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What Twitter’s removal of DM character limit means?

Twitter, the famous microblogging platform has been under tremendous pressure, thanks to its less revenues and profits as compared to the market expectation. It seems this pressure has led Twitter to make series of recent changes with its platform – a) Introduction of Group DMs (Jan’15), b) Inclusion of Event Targeting on its Ad platform (Jul’15), c) An optional feature of adding one’s birthday to one’s profile (Jul’15) and lastly, it removed the character limit on DMs (Aug’15).

The only statement in the announcement blog post that mentions the motive of this change was, “Today’s change is another big step towards making the private side of Twitter even more powerful and fun”. This motive looks counter-intuitive to the overall positioning of Twitter that it has maintained over all these years.

Twitter has been known to be the most open platform on the social media circuit, and hence it has surprised many critics about the Twitter’s increased focus on the ‘private messaging’ part rather than the public feature. The most recent update has been debated widely by technologists, marketers, analysts on the implications of this move by Twitter to its platform.

Any media platform has three key beneficiaries – marketers, users and public stakeholders (inclusive of stockholders, analysts, investors, etc.). Let’s analyse how the recent move of increasing Twitter DM length could possibly impact each of the above beneficiaries:

Marketers
• They can leverage this increased space to handle customer queries / grievances in a much detailed manner rather than diverting the conversation to an alternate medium (email or phone). This will help marketers in reducing the operating costs by restricting the dependencies on their call centers.

• Marketers who have a social media command center will face larger challenge of encountering lengthy queries / complaints from users, which would result in slower turnaround of queries and complaints.

• E-mail marketing can be replaced by careful, targeted and well-judged ‘Twitter DM marketing’! It is going to be a double-edged sword. Marketers could use this opportunity to converse with their customers / potential customers / influencers in a friendly manner instead of worrying if their emails would have decent open rate or not.

Caution: Marketers shouldn’t treat this as reason to start sharing long spammy messages.

Users
• Twitter has been struggling to increase the number of users and monthly active users. Will this recent change help in creating a compelling user value proposition and addressing either of the two business problems remains to be seen.

• Twitter has always been an attraction for swift and crisp conversations. I am not sure how Twitter DMs will be an attraction for users. Users have much better modes to interact with their near and dear ones in ‘private manner’ i.e. think Snapchat and WhatsApp.
• Is Twitter trying to position itself as a potential platform for users to interact in a ‘private manner’? It is highly doubtful, as users already have much established modes for having such lengthy private discussions in the form of emails/WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger.

Caution: Users should be careful about who they follow and what kind of apps do they allow access to for their twitter profile

Public Stakeholders
• The increased length of content that could be shared due to the availability of character space will lead to increased time spent by users on the platform, which could be a platform specific metric that Twitter may report to appease analysts, investors and others etc.

• Twitter may use additional content shared to have a better understanding of the user behaviour and use this knowledge further to improve the efficiency of Twitter ads, which could result in more revenue for the platform and hence address worries of investors and stockholders. Maybe it will down the road like LinkedIn In-mails where LinkedIn recently launched a feature where In-mails get delivered when a user is active thereby increasing the open rates.

The basic premise of social media platforms is to fuel social conversations, which would be helpful for marketers to leverage, resulting into earnings for the platform.

The increased focus of Twitter on a private conversation feature, while its public conversation and advertising features are still under tremendous pressure in in terms of justifying enough profits to investors and stockholders, has definitely surprised the investors.

While the potential benefits of having increased the Twitter DM character length are still being discussed by various industry experts and marketers, the actual increase in usage by users and corresponding rise in profits in due course of time is the only thing which will prove if the bets placed by Twitter were on target or not!

Apurva Chamaria

Apurva Chamaria heads global Brand & Digital Marketing for HCL Technologies (HCLT), a USD 6.5 Bn IT company and is responsible for brand marketing, employer brand, employee marketing, thought-leadership marketing , proposition development and marketing and digital marketing. Under his leadership HCLT debuted at InterBrand Top 100 Indian Brands at No. 19 and grew 35% y-o-y on brand value and in the Brand Finance Global 500 2015 at No. 497 with a brand value of USD 3.1 Bn. In the last 2 years the HCLT campaigns have won 40 prestigious global and regional brand and marketing awards. This 10 years at HCLT, he’s performed various roles including being CEO’s Vineet Nayar's EA, Sales Director at HCL America driving business development and leading Marketing and Strategy for Enterprise Applications Business.
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