Should Twitter do away with its 140 character limit?

Rumour has it that Twitter is about to do away with its 140 character limit. According to an article which broke on Re/Code, Twitter might soon roll out a new product which allows for longer tweets.

Twitter has not responded to Marketing’s queries on the rumour.

No doubt, the move will mean more flexibility for marketers in terms of publishing of content. However, Twitter’s limitation on word count has over the years become a part of its unique identity – a part of its charm many might say. The platform’s restriction, while a topic of debate, has pushed many marketers to produce snappy headlines and has often led to wittier repertoire between brands.

With the added space, Marketing asks social media folks if the platform could potentially lose its identity and in the long run, ruin the art of bite sized brand messaging marketers have learnt to adopt.

Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner of Happy Marketer was of the view that every social media platform has its own appeal and the word limit of 140 was part of Twitter’s.

“The limit on word count forced marketers to make their messaging concise and snackable, thus capturing user attention and solving their problems in a jiffy. If this feature goes live, marketers should be wary not to flood the user’s timelines with long notes and to use this extra space judiciously,” said Mazumder.

While the longer tweets might come in handy for customer service related messages, Mazumder advices that brands continue with their “short and sweet tweets” for proactive brand engagement messages.

“As an individual ‘Twitterati’, I think this is a knee-jerk reaction from Twitter to counter the growing adoption of messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp for customer service. This move can steal the platform's core identity,” said Mazumdar.

Agreeing with Mazumdar is Derek Tan, regional senior partner, Social Media, APAC at IPG Meidabrands who also said the brand’s customer relationship service team might benefit from this added word count. But marketing and brand messaging wise, the move might not be an ideal one.

“Our research has showed that character length between 40-60 have the highest engagement rates on Twitter. People prefer shorter tweets and they show approximately 15% to 20% more engagement,” Tan added.

Twitter, Tan said, has never been a platform to start trends or campaigns. Rather it is a way for brands to amplify their messaging from a campaign already launched on Facebook or on traditional mediums. The platform is also one which comes in immensely handy when brands want to create communication centered on large scale global events such as the Oscars or World Cup.

A knee jerk reaction?

Both Mazumdar and Tan also pointed out that if the new service is indeed rolled out, it is probably a way to counter Twitter facing a struggle to add more user bases.

Twitter’s inability to grow its base fast enough is due to its limited functionality although the platform is very clearly defined in its purpose, explained Tan. These pressures probably played a role in the platform trying to diversify and add new dimensions to its offerings.

“Twitter will never win when if it wants to compare the time spent on the platform. People use it on the go and to get quick updates. It needs to rethink this strategy. It needs to reshape the way content is consumed. Reconditioning and attracting a new user base that is substantial enough to create a marketing impact will be a long drawn out fight that has to include more feature rich product plans, beyond just increasing the limits of its characters,” said Tan.

Meanwhile Mazumdar added that he would rather see the platform keep its 140 character limit and add on capabilities that would allow brands to communicate via possibly voice calls or live video for longer forms of communication.