Earlier this month, a new report had the world of social media marketing in a tizzy. Actually, it began in late September, when ReCode reported a plan by Twitter to remove the 140 character limit from its platform. That may sound like a relatively small change, but its impact could be far more wide-reaching than you think. In fact, it could significantly impact your content marketing strategy – but in a different way than you might think! Let’s dive in.
Why, we thought you’d never ask! The opening paragraph should already give you the gist of it. Days after ReCode filed its initial report, Twitter announced co-founder Jack Dorsey as its new CEO after he had led the company on an interim basis since July. And Dorsey has clear plans to reform the social media giant that has been struggling to grow steadily for quite a while now.
The close proximity of these events is not a coincidence. Dorsey knows that to pull the company back into the race with Facebook for social media dominance, he has to shake things up. Removing the character limit, long a source of frustration to marketers and consumers alike, seems like a logical step. But if the reports are true, what does it mean for your marketing efforts? The answer might surprise you.
Gauging the Impact
Funnily enough, this news’ impact on your Twitter strategy is actually the least relevant item in this whole story. Sure, you’d be able to tweet longer messages – but would you really want to? Already, social media experts like ourselves advise Facebook marketers to keep their posts within a strict character limit to avoid being cut off in news feeds, particularly on mobile devices. The same would probably be true for Twitter, whether a character limit is explicit or implicit.
No, the true impact of this change – should it come to pass – would be on your content marketing strategy.
Think about it: just how do you think Twitter will change its limitations? The obvious answer may be to simply remove character limits on all posts. But does Twitter really have incentive to make this drastic move? Doing so would move the network closer to Facebook in terms of similarity, a move that Twitter has desperately tried to avoid in recent past. And rightfully so: Facebook has almost 1 billion more monthly active users than Twitter, a staggering number that suggests the smaller network is better of establishing its own niche than approximating its bigger rival.
A Potential Alternative
The alternative, of course, is a solution in which the network still restricts regular tweets to its customary 140 character limit, while also establishing a ‘secondary’ post format that lifts the restriction for longer thoughts. Already, users are circumventing the limit with inventive tricks, posting screenshots of their non-character limit conforming thoughts as images attached to their Tweets. Others simply use blogging tools for their thoughts and link to it via Twitter. Establishing a secondary post format that’s akin to Facebook’s Notes would help Twitter serve its users, while also avoiding those costly and increasing off-page links.
To be clear, this isn’t just our speculation. Slate published a very similar article when the reports first came out, accusing that the articles suggesting the death of the 140 character limit to be reactionary and not based on truth. As the article speculates,
Your Twitter feed will continue to look much the same as it does today. The difference will be that, for certain tweets, you’ll have the option to click or tap a button (“Expand,” perhaps) to view the full article or blog post without leaving your Twitter feed.
In other words, we’re not breaking news in suggesting that Twitter’s potential character limit lift will actually result in a new post format. But what we are interested in is just how such a solution might influence your content marketing.
Adjusting Your Content Marketing
Content marketing could be so simple. You create compelling content on your website, gate it behind a landing page and form, and promote it on social media and other digital outlets to get users to sign up and become leads. But, as experienced marketers know, the reality isn’t all that simple – and Twitter’s new direction may complicate it even further.
To be clear, Twitter is not the only social media network that wants to be in the business of content hosting. LinkedIn has been offering its long-form feature for over a year now, and Facebook just revamped its Notes feature to bring it into 2015 and attract content publishers. For marketers, these new features present both an opportunity and a threat.
The bad news is obvious. In most cases, content marketing serves primarily as a lead generation tool, as we established with the example about gated content above. Publishing your content directly on social media means no longer being able to capture your audience, which could hamper your lead generation and ultimately your inbound marketing success.
An Undeniable Opportunity
But not all is bad! As a frequent reader of this space, you probably know that one underrated feature of content marketing is the way in which it establishes thought leadership in the eyes of your audience. By positioning yourself as an expert in your industry, you gain credibility and set yourself apart from your competitors in the eyes of your audience. Well, ladies and gentlemen, publishing your content directly on social media presents an undeniable opportunity to extend both your reach and your thought leadership.
Think about it: limiting your content to and gating it behind your website necessarily means losing a chunk of your audience before they ever get to it. On average, 10% of your audience will see a social media post, and 3% of recipients click through an email promoting content on your website. And even when they take that action, only 3% of your web visitors actually sign up to see your content. We don’t have to tell you that publishing your content directly on the social media network of your choice means a significantly larger audience for that content. And with Twitter potentially joining the fray, you just got one more opportunity for your content to be seen and your thought leadership to increase.
Are we putting the cart before the horse here? Maybe a little. After all, we don’t yet know the details of Twitter’s plan to remove its character limits. But if the recent actions of its largest competitors are any indication, and we’d be betting people, we would put money on the fact that the real change will be an addition of long-form posts rather than a complete lift of character restrictions. And if that is the case, wouldn’t you want to be prepared for the new feature as soon as it’s available?