What does Twitter’s test of character mean for content marketers?

As Twitter continues to test longer tweets, what would more space mean for content marketers?

Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, so the saying goes.

Twitter surprised us last month when they gave the proverbial mile without any obvious taking and asked a hand-picked selection of users to test a new tweet length limit – doubling the existing 140 characters.

The move has been treated with some level of shock. Not because the idea hadn’t been floated before – frustrations over tweet lengths have periodically bugged users for years – but because Twitter had previously been unwilling to discuss a change to what they saw as the fundamental pillar of its offering.

The platform’s unique selling point was its brevity – forcing users to remain silent if their output was not succinct enough.

Removing hashtags and discounting links from the current limit seems a more sensible route than an arbitrary doubling of current caps. Last year, Twitter moved to drop uploaded images and tagged users from original limits to help quell unrest.

Character reference

So, has the time for bigger limits been and gone?

This is not to say that streams of consciousness in the form of tweet threads do not exist and are not popular on Twitter. But it remains the case that the most engaging posts are undoubtedly short of length. The average English language tweet is around 34 characters long.

Marketers of all types could be forgiven for looking at the furore around character limits apathetically.

Those that have already succeeded on the platform by maximising the full range of tweet options – from videos and pictures to infographics and threaded messages – have had years to perfect their craft. Quite simply, they may ignore any fresh parameters from their 2018 strategy.

Character assassination

For those with a poor Twitter strategy, bigger limits may just be the kick they need to add variety to their strategy – particularly if 280 characters becomes standard for the mainstream user.

Testing 280 characters at the same time as running the original limit may give an unfair perception of engagement – there could now be a gigantic difference between the biggest and smallest messages on the network – placed side-by-side, is this really a fair reflection of which length is best?

However, the bigger problem for misfiring content marketers is the all-too-common habit of using the format as a glorified RSS feed – sharing a link to external content with little more than a headline by way of context and promotion.

It is lack of imagination rather than lack of options that leads to bland and robotic sharing. But with too many marketers mistaking likes and retweets for genuine engagement, there is rarely motivation to change.

What Twitter’s expanding character limit should really do is encourage these uninspired sharers to develop a voice and social personality to help sell into external links. After all, Twitter is at its very heart a form of content marketing.

It’s time for a more honest conversation on why Twitter is useful for content marketers. Too many see the platform as a necessity, without properly understanding their core goals and how the network can help meet them.

At best, these strategic flaws lead to an inefficient strategy. At worst, they leave businesses concerning themselves with diminishing metrics as justification for forever shrinking marketing budgets.

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