Procurement · 27 May 2016

Twitter unveils suite of changes giving users greater freedom

The Twitter user base has plateaued in recent years

Social media platform Twitter has announced it is to change its rules to allow users to write longer Tweets.

After months of speculation, the social network has elected to alter its brand-defining 140-character message length, introducing new rules enabling “@” names and media attachments to be included outside of character length restrictions. Users will therefore be able to write longer messages.

An announcement made by Twitter on its official blog said that these updates, alongside other changes, will be available to users “over the coming months”.

Twitter also plans to enable the “retweet” button on users’ own tweets, so they can retweet or “quote tweet” their own messages to get more exposure. When replying to tweets, messages that begin with a username will no longer need the “@” symbol in front of it.

In a statement, Twitter senior product manager Todd Sherman said that the platform’s developers were being notified of the desired changes months in advance to guarantee everything works correctly when rolled out.

Sherman added: “The updates have a significant impact on tweets, so we want to provide our developer partners with time to make any needed updates to the many thousands of products built using Twitter’s API.

“In addition to these changes, we have plans to help users get even more from their tweets. We’re exploring ways to make existing uses easier and enable new ones, all without compromising the unique brevity and speed that make Twitter the best place for live commentary, connections, and conversations.”

Despite the huge profile and loyal user base that Twitter has developed in the ten years since it was founded, the platform has struggled to remain relevant in recent years, and its user base has plateaued.

In an attempt to reverse the platform’s fortunes and “fix Twitter”, the company rehired original co-founder Jack Dorsey as CEO in October last year. Twitter had been under the stewardship of CEOs Evan Williams and Dick Costolo since Dorsey first stepped down in 2008.

Also the current head of online payment platform Square, Dorsey splits his time between running both firms. He has said that efforts being made to to turn Twitter around are working, but that more time is needed to understand the changing needs of users.

For small business owners, recent data has suggested that spending time developing a strategy and campaigns on Twitter makes little discernible impact on revenue growth or customer engagement.

In October last year, a survey conducted by media consultancy Deal with the Media discovered that just 38 per cent of the UK’s small business owners said using social media had been beneficial for their company, whereas 62 per cent claimed it had brought little success.

Late last year, rival social media platform Facebook announced that 50m small business owners worldwide currently use Facebook Pages to connect with customers – a massive milestone in its influence on small business and entrepreneurship across the globe. Read more here.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.