, a lot of tweets come nowhere near the 140-character limit because individual characters can be used to convey much more information. Twitter isn’t lifting the 140-character limit for Japanese, Chinese and Korean users.” 

Vineet Sodhani
Vineet Sodhani
Echoing similar views, Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access, said, “In many Asian languages such as Mandarin and Japanese, even 140 characters are enough for expression. Hence, in these countries long-form is not expected to generate much engagement. However, in countries where English is used, this is expected to increase time spent as people are likely to tweet more as it will allow one to express better, faster (no more time spent on editing). However, whether this will increase in getting new users to the platform remains to be seen.” 

Varun Duggirala
Varun Duggirala
Varun Duggirala, Co-Founder and Content Chief at The Glitch, too opined that Twitter has evolved for brands in today’s day and age. From using tweetbots for response management, to still having reasonable organic reach for content, so the possibilities on that front are just beginning. It also remains the simplest medium for a brand to put its content out there especially when the focus is topicality. Tweets get right to the point with the information or thoughts that matter.

Pradyut V Hande
Pradyut V Hande
“By choosing to extend its existing 140-character feature to 280 characters on a test basis, Twitter has chosen to take a major punt on its future. As and when rolled out universally, advertisers and marketers would have the freedom to include slightly more detailed messaging focused at their target user demographic. Coupled with engaging images, GIFs and videos this has the potential to drive greater brand engagement and product understanding,” remarked Pradyut V Hande, Marketing Manager, CleverTap. At the same time he felt that given how long users have been accustomed to the 140-character nature of the platform, over-utilisation of this feature could alienate users by compromising on brevity. “Messaging would have to continue being sharp, succinct, comprehensible with a subtle call to action,” he added. 

Jeetu Lalwani
Jeetu Lalwani
Commenting on this new advancement,Jeetu Lalwani, Co-founder Dial4242, said, "Dial4242 is mumbai’s first app based ambulance aggregator. For a brand like Dial4242 whose main priority is customer service, It is a welcome step. We get a lot of queries where the responses cannot be limited to 140 characters. And this helps us to respond in a more effective manner. Sometimes 140 chars is not enough to tell a story and hence brands use lot of visuals, We see this changing.

 
 How exactly are brands utilizing 'tweets' in present day - Twitter is more real time & instant as compared to any other digital medium. Also in times of crises it becomes a very important tool in sharing verified information

 

Twitter’s USP is its brevity 

Not everyone is so positive about this development. As tweeted by Rahul Welde, Global VP - Digital Transformation at Unilever, “Twitter’s move to 280 characters is not better for anyone. Twitter = Brief. Don’t think Longer = Better. It will dilute the promise of the platform.” 

Sanjay Tripathy felt that while the switch to 280 characters could certainly help people explain things more articulately in updates, it also completely changes one of Twitter’s core features. “The whole beauty of Twitter is that it forces you to express your ideas concisely. A good tweet boils information down to what’s essential. You get the headline, and a little more information. Twitter’s defining attribute has long been its brevity. 140 characters in a post and no more. Many brands have used the 140-character limit well to convey the idea in a concise manner,” he added. 

Srinivas Kulkarni, Director - Organizational Development, Social Kinnect too, insisted that Twitter's USP is its brevity. He further said, “With the retention span of users being less than 5 seconds, I can only hope Twitter doesn’t lose its charm.” 

 

Rashmi Putcha, Co-Founder & Director, Liqvd Asia, also felt that Twitter as a platform would lose the very essence on which it was built. She added, “It has been synonymous with short, witty messages; doubling the characters will make it lose its wittiness and dry humour.” 

 

When it comes to brands, the increase in the character limit will be limited to brands that use Twitter for customer service, noted Rajiv Dhingra, Founder & CEO, WatConsult

 

 

 

Will encourage trolls 

Deven Bharti
Deven Bharti
Among the police force in the country, Mumbai Police is known to be very active on social media. Its Twitter account is heavily followed and in times of crises, Mumbai Police’s Twitter feed becomes a top referral point for getting information and updates. Deven Bharti, Joint CP (Law and Order), Mumbai Police, sounded a cautionary note when he stated that trolls would be encouraged to write more abusive posts and it would provide ample space for the trolls in general. Also, there would no longer be any comprehension left on the platform. 

“In my personal opinion, the step taken will diminish the creativity of an individual and comprehensive nature of the platform. The crispness of the medium will be eroded. As far as the Mumbai Police Department is concerned, the team will have to evaluate the newly taken step before coming to any conclusion,” he added.

 

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