The 10,000 Character Question: Will it save Twitter?

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Twitter plans on making big changes in the coming months–will it open the platform up for 10,000-character Tweets (versus the current 140-characters)?

Twitter is in trouble—but how many people care? (Kurt Russell can’t be the only one who doesn’t “get” Twitter…)

The micro-blogging platform has had its fair share of issues—perhaps more than any other social network, save for Google+. Just recently, the site was reported down or not working (and we’re not talking a momentary disruption in service—this was “among the most extensive the company has yet encountered”). Beyond that, and what’s more troubling for the nearly-ten-year-old social network:

According to a recent CIO article:

While [Twitter] is embracing change on the periphery, its namesake platform remains an increasingly lackluster and frustrating experience for users. If you don’t regularly use Twitter now, the odds are you never will.

Embracing Change: 10,000 Characters?

If you’ve been browsing any news blips about social media, you’re probably aware that Twitter is planning on opening up its 140-character limit—to 10,000 characters. So the question naturally becomes: will it matter?

If/When Twitter offers 10,000 character Tweets—will it improve the overall experience on the site? Will it drive people back to the platform?

It’s safe to say the initial reaction to this is mixed. Executive editor and chief content officer of Mashable Jim Roberts (Twitter user @NYCJim) laments, “In unending quest to ruin product, Twitter execs press ahead w/ 10,000-character limit. Other pundits—such as Alexis Madrigal, contributing editor for The Atlantic, believes the feature “could actually be great.”

The trouble is that we don’t yet know what the update is going to look like or how it’s going to function. There’s talk that the 10,000-character limit will be expressed in the form of a “Read More” feature—in that Twitter users won’t be spammed by long tirades of Tweets flooding their news feeds; they’ll only see the additional content if they choose to.

My own opinion—which (CYA) doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion(s) of Oneupweb—is as follows:

  • Increasing the character limit harms the integrity of the Twitter platform, a platform that was built on brevity, wit and real time.
  • I’m not convinced current Twitter users want or were clamoring for this kind of increase, so I’m not sure it justifies potentially harming the original nature and intent of the platform.
  • But here’s my kicker: Doing this isn’t going to (1) keep people on Twitter (in fact, the opposite is likely true) and (2) it won’t attract more users to the platform—both of these things result in no positive financial impact on Twitter’s business model.

Take into consideration the character counts themselves: There’s plenty that can be said in 140-characters (roughly 25 words): it just takes some time to get there (and that, dear readers is part of the beauty of this network—you kind of have to think carefully about what you put out there, at least if you want it to be great). A 10,000-character limit opens the platform up for reams of content—nearly 1,500 words worth (this blog will be little more than 600, for comparison).

Active, loyal users of Twitter like the platform for its brevity—opening the character count up that substantially (even with restraints like a “Read More” feature) will likely alienate the loyal Twitter, forcing some to abandon the platform completely.

This feature isn’t likely to attract new users. It’s not that new users can’t express themselves adequately in 140 characters that’s keeping them from using the platform—it’s the other issues. The lackluster experience; the insider-feel to it.

More relevant for our immediate purposes as marketers: how can we make a compelling case for brands to use the platform when the platform continues to present so many problems for its users?

It’s frustrating—I want to like Twitter; I think for the right brands it can be a meaningful platform (both from a revenue standpoint and from others, particularly customer service). But at the moment, it’s almost more problem than its worth—and the 10,000 character increase isn’t likely to help.



Photo Credit:

Old news… via photopin (license)

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