How Twitter's expansion to 280 characters can benefit marketers

By Max November 14, 2017

"O brave new world,

 That has such tweets in it!"

 - Me

You may have heard that Twitter recently expanded its character limit to 280. In case that melodramatic epigraph wasn't enough of an indicator, this is a pretty big deal.

For better or for worse, the 140-character cap came to largely define the Twitter medium. Sure, the social media service also introduced hashtags, localized trends, and some other innovative quirks, but none of them changed the game quite like the underlying length restriction. People who normally would've put out expansive content without thinking twice about it were forced to curb their instincts (if only on the Twitterverse). A significant chunk of the world became conditioned to reading compressed statements in quick succession. This content anomaly quickly turned into an accepted norm.

That's why, even if the character doubling doesn't feel like a big deal, it really is. The foundation of an entire immersive experience has been rocked. It's like when basketball players were given a line on the court they could shoot behind that would give them three points instead of two. Even though most of them didn't recognize how to take full advantage of it right away—this sort of a time lag phenomenon is remarkably consistent across the history of innovation—the fundamental shift had still happened. The parameters of what could constitute success had been irrevocably altered.

The position that basketball players found themselves in at the end of the '70s is the same one that Twitter marketers and influencers find themselves in today. They're still playing the same game, but there is a need to re-evaluate their strategies. Not because they should (necessarily) be drastically altering their approaches, but because it is their due diligence to put in the consideration—or at least read the work of someone who has. If you're hankering for the latter option, you've come to the right place. Read on!

Less sacrifices on links

Anyone who's ever tried to tweet out a link while also giving it some context knows full well that this is easier said than done. Links have always counted as part of the 140-character total, meaning that link tweets were the tersest among an already terse tweet crop. Getting 140 extra characters to work with on a link post is an absolute gift for social media marketers. It means that a link can be given the full context it deserves, and it can even be accompanied by a reasonably sized pull quote if the situation calls for it.

Better interactions with customers

People like attention. They might not want to read a constant stream of 280-character tweets, but they'll make an exception when the spotlight is thrust on them specifically; which is to say, when their handles are directly mentioned in tweets. This is the aspect of Twitter that often gets undersold: the interactions. As much as Twitter is conducive to talking to an audience, it's also a great way to talk with one. If you can have meaningful interactions with customers and followers on Twitter, then that's a big win for your brand. With 280 characters at your disposal, you can communicate even more effectively with them on a 1-on-1 level.

More clarity and transparency

Customers value transparency and clarity. They want to know what they are getting into when they choose to give their business to a company—and they certainly don't want to feel like they are being lied to. Because of the medium's original constraints, Twitter users have always had to be very selective of the information they choose to convey in a single tweet. Some have worked around this by writing out multi-tweet threads, but most have just accepted the rules and done the best with what they can get away with in a single post.

A 280-tweet limit means that marketers have a lot more room to be explicit about what they are trying to say. Advertising a sale or contest? List all the conditions. Showing off a new product? Do it justice with a proper description. Everyone involved will benefit.

Hold people's attention

As good as 140-character tweets are at encouraging quick consumption and getting things seen, they don't do a very good job of holding attention. People read them, take them in, and instantly move on to the next thing. With double the writing space available, that could change. There's a huge opportunity for clever marketers to craft compelling content that pulls people in less fleetingly than tweets currently do. It's like getting users to read threads, except without the disjointed-ness. Not everyone will be up to the task of doing this well, so those who can fill 280-characters appealingly should take full advantage.