Does Length Matter? Twitter’s 10K Character Dilemma

Twitter recently suggested that they might increase the length of Tweets to 10,000 characters. Unsurprisingly it created something of a Twitter storm. Social media users are passionate about their networks and rarely like change. It also happened when they changed the ‘faves’ star to hearts. But what will longer Tweets mean? Some commentators suggested that it will make the social media site no different to any other blogging platform. That points to the challenge that Twitter has an identify crisis. It doesn’t know what it is any longer. Celebrities and their audience have mostly left Twitter to go to Instagram. Perhaps they are simply driven by narcissism but it’s very telling that four of the top ten Instagram accounts are from the Kardashian clan. Twitter though, seems have become the place for politicians’ indiscretions, journalists Tweeting their own articles and the middle class moaning at brands over service failures.

That is Twitter’s broad problem. Over the last year its growth has slowed down considerably and had just over 300m active users in 2015. Well below expectations. Compare that to WhatsApp, the messaging platform is rapidly approaching 1 billion users. Since its IPO, Twitter has seen a fall in its share price, so it needs raise revenue (and investor confidence). For the mico-blogging site, that means bringing in more advertising, but it has not managed to deliver the expected revenues. Although it has grown, their advertising remains a bit-part player to Facebook’s highly successful offering. In part, it’s because they lack the reach of their competitor, but the key to Facebook’s ad success has been to create a walled garden and keep the users within the site. Twitter is trying a number of formats to address this issue. They recently launched a Conversational Ad format that with call to action options.In a similar vein, longer Tweets means that users should (in theory) spend more time in the channel. And that’s good for advertising.

But what about the users? The complaints about the changes are in part, a reflection that their audience cares about Twitter. Ultimately though, social media sites must evolve. Twitter has regularly added new features – from the (user driven) hashtag to their recent Moments. However, I think the problem for longer Tweets is that it goes against the prevailing trend. We are moving to shorter, message-based content.

Snapchat is a good example where social media this is going. The ten-second life of pictures and videos has caught the imagination of 200m+ users. The FT reported in Sept 2015 that the app had 6 billion video views per day – that’s a 3-fold increase in 7 months and rapidly approaching Facebook’s figure of 8 billion views per day. The fact is that from content to our attention spans, everything’s getting shorter (as a Microsoft study found). Certainly Twitter has to evolve but the answer probably doesn’t lie with longer Tweets.

How Kenneth Cole is Changing Fashion through Mobile and Social Media

‘During the @kennethcole runway show, out of respect for other members of the audience please make sure your phones and tablets are switched ON. This show will embrace the intrusive nature of social media.’

It wasn’t long ago that fashion shows were largely private affairs, where photography and video were tightly managed. Yet  the opening words above, greeted the audience to Kenneth Cole’s 2013 New York Fashion Week show.

The advent of smartphones, with high megapixel cameras and social media apps has challenged the highly controlled world of fashion shows. That challenge is similar to many retailers, where consumers are able to search, photograph and share products instantly. Whilst most runway shows barely tolerate smartphones, Kenneth Cole clearly embraces it. His front row was littered with fashion bloggers all using their smartphones to Tweet, Instagram and Vine (if that is now a verb) the event. He went a step further though, and at the end of the show the models came down the catwalk sending live Tweets from their phones. It was in the name of charity, as each Tweet sent resulted in a $1 donation from Kenneth Cole to an Aids charity.

By embracing smartphone driven social media in this way, Kenneth Cole has shown how brands can:

–       Use mobile social media to connect brands from the physical world to online channels

–       Bring amplification through sharing these events in social media

–       Create a long-tail of brand awareness through user generated content or co-creation

I previously blogged about how mobile social media were disrupting fashion and retail, but Kenneth Cole’s show takes it much further than that. Whilst it creates an opportunity to reach a global audience previously unavailable, Kenneth Cole is using mobile and social to challenge the traditional dynamic of fashion. With fashion bloggers using the new tools of the trade, it brings immediacy to a global audience. With models Tweeting down the catwalk, they are no longer simply ‘hangers’ for the clothes but now active participants in the event. And with celebrities populating the front rows, alongside the journalist and bloggers, are mobile and social creating a new form of reality fashion show?

Openbook fuels Facebook privacy issues

Facebook‘s ‘Posts by everyone’ feature has been taken up by a new site, Openbook, and shows how much people are prepared to (over) share. The feeds are full of people stating how they cheated in exams and took drugs. Not exactly a job reference.
One could argue that this isn’t Facebook’s fault, after all users are both responsible for what they post and can manage their own privacy settings. The ‘over-sharers’, as I call them, aren’t just on FB, Twitter and FourSquare have the same types in their own way. Why do people do it? I suspect there are two reasons: firstly, a few people just don’t realise and secondly, the rest are showing off to their mates and the rest of the world. You could argue that the second category deserve everything they get, but I don’t always feel that is the case.
Last week a man in the UK was arrested, had his computer equipment seized and was fined for a Tweet threatening to do serious damage to an airport after his flight had been canceled yet again (volcano rage). His Tweet may have been ill advised, but I can understand someone seeing red and just loosing it. It was pretty obvious that he didn’t actually mean what he said, but in this paranoid society we live in you have to take care.
I believe that social media sites have a far greater responsibility to take care of their members privacy than they do. It goes beyond offering settings options. These options should default to the most secure. Certain posts should be filtered … if Openbook can pick on people admitting to cheat in their exams, how hard would it be to have a message along the lines of ‘do you really want to post this update?’, before they click the button?
However Facebook have a difficult path to tread. If they are to realise value from their site, then they need to offer advertisers more and more options for targeting customers. From that perspective, the ‘post to everyone’ feature is advertising gold. The flip side, however, is that as privacy concerns increase, more users will leave the social networking site.
From a mobile perspective the issue is significant. We have already seen security issues with FourSqaure, and with FB adding location into it’s settings these issues will significantly grow.

Twitter acquires Cloudhopper: new opportunities for mobile marketing?

Twitter announced yesterday that it is to acquire start up company, Cloudhopper. This will enable the micro blogging site to provide users with the facility to send tweets directly to mobile phones by SMS or MMS. Twitters move seems to be to allow anyone to interact with their platform even without an internet connection. Besides the huge potential to significantly increase the Twitter user base, it could also create a brand opportunity to send tweets as text messages directly to their followers phones. It will require brands to carefully work out their engagement strategy for it to work for them … and in the meantime Twitter will have to work out its revenue strategy.

Twitter using SMS to help brands to connect to users

A news report this week explained how a trial, run by a third party, on Twitter has allowed brands to connect with users through SMS.
Having read the article I can honestly say that I don’t really understand what the service is or how it works! The principle seems to be that it uses mobile marketing to get users to connect to their Twitter feed. But, if the service is unclear, who will use it?

In a month long trial the company claims that brands had an increase of between 66% and over 3,000% in user uptake. Of course, they didn’t say what the starting point was for each brand.

Apparently a major brand has now signed up for the full advertising service.

But I’m still confused! What’s the revenue model – ie who is paying for it and who is making the money? The companies involved haven’t said. I presume it’s the brands that pay for the advertising, but I am not convinced of the benefit. OK, more people sign up to your feed. Fair enough. But that in itself does not bring business. It comes back to my long-standing issue with social media, and Twitter in particular. I do not believe they are advertising media. Twitter itself has no commercial model (yet), and advertising is not welcomed by its users. Social media sites are good places for users to engage with brands, give feedback and for other CRM activities, but I don’t see it as a sales channel. I would love someone to show me where brands have achieved measurable sales from social media.

Personally I don’t see how this new Twitter service will take off.

Why marketers should ignore Twitter!

A Webpro news article gives 8 reasons to stop ignoring twitter, from a marketing perspective.
It looks at things like Twitter Lists, re-tweets as means of marketing.

Unfortunately my views on Twitter have not changed since I first played with it: it’s NOT a marketing medium. I iniatilly felt that it was a self-indulgent network for middle class technocrati. My view has changed slighly, especially following the Iran elections, where Twitter proved to be a genuine medium for promoting democracy.

Since then, I have seen some excellent examples of consumer feedback. However, that’s as far as it goes with Twitter. Someone has produced a list of 50 CEOs on Twitter, such as Richard Branson. It’s interesting when you look at the reasons they use the network. Connecting to their brands, colleagues and so on seem to be their primary motive NOT marketing or promotion.

It’s hardly surprising this is the case. Twitter is, by it’s very nature, non-commercial. They don’t make money! I do not believe that users enage with marketing on Twitter either. In fact it will probably drive people away from a brand. If I want to find out about a product, for example, I’ll use Google to search for it.

So what is the point of Twitter? I would argue that it is essentially an information service, and to some extent an entertainment service. Most people use it to keep up with information in their sector or interest. Occasionally we get involved in some of the more fun threads. And unfortunately I still believe it is focussed mostly to the middle class technocrati. Twitter does what it does very well. But ultimately it’s niche and its NOT a marketing medium!