When I saw that Twitter was considering increasing its character limit from 140 characters, I saw it as a bad thing. A company struggling in the financial community’s eyes making changes for the sake of change – not vision.
I also saw an increase as making for a poor user experience.
People would start to use Twitter for more than it is, short quips with a link for getting more. People who don’t know how to use social media, often marketers and communication professionals, would broadcast more, believing more characters was more, not less. And with longer tweets, the ability to scroll would be harder as columns on Twitter’s home page and lists would be twice as long.
I was wrong. Twitter with the 280 character is a better experience — and more valuable for those looking to learn, share, engage, nurture relationships and build a name. All the stuff smart lawyers and other professionals are after.
Leading technologist and the inventor of the blog, Dave Winer (@davewiner) was right when he wrote two years ago that Twitter needed to increase its character limit. Not to change for the sake of change, but as a defensive move for self preservation.
Winer’s point was that people don’t click on links and keeping the 140 character limit would thus cripple Twitter.
1. Twitter has had real-time news more or less to itself since inception. Facebook was busy doing something else. Apple had the totally wrong idea of how news worked. Google had good products, Google News and Google Now, but they weren’t doing exactly what Twitter does.
2. But things have changed. Facebook and Apple are actively pursuing news, and at least in Facebook’s case, their product works better than Twitter’s. Flipboard has an excellent product, and while they don’t appear to be an immediate threat to Twitter, they could be acquired.
3. News products that are limited to 140 characters have to use pointers to guide the reader to the rest of the story.
4. Key point — the new entrants don’t have a 140-char limit.
5. If you think that clicking on a link to read a story is not a serious disadvantage, then go ahead and keep the 140-char limit. But Facebook claims to have done the research, and my anecdotal experience confirms this: people don’t click links.
Winer was also right that users who loved Twitter, like me, would not be put off by the change, they’d even like it.
It’s easy and non-disruptive for Twitter to ease the limit. The people who really love Twitter as-is will barely notice a difference. Except when they want to read more, they can just click a link, and the full story loads immediately, because the full article is already there, it’s in the Twitter feed, just hidden at first. This is very simple, imho totally non-controversial stuff. Don’t breeze by it, and think the limit is insignificant. It just cripples Twitter in relation to its new competition.
Twitter at 280 is all positive for me.
- Twitter has become a quasi blogging medium. I love blogging as blogging is meant to be, a conversation. By referencing something someone else has written and offering my take, I am in effect entering into a conversation with them. At 140 characters that was tough to do. 280 makes it possible, while still making me get to the point.
- I can now get the “money quote” out of a story or post, give the attribute to the source by including their Twitter handle and then sharing my point or take. A miniature blog post.
- Longer tweets foster more engagement in the form of retweets, likes and replies. The reason is that people get your whole point in one tweet. I agree with Winer that no one clicks on a link to read a story elsewhere. That’s why I share an entire blog post on Facebook.
- Retweets, likes and replies foster engagement. I end up exchanging notes and in conversation with these folks on Twitter and elsewhere. Content is not the end goal of a lawyer, content is just the currency for building relationships and a name, largely through engagement.
- Longer tweets become part of the news cycle on Twitter. The stories you share move as more people share the items you’ve tweeted. People share what they know. They don’t know what’s behind a link. Now they can read the whole “story” on Twitter.
- Whether you share your own blog posts or someone elses, doesn’t matter. Sharing other’s stories and posts is probably better. You are seen as well read, staying up to speed in your industry and an intelligence agent by funneling some of the best from the noise.
- You build fans among those whose stories and posts you share. More people are seeing their name than ever because your tweets are getting viewed more as more people retweet them. Better yet, these fans get a notice via Twitter each time your tweet (with their Twitter handle included as a result of your attribute) is liked, retweeted or replied to.
Winer was right that early leaders, like Twitter, mistakenly think there’s something magical about their product, like 140 characters.
…[A] newcomer enters and takes the market because they were wrong about the magic. Users almost always go for new power, esp when it comes to them as performance not complexity. That’s all we’re talking about here. News stories that load instantly as opposed to news stories that require for a new page to load.
Twitter at 280 characters is only a month old. But I am liking everything about it.
As a lawyer, Twitter has now become more valuable for learning, engagement, relationships and building a name. With Twitter likely to grow from the increase, if you are not using Twitter, you’ll only find yourself more absent from the discussion and lacking an online presence.
Wasn’t the first time I was dead wrong and won’t be the last. Twitter at 280 characters is all good,