Twitter Inc: Longer Tweets Are a Glimmer of Hope (TWTR)

Just for the record, yours truly here still thinks Twitter Inc (TWTR) is in deep trouble, and remains in need of a serious overhaul if it’s going to survive as the company we know today.

Twitter Inc: Longer Tweets Are a Glimmer of Hope (TWTR)I have to call a spade a spade, however — the decision to expand the permitted size of a “tweet” from 140 characters to 10,000 characters is a huge first step on the road to making Twitter stock at least worth a speculative trade.

My lingering concern is that part-time CEO Jack Dorsey won’t make the next logical leap forward to viability, with nobody who works there grasping exactly why (in a philosophical sense) longer posts make for a stickier social media platform.

Meet the New and Improved Twitter

You read that right. Unless Twitter changes its mind or this is a really, really good hoax, by the end of the first quarter you’ll be able to post tweets of up to 10,000 characters, or approximately 1,600 words. For perspective, that’s roughly the length of two average pages of text in your typical paper magazine. (Yes, paper magazines still exist.)

It’s a decision that has polarized TWTR users into two distinct camps.

On the one hand, the requisite cleverness needed to pack a potent message into just a few words made for fun and fast reading. Clicking on the shortened URL to the source material wasn’t even always necessary; that brevity was the charm of the microblogging platform.

On the other hand, sometimes users simply have more to say — more detail to add — about an idea than can be squeezed into 140 characters, or roughly 23 words. To this crowd, the ability to say more rather than just a blurb and then send a crowd to another webpage helps put “social” back into the term social media.

Besides, as Dorsey explained with his example expanded tweet, a bunch of users were already pasting images of lengthy text messages into their posts, effectively making their tweets longer anyway.

Why not utilize the content and context of those posts in a way that’s searchable, and can be categorized?

Why FB Wins and TWTR Loses

Owners of Twitter stock are likely tired of the comparison to Facebook Inc (FB), but let’s face facts — Facebook works as is, and Twitter doesn’t. If Twitter is going to survive as a social media venue, it is going to have to become more like Facebook. The longer tweets start to do just that.

This transition, however, reprises a philosophical discussion that may well hold the key to Twitter’s future: Why do people and advertisers go ga-ga over Facebook but not Twitter?

You could hold up several differences as evidence. Facebook, for instance, has a pretty intuitive internal search feature, while Twitter’s search is … well, it’s not quite clear what users are supposed to expect from Twitter’s search feature.

One also could point out that Facebook’s contextual advertising platform just makes more sense than Twitter’s. You could even say Facebook simply has more to “do” at the site with apps like Words With Friends and Candy Crush.

Those aren’t the big reasons people love and keep coming back to Facebook though, while they have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude with Twitter. FB is smashing TWTR for one simple, overarching reason that Jack Dorsey and Co. may not get. That reason is, Facebook appeals to an individual’s vanity, whereas Twitter does not.

Granted, that was pretty much the point of TWTR from its inception. It skipped all the selfies and photo albums and status updates like “I’m eating a cookie now” among friends and took dead aim at stirring up a topic-based conversation between a group of strangers. It also worked to make celebrities and high-profile companies names worth “following.” That can be interesting for a while, too.

When you get right down to brass tacks, though, not much about Twitter answers the “What does this have to do with me?” question. Full-length tweets may well up the much-needed “me” aspect of Twitter that Facebook already has.

Bottom Line for Twitter Stock

To owners of TWTR stock, 10,000-character tweets are a big first step. Let’s just hope for the sake of current and future owners of Twitter stock that it’s not the last step the company takes toward that end zone.

Critics will argue such a change (and more like them) will alter what TWTR is. Those critics aren’t wrong. Twitter was never going to survive simply as being the meeting point between people, news, and interesting posts at other websites, though. People and websites can foster those relationships and stir up a focused frenzy on their own. Every business has to eventually be about something that meaningfully serves its customers. Perhaps Twitter is starting to figure this out. We’ll see.

The next step: Recognizing the real satisfaction in making public posts is knowing friends and family will see them, as opposed to strangers.

As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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