8 new Twitter features to watch

The social network is increasing its character limit, launching new advertising products and cracking down on bullying. Here’s how the updates affect communicators.

Twitter’s looking for a turnaround year.

Its growth stagnated in 2015. Although the social network released some interesting new features (most notably Periscope), those debuts evidently weren’t appealing enough for the 77 percent of Internet users who don’t use Twitter.

In 2016, Twitter might make some changes that affect how communicators use the platform. Here are the changes that have occurred, or are likely to occur, on Twitter this year.

1. Character increase

Rumor has it that Twitter will up its character limit from 140 to 10,000 in March.

For perspective, the average word length is about six characters, so a 10,000-character limit would allow for about 1,650 words. In essence, Twitter would become a full-fledged blogging platform similar to LinkedIn’s long-form posts that rolled out last year.

The implicit purpose for LinkedIn’s long-form posts, as well as its news and influencer-driven Pulse, was to attract eyeballs for advertising. The same is true for Twitter. The option to publish directly to Twitter may be one of the reasons the social network discontinued tweet count from its API.

In any event, the mechanism of a long-form tweet may be similar to the Twitter Card experience. A 140-character tweet would be highlighted, and the reader could expand it.

Most prognosticators (including me) suspect that increasing the character count won’t have as big of an impact as you might expect, but for communicators this might be another platform on which to distribute long-form content.

2. Conversational ads (and other ad products)

Twitter is concerned with growing because it needs to bring in revenue, so expect it to roll out a lot of advertising products soon (as Facebook did when it went public).

Twitter’s latest ad products are called “conversational ads.” They look like polls in the timeline, and they allow users to tweet a response with a pre-selected hashtag. Twitter ad products already allow for hyper-targeting, but conversational ads include a call to action.

This probably isn’t the last ad change we’ll see from Twitter in 2016. If you recall Facebook’s 2013 strategy, the social network rolled out several advertising products to see which worked best. Twitter’s challenges are that its social utility is lower than Facebook’s and there are fewer advertising opportunities.

The takeaway for communicators is that there will be some good advertising and promotional tools on Twitter this year. If conversational ads don’t work for you, there will be more options fairly soon (such as the “Buy Now” button offered to Shopify customers).

3. Twitter Camera

This is a feature (currently only available to celebrities) that enables you to take Snapchat-style pictures for Twitter. It’s cool, but it’s also a bit derivative and not as useful in a one-to-many setting as it might be for Snapchat. This feature should be available to all users in 2016.

4. Twitter Q&A

This is an interesting feature (also only available to celebrities) that enables people to conduct Q&A sessions via Twitter.

It’s more akin to Quora’s Writing Sessions than Reddit AMAs—the recipient curates the questions—but it might be a useful way for communicators to demonstrate expertise on the platform.

5. Anti-harassment/violence/bullying efforts

Long a haven for trolls and bullies, Twitter has revised its terms of service to actively combat unsavory activity on the network.

What this means in terms of user experience has yet to be seen, but Twitter is purportedly adding employees to enforce these policies.

Of course, a savvy communication professional might just opt to grow his Canadian followers- Canadians are purportedly nicer than Americans on Twitter.

6. Twitter Polls

Debuting late last year, Twitter Polls are rudimentary polls that anyone can post to his timeline. Although the feature currently only has two options, Twitter appears to be beta testing more options and with longer time allowances.

This might be helpful to communicators who want to create engaging, interactive content for their followers.

7. Twitter for Mac update

Just before the new year began, Twitter updated its Twitter app for OSX to include gif and video support, as well as a few other bells and whistles (no polls, though).

For Apple users, this is a helpful development for managing and/or using Twitter on a Mac.

8. Kanye’s new album

This one is a little tongue-in-cheek, but Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are using Twitter and Soundcloud to promote West’s upcoming album. It’s an interesting example of social media distribution.

And West’s tweets rarely disappoint:

Jim Dougherty blogs at leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology and content marketing. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty. A version of this article originally appeared on Cision.

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