How will a boosted character tweet limit impact the future of Twitter?

Is increasing its character count limit to 10,000 really the answer to Twitter's prayers, or will this change adversely affect the platform in the long run?

Is increasing its character count limit to 10,000 really the answer to Twitter’s prayers, or will this change adversely affect the platform in the long run?

It looks like the rumors are true.

Last week, Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey all but confirmed that the social network will lift its 140 character tweet limit. The limit on one-to-one direct messages was already increased from 140 characters to 10,000 in August 2015 and it looks as though public tweets are going down the same path.

Here’s the full text, from a series of tweets from Dorsey on the topic:

The move comes hot on the heels of Twitter removing share counts, which helped me determine which articles were worth reading on sites. As an author, they often gave me bragging rights as many of my ClickZ articles were very popular share-wise on Twitter.

“They were really useful to us. Having share counts along with our comments section was a strong way to underline that there’s a conversation around what we’ve written, as well as letting us know that our content was resonating with readers. I believe it’s another desperate move by Twitter to increase revenues in the long term and I think it will be detrimental to its future,” said ClickZ’s Editor, Melanie White, on that move.

mel comment-jeanne jennings
Now I think I get it.

When I think of social media, I mentally divide it into ‘notification’ and ‘publish’ platforms. Historically, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter were notification platforms – I would use them to alert my followers about articles I published here on ClickZ, on my blog, and on other publish platforms. Whereas publish platforms have full-text articles, notification platforms only feature a blurb about the item with a link to the full text.

Then LinkedIn started allowing users to publish full-text articles, and it suddenly became both a notification and a publish platform. Now Twitter is moving in the same direction and wants to own original, full-text content – not just notifications that link people back to the primary sources of articles.

Am I surprised? No. This makes total sense from a business standpoint (in case you haven’t been following it, Twitter is currently struggling). But I’m not convinced that this move will be successful.

I get that Twitter is trying to increase customer engagement and loyalty with this change. Publishing full-text articles will make it a destination site/app, as opposed to a jump-page to other content. It will also further tether Twitter users to the site and make it more emotionally difficult to leave, because there’s more perceived value in full-text articles published than in tweets about them (at least for me there is).

Here’s the problem: this change threatens what made Twitter distinctive to begin in.

Though Dorsey says its not, I believe that this change is a threat to Twitter’s identity as a social platform. The more Twitter becomes like LinkedIn, Facebook, and the multitude of other sites and apps out there that allow people to publish full-text articles, the more it increases its competition in the marketplace and loses its differentiator.

There are already so many places to publish the full-text of what you’ve written – do you really need another one?

At first, I found LinkedIn to be a great publishing platform for getting eyeballs – the read rates on my articles there were very high. But I’ve since seen read rates drop dramatically, as more and more people also began using the platform to publish full-text articles. Now I rarely read articles on LinkedIn anymore, which is a big change from when the site was new and novel – I would regularly troll my LinkedIn stream for interesting content.

Another issue that will be challenging for Twitter: quality control for published content.

This isn’t new. In fact, it’s something that I can remember talking about back in the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web became mainstream. The level of quality control always decreases dramatically, once everyone is given the ability to publish.

While I’ve read some great articles on LinkedIn, I’ve read a lot of not-so-great ones too. This not-so-great content is characterized by articles that are very thinly veiled promotion, authors that cite questionable statistics and “facts” without attribution, and arguments that may have merit, but tank due to a lack of cohesion and clarity of expression.

I come from the publishing industry, so perhaps I’m a bit biased. However, I believe this is why the subscriber and advertising-based paid publishing world hasn’t totally disappeared. It’s also my opinion that this is why there will always be a desire for content that is edited, fact-checked, and curated – like the articles you can find here on ClickZ.

Although I wish I could say that I have a grand plan to save Twitter, I don’t. But I don’t think that increasing to a 10,000 character limit is the answer. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

What do you think about Twitter’s proposal to up its character limit to 10,000 characters?

Until next time,

Homepage image via Flickr.

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