“A good decision is based on knowledge and not numbers.” – Plato
A few years ago, when Twitter first really began to take hold, a colleague said to me, “How can anyone say anything of value in just 140 characters?” Fast forward to 2017 and I think we’ve found our answer.
An airline crash landed (safely) into the Hudson River in New York City. A SEAL team helicopter hovered above in Abbottabad, while a man tweeted, unknowingly, a raid to nab the world’s most wanted terrorist. Politicians have used it well and not so well.
Twitter has also changed the field of public relations, marketing, and communications, overall. Marketers must get their message out succinctly and effectively or risk losing eyes and sales to competitors. In public relations, our strategies and tactics, many times, involve how we will foster relationships with influencers and grow audiences. It was all done with just 140 characters. That could all be changing, though.
On Sept. 26, Twitter announced that they were testing the expansion of the character limit from 140 to 280. In a blog post, the company explains their reasoning is based on the ease in which users of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese can post their thoughts more effectively due to the language. It’s an intriguing and risky idea by Twitter.
Part of the appeal of Twitter is its brevity. It (either right or wrong) forces you to get your thoughts across in one post. If you need to expand, simply write another post (and add 1/2, 2/2). For me, I’ve found it a good challenge over the years to say what I need to say in 140. I honestly believe it has helped to make me a better and more focused communicator.
I also understand the need for Twitter to tweak its model. There’s no secret the social platform is losing its appeal. Twitter reported this past July that its monthly user base in the States declined to 68 million from 70 million when it was predicted to increase. Younger digital media users are turning to Instagram and Snapchat to tell their stories and share their lives. Adding characters is a way to potentially unclog your feed and help share news more effectively.
The idea of doubling the character limit would eventually grow on me, just as many of the tweaks social networks have made over the years. When these networks do not improve, people move on to their next channel. Before Twitter doubles the limit to 280, it would be better to consider more important changes that would strategically help loyal users. Why not allow the ability to edit tweets? That’s one of the bonuses with Facebook. If facts change, I can edit the post. Another adjustment could be to expand the character count by not counting hashtags.
Twitter is NOT going away, despite some low numbers. Just look at how the network explodes when there is breaking news or a major event. You can’t get that same immediacy on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, in my opinion.
Twitter is just testing the 280 limit. But, now for the network to evolve, it’s a good idea to think outside the Tweet box.