28 Sep 2016

Twitter’s big changes aren’t big enough


Thomas Bermingham – Account Executive at Spreckley

It’s been a week since Twitter announced it was rolling out its biggest ever update and loosening its 140-character limit. One of the biggest complaints from Twitter users – especially us in PR and Marketing – had been the use of photos, videos, polls, GIFs and URLs absorbing a large amount of our precious and calculated characters.

‘Big changes’ is a ‘big’ exaggeration. Twitter has relaxed its rules slightly; replies, quotes, polls, pictures and other media will no longer count towards Twitter’s tight 140-character limit. It’s hardly a ‘sticking tongue out’ dog filter for selfies, but for businesses, PRs and marketers, it gives us a little more room to increase awareness of our clients.

Twitter, which was runner-up only to the mighty Facebook a few years ago, has been struggling to innovate and keep pace with consumer social media outlets such as Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp and Pintrest, which are all now higher in the download rankings and dominating the business arena as well.

The beauty of Twitter is its simplicity and its power to deliver news and information quickly. Attention spans are shortening, videos longer than six seconds seem Gone with the Wind-esque on Christmas Day and 140 characters needs to tell you what, who, how, where, when and why or at the very least, gain enough interest to make a user click on your URL. This underlines for me the biggest disappointment following the update: the fact that external URLs still count towards the character count.

The big change that would have been beneficial to businesses is excluding external URLs from the character count. It would have given businesses and day-to-day users more freedom in promoting their articles, blogs, case studies, services pages etc.

Then when engagements increased, it may encourage the use of more pay-per-click campaigns. More PPC campaigns should be the aim for the social media outlet, which has suffered three quarters of zero user growth and has seen its value drop as it has struggled to achieve the level of profits that its competitors have.

This update probably won’t curb this trend and see new users flooding in and it hasn’t really inspired current tweeters to disable every other account that they have.

The update has freed up the characters when posting a photo, it’s nice but Instagram has that market covered. A poll? Not that exciting. Video? Is a very exciting opportunity for businesses in the future and could be the service that Twitter looks to dominate but it will be tough to compete with Facebook live. GIFs? See poll point.

Twitter cards were the big opportunity. They allow users to add rich photos, videos and media experience to an external URL producing tweets that drive traffic to your website. The update hasn’t excluded Twitter cards from the character limit and that feels an opportunity missed, especially in business use.

Twitter is rumoured to be up for sale and possibly needs a fresh pair of hands to stop it falling away like Bebo and MySpace. It needs actual ‘big’ changes to fundamental parts of its service if it’s going to stop the decline. Google is rumoured, which could pave the way for work with YouTube and see Twitter lead the field in video services.

After a quick search of who else is rumoured to be interested in buying Twitter, the future looks positive and Twitter should be back where it belongs at the top of the social media hierarchy.