Good news from Twitter as they try to figure out their future. If you follow the stock market’s measurements of the relative merits of social media, you may think Twitter is a declining social media channel. However, if you follow politics, you may think Twitter is the go-to channel for candidates if they want their message to be heard. Both are correct. To put it mildly, investors have been disappointed in the metrics, but the past few months have demonstrated how Twitter can help a candidate (and perhaps your business) dominate what’s called “the news cycle” by political pundits. 

Twitter recently announced that they are rolling out new features, which the company believes will help lay the foundation for growing the number of users, and therefore, revenue. Since much of its revenue is from small businesses, it’s important for small business owners and managers to stay up-to-date on these changes.

What you can distribute with a tweet today, before the new enhancements | May 2016

Twitter began as a text messaging tool that provided an unlimited number of users a means to subscribe to messages sent via text by one individual. Since most phone services limit text messages to a certain number of characters, Twitter set their limit at 140 characters. Those messages are called tweets. Today, Twitter has evolved from being a means to distribute or subscribe to a 140-character text message into being a means to distributing or subscribing to the following:

  • Photos
  • Hashtags (indicating topic of the tweet)
  • Videos (traditional video/audio media)
  • GIFs (stop-action videos)
  • Vines (stop-action videos created with a Twitter tool called Vine)
  • Polls (instant polling of followers)
  • Live broadcasts (via a Twitter platform called Periscope)

Features being rolled out by Twitter

When Twitter’s CEO recently hinted that Twitter would be doing away with the 140-character limit, it became instantly clear that users felt that trial balloon was filled with lead.

Now that Twitter has officially announced what it is doing, the changes have been met with praise, for the most part. (However, this is the internet, so 100 percent support of anything is never a possibility.)

Instead of calling it “longer than 140-character tweets,” the announcement of changes is being described as “changes to simplify Tweets including what counts toward your 140 characters.”

What no longer counts against the 140-character limit:

The “@” | When you use the “@” to identify a user, the “@” won’t count against the 140-character limit

Attached media | When you add any of the following to a tweet, they won’t count against the 140-character limit: photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Tweet quotes

The letters in a username | The people with a long username can now say as much as those with a short one.

Other features announced:

Retweet button | Users will be able to easily “quote” an earlier tweet adding new information or changes.

Twitter_May24Unannounced features:

According to Twitter, they are exploring other ways to make existing uses easier and enable new ones, all without compromising the unique brevity and speed.

What is not mentioned in Twitter’s blog post is a confirmation of a rumor (reported by Bloomberg) that Twitter will not count links (web addresses) or usernames as part of the 140 character limit.

What does this mean for small business Twitter users?

Twitter, like Google, is going to focus more and more on mobile and geo-based usages of Twitter. That means small businesses who use Twitter will start seeing more features that seem like Instagram, Facebook and Yelp approaches.

Don’t count out Twitter. When merchants learn how to use it as effectively as some politicians have, a new appreciation of what Twitter is all about will emerge.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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