Why Marketers Are Concerned That 280-Character Tweets Will ‘Dilute’ Twitter’s Marketing Potential

But it could help with customer service and legal issues

Will marketers hold back on longer tweets?

On Tuesday, Twitter said it is beginning to test longer tweets, doubling the site’s signature pithy 140-character tweets to 280 characters.

The company is testing the new format because 140 characters can be limiting and may keep people from using the site altogether. With more characters, ideally Twitter can lure in new users to keep the company growing amid years of missed expectations from Wall Street.

CEO and founder Jack Dorsey sent out a 280-character tweet explaining why Twitter is testing the feature, saying the 140-character cap “was an arbitrary choice” based on text messages, which were cut off at 160 characters in the early days.

Immediately after the news broke, Twitter lit up with tweets from users and marketers complaining about the move.

Adweek reached out to a handful of agencies to get their take. For marketers that have spent years crafting and perfecting short messages, some folks said they were afraid longer tweets wouldn’t be authentic to the platform and may make it harder for users to navigate the site.

“The 280-character tweets will likely dilute Twitter as a receptive marketing platform for consumers engaging with brands,” said Rachel Spiegelman, CEO of Pitch. “Some of the most successful brands on Twitter, including Wendy’s, JetBlue and DiGiorno Pizza, have gotten to the peaks of brand engagement because of the discipline and rigor it takes to fit a message into 140 characters.”

While longer tweets may bring new users to the platform, some also worry that the feature doesn’t cater to Twitter’s power users including news organizations, live events, journalists, politicians and experts that brands specifically target on the platform.

“The strongest Twitter users share this extremely nuanced, somewhat cynical type of short-form humor that gives the platform its distinct voice,” said Brady Donnelly, managing director at creative agency Hungry.

Longer tweets may also make it harder for brands to organically pop up in the newsfeed, especially as Twitter tests non- chronological tweets in its algorithm.

“I’m sure the brands and users who truly ‘get’ the platform will find new creative ways of using it. My concern is most will not,” said John Sampogna, co-CEO and founding partner at Wondersauce.

Logically, longer tweets just means less tweets, which may contradict Twitter’s goal, noted Jennifer Ruggle, svp of digital solutions at The Sandbox Agency. “Users don’t go to Twitter to read long text blocks,” she said. “Overall, this change will likely result in fewer tweets being sent, simply because people will be able to say more in a single tweet.”

Brands are notorious for jumping into new social features immediately but several agencies warned against heavily testing longer tweets.

“Initially, there may be a ‘use it because we have it’ mentality that could water down the message,” said Daniel Murphy, svp and director of digital operations and production at Deutsch.

Matt Britton, CEO of Crowdtap added, “For brands, I believe their best use case is around live events and as a tool for customer service,” he said. “I would not recommend that a brand should start writing paragraphs on Twitter just because they can.”

According to Hannah Redmond, group director of strategy and innovation at The Marketing Arm, brands will be able to handle customer service and complaints better with more detailed explanations.

“This allows brands to better solve a problem or provide more information in response to consumer inquiries or customer service complaints right there in the native platform, rather than directing to a phone number or microsite,” she said.

Lastly, more characters will help brands clearly list legal terms and conditions in tweets.

“On a related note, this also gives no excuse for brand influencers not to disclose transparency or sponsorship language when applicable as well, which is better overall for consumers,” she added.

Or as DDB Chicago’s evp and director of digital, Azher Ahmed, put it, “For brands, keep the lawyers at bay. Nobody likes tweet disclaimers.”

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