Twitter had a unique brand with its 140-character limit

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It all started with this tweet:

It was initially opened to verified accounts and a small sampling of non-verified accounts.  Even reading Jack Dorsey’s tweet elaborating on the change was awkward.  It was a combination of being conditioned to the 140-character limit from inception, and being disappointed that Twitter was taking the next step in showing users that what made Twitter unique was becoming irrelevant.

Naturally, I expressed my displeasure:

As a jocular sidenote, users did get their wish when President Trump’s Twitter account was taken offline for eleven minutes by an employee on his last day of work:

While amusing, it’s not uncommon for an employee to engage in malicious behavior using company assets during his final weeks and/or days with their soon-to-be-former employee.  It’s one of the reasons why some employers upon receiving notice will immediately deactivate any credentials or access to company assets, and bar them from company property.

While Twitter claimed #280characters was a test run, I knew in the back of my mind, it would become permanent.  My speculation was that the initial grant of the new characters was for people who tweet frequently and generate copious amounts of traffic to the site.  Many users treated it like it was a Christmas present and intentionally made updates using all 280 characters for the sake of doing so, while others used the extra space to compose tweets devoid of tweet-speak or unnecessary abbreviations.

Inevitably, it happened:

Naturally, I threw my two-cents in:

Despite my feelings, I do have to give credit to the social media team of Law & Order:  SVU for getting creative:

While I don’t consider myself a branding expert, I am observant as to what makes brands what they are, as well as what drives customers to the platform.  Until now, Twitter had set itself apart from its competitors for having a simple interface where you had to be concise and precise.  Many marketers and social media managers would use GIFs, infographics, and short videos to compose and send out a quality message.  It doesn’t necessarily change with a doubled character limit, but it no longer forces a concise message.  Using Law & Order’s tweet as my example, those that have watched the show know that hearing it spoken feels longer than reading it on a screen.  While it’s not a cumbersome tweet to read, updates weren’t meant to come across in paragraph form.

As I scroll across my feed and see some of the tweets that are basking in the novelty, it makes me uneasy for the updates to come from major brands that I follow.  Even as I’m composing this article, I’m seeing how brands are beginning to adapt their updates to the new update, which is only natural since this a permanent change.

The biggest shock and chagrin to many users was the sheer number of things that Twitter could do to increase the value of Twitter, but hasn’t:

  • Put more effort into banning spam bots and those who use the platform to harass, cyber-stalk, and demean others.
  • Improve the consistency of enforcing their policies against tweets that truly do violate their terms of service.
  • Making it more difficult for people to report tweets on the sole grounds of disagreement or “I didn’t like what you said.”
  • An edit function, even if for a window of 30-60 seconds.
  • Opening up verification of accounts beyond the famous, celebrities, public figures, journalists, and others that are bringing heavy traffic to the platform.

Two questions remain to be asked:  How will marketers use the new character limit to improve their messaging and capture more customers?  At what point will Twitter ditch any kind of ‘limits,’ and allow tweets to be of unlimited length much like their DMs?

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About the author

Mike Rana

Mike Rana is one of those people who is hard to define, though he's not immune to being labeled for something. He likes to talk about many topics including technology, business, politics, education, psychology, and human behavior. In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling, people watching, analyzing the world around him, writing about his life experiences, absorbing information from various social media channels, and trying to be the voice of reason in the political arena.

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