The term “breaking the Internet” is, in my opinion, thrown around way too loosely. I’ve seen too many Buzzfeed articles with headlines like “This puppy is SO cute it LITERALLY broke the Internet!” or “Paris Hilton sent one little tweet and proceeded to LITERALLY break the Internet!”
That being said, Twitter actually did break the Internet as we know it in early November when it rolled out a new function for users, giving them the ability to use 280 characters per tweet. As you may know, since Twitter’s launch in 2006, users had been restricted to 140 characters.
Radical change on the Internet, of course, brought out a flurry of heated opinions. Some users and critics applauded the new feature. Even more took to Twitter and used all 280 newfound characters to rip Twitter a new you-know-what. But that’s social media for you. Did you really expect anything different?
As for me, I still don’t really know which side of the fence I sit on quite yet. Like every large-scale change, there are pros and cons.
Now that we’ve had a couple weeks for the dust to settle, let’s make a rational breakdown of the good and bad that 280 character Twitter presents.
280 characters makes Twitter a more attractive advertising platform –
If I had to guess, I would be willing to bet this was one of the biggest deciding factors when Twitter ultimately decided to pull the trigger on 280 characters.
Over the last few years, Facebook and other social media platforms have made strides towards becoming effective digital marketing and advertising venues, rivaling that of even Google Adwords. However, Twitter’s advertising growth has constantly been hampered, among other factors, by what Twitter is primarily used for (news, updates and celebrity gossip) and character count.
Twitter now presents the option to create long-form ads similar to that of Facebook and LinkedIn in hopes of rising from the ranks as the forgotten child in social media advertising.
280 character tweets stand out in a news feed –
For years now, the best advice I could give you for making a tweet stand out in a regular timeline would be to attach a picture, video or GIF to your tweet. The extra content makes your tweet longer and is more likely to draw attention.
Now, however, utilizing 280 characters in a tweet is yet another way help a tweet stand out. Many users are still getting used to the idea of having 280 characters at their disposal. While they acclimate, they may still be inclined to keep their tweets under 140 characters.
By making important Twitter updates deliberately exceed 140 characters, these tweets will appear larger and help draw the eyes of your audience in their timelines.
280 character tweets may go overlooked –
Now the flip side: while your longer tweets may very well get more eyes on them, will anyone actually read them?
If you have ever dipped your toes into marketing you know just how short of an attention span consumers have. And Twitter users, they are the worst of them all. See, that’s what was so brilliant about Twitter when it first came on the scene: messages were short, sweet, and to the point. Faced with a wall of text, many social media users may end up just shutting down their brains and scrolling right past it.
This also leads to the argument that 280 character tweets will be less impactful. Once restricted by a word count, tweets had to make every single character count and often resulted in very direct messaging. Now, if you deliberately attempt longer tweets, you run the risk of wandering off message or taking away the power of a direct, in-your-face message.
Will users actually use 280 characters? –
It’s human nature to resist change (that’s why you saw so many tempers flair over social media about the character expansion). So a very reasonable question to consider is whether people will choose to embrace and use 280 characters regularly.
Think about it. For more than 10 years, users adapted to 140 characters using photos, videos, GIFs, hashtags and so on. A change in user tendencies isn’t going to happen overnight if at all. After a month, I would say from personal experience that the number of tweets I see on a daily basis surpassing 140 characters is minimal.
What does all this mean?
So, the real question we need to be asking is, does this really change anything? Is adding 280 character tweets a game-changer or is it just a desperate ploy of a company many consider to be dying on the vine?
It may sound like a cop out, but it remains to be seen. While there is no evidence right now that Twitter is giving special treatment to 280 character tweets (similar to how Facebook treats video), that could very easily change. Regardless, every new social media change has potential. The only way is to dive in, try it out, and be creative.
And the potential for creativity and intrigue is definitely there. Don’t believe me? This got retweeted 147 thousand times. And yes, I was one of them.
Have you begun experimenting with your newfound freedom on Twitter? Tell me how you have been adapting to the changes or how you think this impacts the platform all together.