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It’s somewhat sad that something as seemingly innocuous as an update to a social media site can cause so much online furore.
Twitter’s recent announcement, in which it said it is poised to increase the tweet character limit from 140 to as much as 10,000, has thrown keyboard warriors everywhere into a frenzy.
I’m not going to use this post to talk about what this change would mean for marketers, but rather to put forward five reasons I think it’s an unbelievably stupid idea.
For reference, here is the original tweeted announcement in full:
And here are the reasons it would be a terrible move.
1. Brevity is best
I’ve put this point at the top because, to me, it is the biggest issue here.
One of the best things about Twitter is that it forces people to be brief. Every word counts, so they lose the filler.
Isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t it be protected in this ocean of increasingly awful content we call the internet?
Sure, people will still be able to post 140-charcater tweets if they want. But they won’t, will they? Not always. Not given the choice.
I get it. I’ve worked in social before and I understand how frustrating it can be when if you just had one or two more characters you could write ‘the perfect tweet’.
But the fact that it’s challenging makes it more interesting, whether you’re a social marketer or an individual trying to make jokes about The Apprentice.
Take that away and you’ve just got another place for people to ramble.
Which leads me to my next point...
2. Twitter will lose its USP
There are plenty of social networks where you can waffle on for 10,000 characters. Of all the mainstream sites of its kind, Twitter is the only one that forces brevity.
Effectively it is getting rid of the only unique selling point it has. From a business point of view, I cannot understand the decision.
Perhaps it is catering for marketers and advertisers who want to write ‘richer’ content to get their ‘valuable’ messages across.
Utterly pointless. Nobody is going to expand a tweet from a brand in order to read a load of marketing tripe. Fit your message into 140 characters, however, and you might have a deal.
3. We will lose the ‘live’ feeling
In a recent Guardian article, Leigh Alexander and Jeff Jarvis argued that it would ‘be wonderful if you had enough space, enough characters, for (your tweets) to have a context forever.’
Then they went on to ask, ‘Do people even live tweet anymore?’
Clearly these are two people with a hopeless lack of understanding as to one of the key reasons Twitter is so popular with users.
When something happens – a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or any huge news event – Twitter is the go-to place to get live updates.
Released hostages are hugging each other. One guy fainted on reaching the relative safety of our street.— Andrew Smith (@andrewhistorian) November 13, 2015
It has fundamentally changed the way we consume news. For the better, in my opinion.
Bystanders become amateur journalists, and wherever they are they can instantly share information or images with the rest of the world.
I, like many, am a complete news junkie, and I enjoy the short, snappy updates you get on Twitter during big events. I don’t want that to be diluted by needless words.
Twitter’s 140-character limit lends itself perfectly to live news. Let’s not ruin that.
4. The site will become a sea of marketing slurry
This is the one that will piss users off the most. And without the users you really don’t have a potentially money-making business anymore.
As a consumer, Twitter is my second favourite social network, after Instagram, when it comes to branded content.
The short character limit means brands have to rely more on imagery, while forcing them to be interesting/exciting/funny/whatever in very few words.
What we’ll see with an increased character limit is marketers filling the site with the kind of long-winded, self-important guff that makes me avoid branded posts on other sites. Or posts from celebrities or ‘influencers’ for that matter.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m pretty sure most people – marketers included – don’t want their Twitter feed to be polluted by content that is both crap and longwinded.
Plus, as I mentioned earlier, if people are given the choice whether to expand a branded tweet to see beyond 140 characters or not, they almost certainly won’t. So, really, what’s the point?
5. It’s just a really weird thing to do
In the simplest terms, it just seems like an utterly odd decision.
It’s almost as if the people running Twitter have never actually used Twitter. Like they don’t understand what makes it appealing in the first place.
I get that Twitter needs to make some changes because – despite its popularity among celebrities and the general public – it is clearly giving its accountants (and investors) a headache.
But I just can’t see how this will help its cause.
Maybe I’ll be proved wrong in the long run, in which case I’ll delete this post and deny that it ever existed, obviously.
What do you think?
I’ve put my opinions across. If you agree with them, great. If you don’t, even better.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.