A big shakeup at Twitter aims to refresh the platform’s user base and drive currently dwindling engagement rates. How will the change to a 10,000-character limit affect the way that all you savvy marketers do your jobs?

With CEO Jack Dorsey in charge, Twitter is about to undergo a major transformation: 140 character musings will be replaced with as many screeds and digressions as can fit in a 10,000 character manifesto.

The much-talked-about product overhaul has got brand marketers, social media managers and content writers thinking: “How can brands benefit from this? Could this shift be leveraged to improve engagement with customers?” Twitter is already an important marketing and customer service channel, but many industry experts feel that marketers aren’t using it in a way that realizes its full potential.

How Brands Are Currently Using Twitter

It’s true that many brands don’t make proper use of the platform as a tool for driving engagement and use it, instead, as a clickbait funnel. Pithy copy and comical memes serve as a way of directing traffic towards key web assets, such as websites, e-commerce stores, and platforms that host longer, more interactive, or more engaging content.

Along with misunderstanding how to take advantage of the platform, brands are also commonly faced with the hashtag conundrum: exploiting a trending hashtag’s popularity before understanding its context or without being able to control the conversation that erupts around it.

Even worse, some brands understand what a hashtag means, but try and hijack them for marketing purposes. Rarely does this strategy go well; brands’ poorly received tweets incur the wrath of both customers and those with no connection to the brand, something that no marketing department wants to experience. Despite the many #TwitterFails, “mistweets” (employees accidentally tweeting from the company account as opposed to their personal account is a common snafu) and distasteful advertorial tweets slip into timelines everywhere, leading to inevitable end-of-year reviews featuring some of the dumbest, most insulting tweets from the previous twelve months, such as in AdWeek.

That isn’t to say that marketing on Twitter is a PR minefield that’s best avoided: at the start of 2016, productivity in offices around the world ground to a halt as everyone turned to Periscope and Twitter to stare and laugh at #DrummondPuddleWatch, as BBC reports. The stream was a live-feed of people attempting to cross a fairly big puddle in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. The hashtag and video stream were created by Drummond Central, a marketing agency, who were able to use Twitter the right way and created a spontaneous social media event.

Other social media managers, eager to hijack the hashtag and its attendant traffic, jumped in, thereby spoiling the fun, according to QZ.

#DrummondPuddle_Watch

Marketing endeavors are designed with the aim of getting potential customers (“users” and “web visitors” by any other name) off Twitter and onto brand websites where they can spend money. Otherwise, why spend the time? Twitter’s allure for marketing directors was rooted in its captive audience, who were easily and readily directed to outside sites; though the fervor to generate significant exit traffic has resulted in lower-quality content and less authentic engagement.

While they helped to ensure Twitter’s early popularity, exit traffic metrics, which still benefit both brands and other social networks (Medium, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), are having a negative impact on Twitter — serving as the exit hub is not a particularly lucrative strategy. Longer tweets, which have the power to create more meaningful and more engaging experiences, could be the way forward for brands and the marketers promoting themselves on Twitter.

What #10k Twitter Could Mean for Brands

It will be interesting to see how brands react — 10,000 characters almost begs for content that’s rich enough to keep users on Twitter, but should brands take the plunge? The microblogging site is already where the most compelling user experiences take place, and not just because of their spectacular fails. Some get the tone just perfect for their audience: just take a look at this interaction between Tesco Mobile and a customer, here on BuzzFeed.

Before long, a tea company joined in, and then a popular biscuit brand, then Cadbury’s, along with each brand’s thousands of followers. The pile-on culminated in this funny exchange between Yorkshire Tea, Tesco Mobile and Jaffa Cakes.

Twitter_convo_image

Ostensibly, this was all a bit of harmless fun. But consider the conversation from a brand perspective: they used social media to show their human side, to interact as people and as friends would in a real-world social context, which is what made the conversation so compelling. In fact, Tesco Mobile’s bold social media strategy has seen both its community and engagement grow, according to AdWeek, and “is well on its way to achieving the goal of making Tesco Mobile a desirable brand.”

For consumer-facing companies, Tesco is a perfect example of what is possible when Twitter is used as a social network instead of a clickbait funnel.

Twitter’s new format will mean an editorial re-think for most brands, entailing embedding calls-to-action and useful information for customers and brand advocates into content. Pharmacy marketers, for one, welcome the increased space to communicate, given the regulations surrounding the warnings they are meant to include with product information, as Fierce Pharma Marketing reports.

Not only will brands be able to share more context, but they will, or should, get better at listening using analytics and sentiment analysis tools. Creativity will trump science on Twitter, with exponential and intangible benefits for brands who struggled with being tone and consumer deaf on social media.

Twitter is the public forum de rigeur and #Twitter10k allows brands to double down on the platform’s public access in a way that will improve engagement, thereby making this space for positive, fun interactions between brands and consumers, making the social network truly social, in a way that marketers have long been advocating.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer social media management services to build a vibrant audience for your brand across all media channels. Learn more about social media and PR here.

(Main image credit: Oliver Cox/Canva)

Author Jonathan Allen

Jonathan Allen is a search and social marketing specialist and formerly the Director of the award winning search engine news publication, Search Engine Watch. Under Jonathan’s stewardship, Search Engine Watch grew from 600,000 pageviews a month to over 1.4 million and in May 2012, won the Gold Azbee National Award for “Online Excellence, New or Relaunched Web Site” from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

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