If you have asked me about Twitter over the last year, I may have spoken about how it’s dying (unless you’re talking news, Arsenal FC or the London Black Cab industry). In April, we saw their revenue decline for the first time, as brands stopped advertising and their Q2 report recorded no growth in monthly users.
For some time now, there has been widespread discontent amongst users, who have seen the social network fail to evolve, whilst its competitor Facebook flourishes. Users have seen the decline of free speech with the removal of the chronological timeline, lack of consistency and transparency on how Tweets were prioritised. The introduction of the edit button was swiftly undone (much to the dismay of brand marketers). Twitter has tried many things to keep users engaged but the result has been somewhat underwhelming.
In September, Twitter trialled an increased character limit in the hope of revamping the flagging social network. They found that people felt more satisfied with how they expressed themselves, their ability to find good content and Twitter more generally. People who had extra space to tweet received more engagement, gained more followers and spent more time on Twitter.
Today, Twitter has rolled the increased character limit out more widely. Despite the positive findings Twitter maintains from the experiment, users aren’t necessarily on board. They have taken to making jokes and complaints (in full sentences now of course). So, will the new character limit help Twitter to recover? Twitter’s USP is it’s microblogging function which enables users to digest vast amounts of news and opinions quickly. With longer tweets, do we risk losing the brevity that is special to Twitter?
Perhaps not, Twitter’s Product Manager, Aliza Rosen explains “during the first few days of the test, many people tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel but soon after, behaviour normalised.” She went on to say “[they] saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they tweeted more easily and more often. But, importantly, people tweeted below 140 most of the time and the brevity of Twitter remained.”
The experiment found just 5% of tweets sent exceeded 140 characters and only 2% were more than 190 characters. “As a result, your timeline reading experience should not substantially change. You’ll still see about the same amount of tweets in your timeline.”
Will the new character limit bring those all important brands back to Twitter? Only time will tell.