October 10, 2017

Twitter Tests its Character(s)

On September 26, Twitter announced it would test extending the text limit of a post from 140 to 280 characters. In a blog post Twitter explained, “When people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some room to spare, we see more people tweeting.”


Twitter is even trying to devalue the 140 character limit by explaining that, when they launched 11 years ago, they had no choice. Co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, “140 was an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit”.

If you were describing Twitter to someone for the first time, might it sound something like this?

Twitter is a social media platform on which people share their thoughts in 140 characters or less in real-time.

Whether Twitter likes it or not, 140 characters is a core part of the fabric of their brand perception.

Now, clearly Twitter has identified a need and apparently has data to back it up. As indicated above, in their blog post, Twitter sees more usage when they expand the character limit. It’s nothing new for companies to identify a need and attempt to fill it, while utilizing a brand with an already established (and different) perception.

There are plenty of examples of companies that launched failed brand extensions that conflicted with consumer perceptions.  These include:

  • Colgate launching frozen dinners
  • Zippo launching perfume
  • Harley-Davidson launching cake decorating kits

This perhaps feels a little more like Little Caesar’s launching its ultimately failed delivery service in 1995. You save money because Little Caesar’s doesn’t deliver (and everyone else does). You use Twitter because it forces you to get to the point, not because you can’t ramble. It is, and always has been Twitter’s point of differentiation.

Users and potential users of your product have to understand, before learning anything else about your product, what it’s all about. It’s the reason why we encourage radio stations we work with to utilize our Image PyramidSM. The Image Pyramid instructs radio stations to focus on their base music position (or talk position if it’s a spoken word-based station) before secondary attributes, like personalities, contesting and specialty programming.

What do you think would happen if you started playing deep tracks on “The #1 Hit Music Station”? Or new music on “The Classic Rock Station”? Would it erode your brand?

What would happen if you allowed long messages on a social media platform known for short messages?

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