Twitter’s growth stagnated in 2015, and although there were some interesting newer aspects of the network (most notably Periscope) it evidently wasn’t appealing enough for the 77 percent of Internet users that don’t use the platform.
In 2016, Twitter may make some changes that impact how marketers and communication professionals are able to use the platform. What I want to do in this post is describe changes that have occurred or are likely to occur to Twitter this year.
1. Twitter will allow a lot more characters (rumored March 2016)
The biggest rumor around Twitter is that it will change the character limit from 140 to 10,000 in March.
To give some perspective, the average word length is about 6 characters long, so a 10,000 character limit would allow for about 1,650 (or so) words. In essence, Twitter would become a full-fledged blogging platform similar to the feature that LinkedIn rolled out last year.
The implicit purpose for LinkedIn long-form posts, news and influencer-driven Pulse was to increase eyeballs for advertising, and the intention holds for Twitter too. The option to publish directly to Twitter may be one of the reasons that Twitter discontinued tweet count from its API.
In any event, the mechanism of a long-form tweet may be very similar to the Twitter Card experience. A 140-character tweet would be highlighted and could be expanded by the reader.
Most prognosticators (including me) suspect that increasing character count probably won’t have as big of an impact as you might expect, but for communication professionals and content marketers this may be another platform to further distribute longer-form content.
2. Conversational ads (and other ad products)
Growth is only a concern for Twitter because it needs to generate revenue, so (just like Facebook when it went public) expect a lot of advertising products to roll out for Twitter.
Their latest ad products are called “conversational ads” which appear like a poll in the Twitter timeline and allow users to tweet a response with a pre-selected hashtag. Twitter ad products already allow for hyper targeting, but the difference with conversational ads (according to Twitter) is the call to action initiated by the tweet.
This is probably not the last ad change that you’ll see from Twitter in 2016. If you recall Facebook’s strategy in 2013, they rolled out a lot of advertising products to see what worked best. The challenge for Twitter is that its social utility is lower than Facebook for most users, and there are less advertising opportunities.
What’s the big takeaway for communication professionals and marketers? There will be some good advertising/promotional tools on Twitter this year. If conversational ads don’t work for you, there will be more options sooner rather than later (such as the “Buy Now” button offered to Shopify customers).
3. Twitter Camera
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) August 25, 2015
This is a feature (currently available to celebrities only) that allows you to take Snapchat-style pictures for Twitter. It’s kind of cool but also a bit derivative and not as useful in a one-to-many setting as it might be for Snapchat. This feature is expected to be released to all users in 2016.
4. Twitter Q&A
This is an interesting feature (also only available to celebrities) that allows for a question and answer session to be conducted via Twitter.
It’s probably more akin to Quora’s Writing Sessions than Reddit AMAs (because the questions are curated by the recipient), but this may be a useful feature for some communication and marketing professionals to demonstrate expertise on the platform.
5. Anti-harassment / violence / bullying
Long a haven for trolls and bullies (when they weren’t commenting on YouTube videos), Twitter has revised its terms of service to actively combat unsavory activity on the network.
Of course, a savvy communication professional might just opt to grow their Canadian followers: Canadians are purportedly nicer on Twitter than Americans.
6. Twitter Polls
Rolled out late last year, Twitter Polls are rudimentary polls that anyone can post to their timelines. Although limited (now) to two options, Twitter appears to be beta testing polls with more options and with longer time allowances.
This may be helpful for communication and marketing professionals who want to create engaging, interactive content for their Twitter followers.
7. Twitter for Mac update
Mac users will be happy to note that just before the new year Twitter updated its Twitter app for OS X to include gif and video support, and a few other bells and whistles (although no polls).
For Apple users, this is a helpful development for managing and / or using Twitter on your Mac.
8. Kanye’s new album
REAL FRIENDS https://t.co/vut7TbS8vq
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 8, 2016
A little tongue-in-cheek for this last one, but Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are using Twitter and Soundcloud to promote West’s upcoming album. A very interesting demonstration of social distribution. And Kanye West rarely disappoints with his tweets:
I have no interest in working with anyone who is too important or too good or too traditional to take a call at 3am — KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 10, 2016