Character Limits Aren’t What Ails Twitter

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Recode reports that Twitter is working on expanding its famous 140 character limit to a 10,000 characters. Users might click “read more” to expand a tweet to the full length.
If it carries through on this change, I think that Twitter needs to retain both high information density and easy browsing of tweets. The existential risk it runs if not is that it would lose product differentiation versus other social media platforms. Facebook has steadily positioned itself as the go-to alternative for media to share news and live stream events. I find that its Mentions app for media is a much better product than anything Twitter provides.
In 2016, Twitter just aping Facebook is risking everything to compete with the biggest social platform on the planet. The question that its executives must be able to answer to media, politicians and the public is why they should tweet (or read tweets) instead of using another platform.
Over the years, I have found that I find the way I use Twitter – to find and share information or news, track live events, learn from others, and discuss ideas – looks like work to many other people. Finding and following (and unfollowing) smart people is crucial to making Twitter useful. Twitter tried to improve this in its onboarding process, using lists of interests, but it’s still not effectively explaining how people who love it and value make the most of the platform.
Twitter tried to address this using Twitter Moments, but I’m not sure it’s working. Character counts won’t either.
I think Twitter will need to invest in Tweetdeck and Tweetbot for its power users, to retain its position as an information utility and preserve the inputs that drive its value to people who prefer to browse, but that’s enough.
Flat user growth suggests that Twitter must make itself much easier to use for mainstream. Elevating user Lists would help, instead of just curating “Moments” internally and publishing them, especially shorn of links. And guess what? Media already make and use Lists. Instead of largely ignoring power users or their frustration, perhaps partner with them? Maybe even offer those users a share of ad revenue if their Lists prove to be the best lens on an event or news or a law or disaster?
I’m obviously spitballing here, but I’m concerned about what’s going to happen to my favorite social media platform in 2016 and beyond.
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Whether you are also are a long-time user or someone who tried it and left, I’d certainly welcome your ideas on what Twitter should do — or be.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Character Limits Aren’t What Ails Twitter

  1. Pingback: Twitter CEO Responds To Furor Over Character Limit With Screenshort | digiphile

  2. Good constraints make good conversation. I’m not convinced eliminating the character limit is going to either spur growth or destroy what’s good about Twitter. I’d rather they did something like that with a bit more subtlety that addresses “what is it for.” For example, rather than simply rolling it out across the platform…create different kind of tweets (long form v. shortform), setup some type of earned status for publishing longform (after a certain # of posts, and followers, favorites, etc.), give the product a bit more definition while still staying w/core philosophy.

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