Twitter has finally made it official that it will be relaxing the 140 character limit rule for tweets in its continuous attempt to become more relevant in a world where Facebook does not seem to be loosening its grip.
Continuing with the theme of making Twitter easier to use and more attractive to new as well as old users, the fact that users can now write longer messages will surely generate interest. The larger question though is whether these changes are enough to arrest flagging user growth, which has been a constant bane over the last few quarters.
After last quarter’s report card saw its first ever drop in user base, growth is back on track in Q1FY16 with the company reporting that it added 5 million new users to take its user base to 310 million worldwide. Monthly active users (MAU) saw an increase of 2 per cent QoQ and an increase of 3 per cent YoY. However, this growth has come from non-US geographies as MAUs in the US saw 0 per cent increase. In the last three quarters (before Q1’16) US MAUs have seen growth of 0 per cent, 1 per cent and -2 per cent, which had worried investors, and this trend, at least in the US, seems to be continuing.
What does Twitter’s new move mean for advertisers? As Zafar Rais, CEO at MindShift Interactive, puts it, the popularity Twitter gained, its key USP, has always been about how creatively one can put down their thoughts in a crisp and concise manner, being extremely direct.
“While the shift towards more space for words questions its core differentiation, it surely addresses the need to bundle content in the form of visual media and opens up the platform to a larger audiences that may have been intimidated by the platform previously. For advertisers, the change opens up new avenues towards communicating in a more informative manner, and allowing them to reach out to new audiences,” he said.
Manish Kumar, Founder and CEO of Digi Osmosis, also agrees with this assessment. According to him, with Twitter waiving the character limitation will allow for more creative rendition by brands, agencies and content creators and make conversations easier and more engaging.
Though brands might see this as a positive development, adoption will remain one of Twitter’s key challenges and this is where it will be critical to see how these changes have an impact.
“I can't say that this move will make Twitter more competitive. However, what I can say is that it will give users a lot more flexibility in their tweets, and get the quality of tweets to improve. You are slightly liberated on the characters front, and can plan for better communications on your tweets, with that "newfound freedom". Don't think more people are going to communicate on Twitter just because of this one reason. But yes, those who are using the platform will get a little more flexibility in their content,” said Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEO, Mirum India.
Gautamm Mehra, VP (Account Planning and Innovation) at iProspect India, also agreed that the challenge for Twitter remains adoption and the trick for Twitter needs to be to create a more multimedia lead first not just from a capability point of you, but from a community perspective. “If that changes, then changes like these will matter a lot, else it's just a small change in the large scheme of things. Some Twitter users will love it, others will not find a need for it,” he added.
According to Suveer Bajaj, Co-founder of Foxymoron, Twitter has its aces and it would be unfair to compare it with other social media platforms as they all have their own unique benefits. “On Twitter, marketers can share the latest news in crisp messages, enabling real time interactions and thought-provoking conversations. Ultimately, the network that will be most effective for your marketing efforts majorly depends on your audience, their interests and the type of content you wish to disseminate,” added Bajaj.