Rumors that Twitter would relax its 140-character limit have been swirling for months. But this week, CEO Jack Dorsey reinforced the cap—with a major concession: Photos, GIFs, and videos, as well as Twitter handles in replies (marked with an @ symbol) and polls won’t count toward the character maximum.
The other big move: In an effort to make Twitter easier to use, tweets beginning with @name will be seen by all your followers. (Currently, people can only broadcast tweets by affixing a period to the @name.) You’ll also be able to retweet yourself, a self-promotional gesture previously verboten.
Those may seem like minor tweaks. But they’re also helpful reminders for brands to revisit their Twitter strategy as they engage users on one of the trickier social platforms. Here are a couple rules of thumb:
Heap on the visuals. Just don’t forget what makes Twitter unique.
Brands will now have more latitude to create visually compelling tweets. And that’s no small thing: According to Twitter’s own study, photos and videos top the list of “hard features” that boost engagement. Images drive an average 35% increase in retweets; videos get a 28% bump. (By comparison, adding quotes, a number, or hashtags result in 19%, 17%, and 16% jumps, respectively.)
Giving in to the temptation to turn Twitter into
Instagram would be a missed opportunity for brands to showcase clever
But that doesn’t mean brands should bone up on GIFs at the expense of strong copywriting, the hook that makes Twitter both a rewarding and a challenging platform. The beauty of Twitter’s original rules is that they forced companies to convey distinctive voice and tone in a mere 140 characters; brands should continue to pay close attention to crafting bite- size messages. “Twitter is really good for those one-liners,” says Reema Mitra, Huge’s group social director. “Brands need to be aware that the quality shouldn’t go away now that they’ve got a couple of extra characters.”
That may seem like obvious advice. But giving in to the temptation to turn Twitter into Instagram would be a missed opportunity for brands to showcase clever wordplay.
Remember that bit about replies in conversations being visible to all your followers without that a period preceding the @name? Seems harmless enough—until you realize that conversations you might not want played out in public could prove uncomfortably sticky.
“Community managers have generally tried to take those conversations offline as fast as possible so it doesn’t hurt their brand rep,” Mitra says. With a greater chance that a slipup will result in public shaming, those managers will have to be even more considered in how—and how quickly—they respond to customer requests, complaints, and comments.
Don’t be a self-promoting jerk.
Back to that other piece of news: Users will now be able to retweet themselves.
That’s a great tool to resurface a tweet that was somehow missed in the relentlessly flowing Twitter stream. But doing so with any frequency could also get incredibly annoying. “I wouldn’t advise a brand to do this often,” Mitra says.
In summary, self-promoting retweets shouldn’t be abused. Retweet: Self-promoting retweets shouldn’t be abused. See what we mean?
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