After a whirlwind of recent changes — co-founder Jack Dorsey returning as CEO and some notable layoffs — Twitter is poised to make one of its most drastic changes yet, expanding the infamous 140 character limit. Shocked? Surprised? Upset? So are the many users who have already tweeted their objections and confusion.
As seen in multiple headlines, Twitter has strongly suggested that it is going to allow users to share messages with up to 10,000 characters as early as this March. Some critics have claimed that Twitter is forgoing its signature trademark to better appeal to the masses after a string of sluggish user growth.
Based on early reports, the expanded character limit won’t affect users much, and Twitter’s timeline will remain the same. Contrary to widespread concern, people won’t be bombarded with paragraph-long tweets that they’ll have to navigate through and ignore. Instead, reports claim that they will still just see the usual 140 characters and will have the option of expanding a longer tweet to reveal the additional commentary.
In fact, this idea that has been internally referred to as “Beyond 140” stemmed from Twitter noticing how people avoided the 140 character limit in creative ways — with screenshots of large blocks of text or “tweetstorms” of several tweets in rapid consecutive order. Reports go on to say this new character limit will function similar to Twitter’s direct messaging product, which will give users an experience they’re already familiar with, making tweeting more comprehensive without completely remodeling its visual layout.
One under-the-radar aspect of this announcement that hasn’t been talked about is how the expanded character limit will impact businesses using Twitter as a customer support platform. Currently brands primarily use Twitter as a middleman, responding to users when they have a problem and redirecting them to email or the call center from there.
The reality is that today there isn’t room for a substantive dialogue that allows brands to offer a well-rounded response that will satisfy the customer, and so their inquiries are typically redirected to other channels. Yes, companies can directly message people, but the user has to be following the company’s Twitter account in order to give them access to that feature, and so, this practice isn’t commonplace.
With the expanded character limit, however, brands now have the potential to use Twitter to digitally address an issue without directing people to call centers. Removing the extra steps not only maximizes a company’s Twitter customer support team’s effectiveness but also has the potential to reduce the amount of people reaching out to call centers, which at scale could make an impact on the bottom line.
For example, if Rachel asked an airline how she can change her flight on Twitter, a customer support representative typically would share with her the reservation contact information. She would then have to call that line where there might be a longer wait time than normal due to a high volume of calls. Even if she changes her reservation, Rachel might decide to never book another flight with this airline again, because of its inability to answer her question on Twitter. The 140-character limit not only lost a customer, but also used multiple company resources.
In the future, Twitter’s new format will foster dialogue in a public setting. This transparency shows that a brand is serious about providing an excellent customer experience across all platforms in real-time. Consumers will feel that companies are more accessible and attentive to their needs. A direct line of communication will establish that key emotional connection with a brand that will keep people returning to their store. Companies will be incorporated into people’s daily lives because instead of the hassle of a call, they can tweet their concern in one seamless action.
With this new expanded character limit just around the corner, businesses that already have a strong social customer care platform in place on Twitter will have new potential to maximize resources, save money and attract new customers. Companies need to be able to connect with users on Twitter and assist them with their problem on the same platform in order to survive this “age of the customer” where a tweet can make or break a brand’s image. This open and substantive dialogue on Twitter will strengthen a company’s overall customer experience and set it apart from its competitors.
Elizabeth Clor is the senior director of marketing at Clarabridge.