Do we really need 280 characters?

It seems like only yesterday that we were all restricted to just 140 characters on Twitter - an old limit capped at text message length (does anyone even use text messages anymore or are we all on Snapchat, Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp instead?)

Oh…it was only yesterday!

But today is a brand new dawn! Twitter teased us last year by allowing us to include pictures and videos within our 140 character limit, but now they're really spoiling us. Yes that's right - from today we have the ability to say 100% more on Twitter - a massive 280 characters.

But is it a good thing? Well the jury is out on that.

Yes, it's annoying when you need those extra few characters to finish your tweet and you frantically have to decide what to cut out or change. Perhaps though, it's less frustrating for those of us in PR and marketing - our job has always been to convey messages and information in the right way, so where we need to be precise we can be. We shouldn't allow this to change now - having more space doesn't mean we have to use it. The beauty of Twitter, in my opinion anyway, has always been that it is succinct - it teases us with information that we can then find out more about by clicking the hashtag or following the link, or allows us to have conversations rather than deliver a monologue.

When Twitter first announced it was considering an increase (at that stage unlimited characters) my initial response (and that of many) was that it would just become another Facebook. In hindsight I don't think that is the case. We don't need another Facebook for one thing. Those who prefer Facebook for sharing information, consuming content and keeping up with family and friends are not going to suddenly start using Twitter for this. My personal social media habits have changed over the last couple of years. Where I used to get my news (including on my beloved Newcastle United) from Twitter, I now get this from Facebook. Which leaves me wondering what Twitter's place is - and I know I'm not the only one. Of course, there are many other aspects of modern life where Twitter has a place - customer service for example. Who hasn't used Twitter to make a complaint, ask a question, or simply just for trying to get a response from a company? Real time TV conversation too. Iโ€™ve even followed whole episodes of programmes on Twitter without actually watching the programme itself!

With anything new of course, everyone has an opinion (Nick Evershed's opinion piece on the Guardian website is a good read if you want to explore this further). From a PR point of view, brands need to be asking the same questions they did before. Is Twitter right for us? Are our customers there? If so what do they want from us? How do we engage them? What can we say or share? 280 characters won't change the questions. It will simply change the answers - particularly to the last two questions.

Like with any new toy, people like to have a play so it is unsurprising that #280characters is trending away on Twitter. Here are a few of my favourites so far:

#280Charactersyou say?! Okay: ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ™๐Ÿฆ‘๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿฆ€๐Ÿก๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿณ๐Ÿฌ๐ŸŸ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿฆˆ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿญ๐Ÿน๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿจ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿป๐ŸฆŠ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿท๐Ÿฝ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ”๐Ÿง๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿค๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ‡๐Ÿฆ‰๐Ÿฆ…๐Ÿฆ†๐Ÿฅ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿ—๐Ÿด๐Ÿ๐Ÿž๐Ÿš๐ŸŒ๐Ÿฆ‹๐Ÿ›๐Ÿœ๐Ÿฆ—๐Ÿ•ท๐Ÿฆ‚๐Ÿข๐Ÿ๐ŸฆŽ๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐ŸŠ๐Ÿ…๐Ÿ†๐Ÿฆ“๐Ÿซ๐Ÿช๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿฆ’๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ„๐ŸŽ๐ŸฆŒ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ๐Ÿ–๐Ÿ•๐Ÿฉ๐Ÿˆ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿฆƒ๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‡๐Ÿ•Š๐Ÿฆ”๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒด๐ŸŒณ๐ŸŒฒ๐ŸŒฟโ˜˜๏ธ๐ŸŒพ๐Ÿ„๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿƒ๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒ๐ŸŒš๐ŸŒŽ๐ŸŒ๐ŸŒ๐Ÿ’จโ„๏ธ๐ŸŒŠโ˜€๏ธ๐ŸŒฆ๐ŸŒงโ›ˆ๐ŸŒฉ๐ŸŒจโ˜๏ธ๐ŸŒฅ๐ŸŒชโšก๏ธโ˜„๏ธ

 

The next few months will be vital for the future of Twitter. The change in limit is probably the biggest change (some may say gamble) in its history. Twitter, like Facebook and indeed any business, needs to adapt to meet the needs of its users. I'm just not sure in this case it has given us what we need.


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