All this hysterical Twitter chitter chatter hints at a bigger problem for the brand


By Dom Burch, managing director

January 6, 2016 | 5 min read

You've got to feel a bit sorry for Twitter these days.

twitter Moments

Whatever it says or does, it is immediately jumped on.

Every announcement is met with resistance at best or open derision at worst.

As a brand it's in danger of becoming the pub people no longer want to drink in.

The cool kids are already walking by in vast numbers in favour of hanging out at Snapchat, Flipagram or any number of private messaging apps.

Meanwhile everything Twitter's big brother Facebook Inc touches turns to gold. It's 1bn daily user base is increasing by the day, piling even more pressure on Twitter to innovate and compete.

Over the last day or so Twitter has made two announcements, the first related to conversational ads.

The new ad product aims to capitalise on Twitter's ability to keep conversations going following an initial call to action.

According to Twitter advertisers can drive more earned media and brand influence as a result.

These conversational ad formats, it claims, are exclusive to Twitter, making it even easier for consumers to engage with and then spread a brand’s campaign message on its platform versus others.

They hope to prove it’s a powerful way for advertisers to extend their presence across Twitter.

Samsung has signed up as one of its beta partners, alongside Lifetime TV.

The supportive comments in the blog release were suitably gushing.

But having written my fair share of quotes in my time, it smacks a little of PR puff.

The second announcement is potentially far more fundamental and has already attracted a fair amount of criticism.

Twitter confirmed yesterday it is toying with the idea of breaking its self-imposed 140 character limit.

Once you allow your fear of change to subside, you begin to realise this could be a very smart move.

Tweets that expand to reveal extended content without the need to click out of the platform makes good sense.

As someone put it yesterday (I forgot to heart them at the time, so can't give them credit) 140+ is simply Twitter allowing users to have Medium on Twitter without the need to click through to Medium.

Jack Dorsey naturally took to Twitter to make the point that people currently screen grab text from other sources to achieve the same aim, thereby rendering all of that quoted text invisible to search and indexing.

The reaction from Twitter users was predictably negative.

My initial gut feeling was no different.

Why change the one point of difference Twitter still has.

Its 140 limit USP is a brilliant constraint. Forcing you to be concise and use brevity.

Over the last six or seven years Twitter has successfully built an impressive 300m user base who have learned through repeated application how to communicate effectively in bitesize chunks.

Extending content from those 140 characters is also nothing new of course.

Like the links that preceded them, auto-shortened generated links enable you to be teased by a headline in the tweet and encouraged to click the link for more.

It seems most likely Twitter 140+ will be invisible in your feed, but available to view on demand, hence protecting the importance of the hallowed tweet, and keeping your news feed looking similar to today.

The importance of being able to condense your point and prioritise your message remains a core communications skill.

Paul Tudor Jones, founder of Tudor Investment Corp insists the easiest way for people in his organisation to be successful, whether that's how to write a memo, how to talk, or how to think, is to take newspaper writing 101.

Start with the most important and work down to the least important.

But Twitter also recognises, in spite of its 300m users loving Twitter for what it is, this hasn't removed the need or desire for longer form content.

Its co-founder Evan Williams set up Medium in 2012 for this very reason.

Not having to jump out of Twitter to another site to read a full article of interesting content should make that experience better.

Being able to easily quote text and share it within Twitter should make the experience better.

The problem is whether enough people are going to hang around in the pub long enough to experience the new range of products it is developing.

Twitter needs to get its skates on, and it needs to continue to be the place users want to be.

Follow Dom on Twitter @domburch


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