There’s a lot that separates Twitter from other social networks. Its open nature, which allows anyone to follow anyone else. Its real-time display of tweets, which lends itself to live events and breaking news. But arguably, the most defining feature of Twitter is its 140-character limit – and this might be going away.
The blogs have been going wild this week as news broke about Twitter considering dropping the 140-character length restriction. The original report claims that Twitter might release a new product that would “…enable Twitter users to publish long-form content to the service.”
There has been a debate about what this actually means. Will we see huge blocks of text in our timelines? Or will Twitter create a standalone blog-type service that is easily linked-to from a tweet?
The report also indicates that Twitter might rethink how it measures “140 characters,” by excluding things like URLs or usernames from the official count.
However Twitter implements this change, it will have a huge impact on marketers using the service to connect to consumers.
Longer form content, less frequently
If Twitter does flip the switch and increase the character count of a tweet, we’ll begin to see longer form content crop up almost immediately. For marketers, this means that they will have to spend more time writing the body of a tweet.
One possible outcome of this would be the norm on Twitter shifting from many, small tweets throughout the day to fewer, longer tweets. Similar to Facebook in this respect, marketers may wind down the number of things they share, so as not to A) deplete their own time and resources and, more importantly, B) alienate consumers who may unfollow if they feel bombarded with content.
Images will still matter
Just because Twitter may change, doesn’t mean all of the rules of the game have to change. Images are one of the most-shared types of media across Twitter and other social networks, and this isn’t likely to change if tweets become longer.
Images are always going to be quick-and-easy shares for consumers, and you can bet that they will still appear prominently in the timeline. So don’t give up your image strategy just yet.
A potentially larger audience
With all of the backlash against expanding tweets, marketers have to consider why Twitter would consider making such a drastic change. No, Twitter doesn’t want to anger its most loyal, core users (which is almost guaranteed to happen if they flip this switch). But it does want to improve its appeal to the mainstream “regular” social media user, who often doesn’t quite “get” how to interact on a 140-character landscape.
If Twitter pulls off the transition to longer tweets, we could see an influx of new users – which means new eyeballs for marketers’ content. Knowing who this audience is and what they value will be crucial to adapting to the new, larger, Twitter.