Social media is always changing and it’s difficult for small businesses to keep up.
Twitter recently made a rash of insinuations regarding changes to their platform, an effort not only to improve and enrich the interactions of users but also to help businesses to be more integrated into the platform. Keep in mind Twitter is modeled on simplicity of interaction and a straightforward user experience. The changes of late are moving away from that perfectly simplistic model to something more like other social media platforms.
Increased character limit
140 characters. For nearly a decade this limit has been one of the cultural touchstones that set Twitter apart from other social media platforms. It’s kept Twitter concise, kept users on the ball. More than any other platform, Twitter is the place for brevity and soundbites, fueling the rise of hashtag culture and coded acronyms. This short form has been an essential part of Twitter’s identity.
Twitter suggested serious changes in regards to character limit:
Blank spaces not included
Those 140 characters have always included the blank spaces between words, but this could change soon.
Links not included
When you add a link to a Tweet, Twitter automatically shortens it to 23 characters. Soon, links will no longer be counted towards the 140-character limit. This would be a relief to digital marketers everywhere, who have to keep links and images in mind when crafting tweets. As if 140 characters wasn’t limiting enough!
The third change and the one that could fundamentally alter what Twitter is, is the prospect of a move to a 10K character limit. Yes, you read that correctly – from 140 characters to 10,000. It’s important to note that for now this is just a rumor, but it’s the kind of rumor that has everyone talking. Some think this will be the end of Twitter as we know it. After all, how does this number of characters differ from any other publishing platform? Twitter has always been defined by its 140 character structure. However, increasing the character limit does makes sense given the pressure for long form, quality content. Twitter users are increasingly becoming disengaged thanks to crowded feeds. This massive change in character count could be a real solution.
Up until now the Twitter timeline has been incredibly straightforward – content was strictly in reverse chronological order. That’s certainly a transparent way to run social media, but it’s also problematic for a whole host of reasons.
First off, a linear model leads to a cluttered feed. The most important information isn’t necessarily the stuff that’s been tweeted most recently. Users are becoming increasingly frustrated with having to wade through to find the most topical and relevant content on social media – they want to platform to do it for them. However making a change here means altering a core piece of identity for Twitter, because it is a real time resource. The rise of live tweeting, trending topics and viral content are all driven by the linear model of Twitter as a platform, and are part of the up to the minute nature of the service. For Twitter, the timeline question is a big one.
Another problem that Twitter has had with the model of a time-based feed is that it’s difficult to integrate ads into a strictly linear model while having them feel embedded and organic. Monetizing has proven to be a challenge for Twitter as a company. It’s become a priority to integrate ads more seamlessly.
To address some of the issues that it’s run into, Twitter is making some substantive changes to the way that the platform works – changes that businesses need to know about.
One way that Twitter is dipping its toe into changing its chronological model is through the use of Moments. These aren’t to be confused with Facebook Moments, which are completely different. A Twitter Moment is essentially a collection of related tweets that tell a story or convey a unified idea. Again we’re seeing here the rise of long form content. This content isn’t text only, but is rich with images and video.
Similar to a news app kind of interaction, the Moment function can be accessed through the “Today” tab and includes live and trending information from sources that are relevant to a user’s interest but not necessarily who the user follows. One of the most challenging aspects of Twitter for users has been finding the best content out there. Twitter is now using this Moments function to help users find the relevant content that they’re looking for quickly and intuitively. This is good for businesses because it offers the chance for increased exposure to new users.
Right now the tweets that users find in Moments are curated by Twitter and are based on user behavior, but that will soon be expanded as third party sites like Mashable, NASA, Getty Images, Fox News and Major League Baseball come onboard to create these collections. Further expansion of content curators is on the horizon as the Moments function becomes more integrated into the Twitter experience.
Another sizable change that users are going to be seeing is the rise of the non-chronological timeline. Right now the Moments tab is separate from the Twitter feed, which remains the core of the user experience. However the feed itself is transforming, though slowly at first in order to gauge user reaction.
Rather than being strictly in reverse chronological order, Twitter has already begun highlighting some content in the feed. These non-linear tweets are presented on user pages as well, and right now are in a larger typeface but otherwise look just like normal content.
Changes in the content of a timeline are just beginning, so look for increasingly highlighted content as users become more accustomed to seeing things out of order on Twitter.
A significant change for Twitter users is the rise of sponsored ads creeping into twitter feeds. Users are starting to see “promoted” pieces that are from companies that they don’t follow but who are targeted through demographic or interest information. Twitter is targeting this function to small businesses, who can reach a wider audience through promoted content.
Still in its early stages, promoted content on Twitter is quickly becoming integrated into the user experience and should become even more successful as the rise of the nonlinear timeline means that users expectations for content continue to change.
The biggest question mark in this whole process is whether these changes will boost the ability of businesses to reach customers through Twitter, or if they will instead push users away from the platform altogether. For nearly a decade Twitter has maintained a fairly consistent model of user interaction, however the need to support business and to monetize the platform requires that Twitter make alterations.
Will users flock away from Twitter to its competitors as these sweeping changes are implemented? What will the criteria be for prioritizing content? Time will most definitely tell. In the interim, it’s important for businesses to keep on top of what’s going on so that they can get the most out of Twitter.
How will these changes affect your use of Twitter as a business or as an individual user? Let us know in the comments!