8 New Twitter Features for 2016

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.

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2. Conversational ads (and other ad products)

conversational ads

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

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.

Facebook is estimated to expand exponentially in 2016. Leverage its 10 new features for your PR & communication goals.

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.

What this means in terms of user experience has yet to be seen, but Twitter is purportedly increasing the number of employees that they have to enforce these policies.

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

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

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:


Images via Pixabay: 1, 2

  • Enjoyed the update. I wish Twitter brought back the share counts. It’s crazy not to have them and diminishes the power of Twitter as a marketing tool in my view.

    And tell Kanye to stop calling me at 3 am. I need my sleep.

    • jimdougherty

      Hi Clement, I agree with you but also see cutting that off as part of its strategy to host long form content on the platform. If the share count is obfuscated and an organic site traffic metric is made available it might encourage more people to share entire posts on Twitter. I do think that not having these counts diminishes social perception somewhat. That said, I wish Yeesus and I were tight enough that I could pass on your request, but we’re not. I suppose you’ll just have to keep taking his calls or put your phone on airplane mode at night. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  • Was it deliberate that they released the news of Twitter10k this early? By the time they roll it out, everyone will be over their love/hate affair with it.

    There is a nice range of perspectives in this article from American Express Open Forum:

    • jimdougherty

      Hi Beth,

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing that link. My personal opinion is that they released information to the public not so much for their reaction but to assure their investors that big changes are forthcoming. They could also be trying to generate curiosity with non-users, but I think there are much better social platforms to opine at length than Twitter (he says right after looking at his Facebook timeline).

      If you consider heatmaps of google searches or of online reading, I suspect that the behavior of long-form Twitter will be similar. Far more people will read the 140 character Tweet than click-through to the long form. AND there is the complication of monetizing that long-form Tweet: assuming it is clickable then I think you end up with click-conversion that is a fraction of a percentage of all followers.

      My suspicion is that people probably won’t find the increased characters especially useful, that publishers will still prefer to host content on their own sites, and that we might find that this isn’t the dramatic change that everyone expects. People are accustomed to using Twitter in a specific way and I doubt it will change too demonstrably – which is extremely unfortunate for Twitter and Twitter users, because then they’ll have to change something else.

  • I have to say that I am not a fan of increasing the Twitter character count to 10,000. Just too much. Besides, if you have a 10,000 character article, all you need to do is link to it. If they really want to provide a little more flexibility in character count, just stop counting images as part of the character count.

    And I agree with Clement. Twitter should restore share counts.

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks for your comment John. I don’t disagree with either of those, but I think that the decisions that went into those are pretty consistent with past decisions to limit API calls, restrict the pipeline to external apps, et cetera. At this stage, Twitter needs to generate revenue for its investors and is willing to do it by whatever means necessary. There is a workaround solution called Open Share Count (http://opensharecount.com/) that sets up a system that searches and counts Twitter shares and returns a number to your share count, but it won’t count retroactively and isn’t compatible with the organic Twitter count button.

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