I sent my first 280-character tweet today. It was a joke--purposefully cut off at the end when I mentioned a taco salad. I followed that one by writing two haiku in a row with a line about what they mean. Before, I could only fit one haiku and add a short quip.
Apparently, it has come to this for a company that is struggling to find relevancy.
I'm rolling my eyes right now. So are a lot of people.
As many users have pointed out, Twitter doubled the character (from 140 to 280) count at a time when there is rampant hate speech and a general tone of confrontation and dissonance on what is a relatively small social media platform. (Twitter has only 330 million users; Facebook has around two billion. Frankly, it's not even a contest anymore.)
The new limit is available to only a subset of users for now.
Here's a trick to make it work on your feed if you're really eager to try it.
Meanwhile, Instagram and Snapchat are still gaining loyal fans. This "inside baseball" tweak to the Twitter code, allowing people to insult each other in a way that involves a few more pejoratives, falls into the too little, too late category.
I've never really mentioned this, but I'm a loyal Twitter fan and I see the value of the platform...as a journalist. It's a perfect fit for me because I can tweet out a summary of an article and a link. I first wrote about Twitter way back in 2010 and still follow the same basic routine of tweeting all day about my work in hopes that people will find the links.
However, I'm not like most users. At a college where I mentor some students, there's a strange view about Twitter--it's old school. You tweet out comments at a football game or tag your friends, but most Millennials these days have long since moved on to Instagram. They tell me it's because Twitter is a little cold and impersonal, not as visual, and something that was popular years ago. Celebrities and politicians use Twitter to communicate with a wide audience--they don't want to friend strangers on Facebook.
Twitter is a one-to-many platform, but that concept of speaking into the public forum has essentially lost all momentum. What we do now is forms groups. I run a Facebook group for PR pitches. A colleague at Inc. runs groups related to his articles. There are groups for auction sites, baking, political discussions, and everything in between.
Does doubling the character count help? Not really. Twitter is white noise. None of us can keep up. You can follow a handful of people and see their public posts, but if you comment, there's little chance the person will even see it. Elon Musk tweets random comments and sometimes sees a reply, but most public figures broadcast their message into the unknown void and don't ever look at any of the comments back. It's all social media spam.
Ironically, in my experience with 280-characters, I drew a blank a few times. I didn't have much more to say. It didn't motivate me to tweet more. How does doubling the character count really change the platform? It certainly doesn't address the hate speech problem. It doesn't help us connect in groups. It doesn't improve the interface or make the social media platform pop with images in a way that Instagram does.
In many ways, it is yet another sign--the company is going to tweak the code. Again and again. We're going to see more experimentation.
Sadly, we won't see Twitter become viable. For that, you need real innovation.