Out of character?

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

Twitter feed looking a little busier than usual? Over the past 24 hours, the social media platform has rolled out 280 character tweets following a trial among users earlier this year. But is the move a little, well, out of character for the social media giant?

Twitter’s decision to double its famed 140 character limit is the result of calls to make it easier to tweet, with users apparently more likely to post if allowed to be a little more verbose in their musings.

Yet many longstanding Twitter users have been asking whether this capacity for added wordiness is a mistake for the notoriously short and snappy platform. Many would argue the site’s brevity is at the centre of its appeal and meddling with something so beloved by its core user base was always going to be divisive.

Concerns are already growing that the kinds of rambling, over-indulgent posts spotted on the likes of Facebook and, less often, LinkedIn will now spread to Twitter too. Personally, I think the added flexibility can present opportunities to boost engagement and the novelty of maxing out characters will wear off soon enough with most users sensible enough to ration their lengthier tweets.

Twitter itself was keen to point out only 5% of posts actually exceeded 140 characters during the trial. But this will do little to quell the fears of the unconvinced as we enter this strange, new 280 character world.

That said there’s no denying something had to change. Twitter is no longer the growing platform it used to be. Its 330 million active user base is dwarfed by Facebook’s two billion and the network has failed to exhibit the same growth as newer platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

I discussed the reasons for Twitter’s shrinking influence in a previous blog but it essentially comes down to this increasingly saturated market; a failure to adequately address online abuse and trolling and – from a personal perspective – a pace of innovation in user experience that has lagged behind its rivals.

In fact, I’d argue the problem with #280characters may be that the change is simply not creative enough. Rather than attempt to reverse a tried and tested formula, Twitter should be looking at new ways to provide added value to users in the same way that features like ‘stories’ has for Instagram or ‘reactions’ for Facebook.

It’s not that the 280 character change is inherently wrong. There’s no doubt the platform needs to offer more versatility in the face of new competition. But if it’s going to salvage its position in the market, it needs to redefine it. In the meantime, an edit button really wouldn’t go amiss.

Let me know your thoughts on #280characters in the comments section below or get in touch via social.

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© 2018 Claire Simpson​. 

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