How brand managers can use Twitter’s longer DMs

PR and marketing pros will soon be able to send private messages that are up to 10,000 characters. But will the feature help in building relationships?


Twitter has been changing its direct message service, but users are divided over whether its most recent update will be a blessing or a curse.

In January, the social platform rolled out group DMs, and in April, it announced users could change their options to receive DMs from anyone—not just those they follow.

On June 11, Twitter’s product manager, Sachin Agarwal, announced that it’s removing the 140-character limit for DMs, allowing users up to 10,000 characters to say whatever they’d like in a private setting. The change will roll out sometime in July.

Expanded customer service opportunities

Several communications professionals lauded the change as a great opportunity for brand managers to improve customer service online.

Patricio Robles, tech reporter for Econsultancy, said the increased limit will help brand managers address consumer complaints and questions more effectively.

“After all, many customer service issues require more than 140 characters to explain, so up until now, brands have been forced to make do with interactions that are less than efficient,” Robles wrote.

Javier Buron, co-founder and CEO of SocialBro, agreed. “It means that brands using Twitter will be able to communicate with their customers better on a one-to-one basis,” said Buron.

Buron said the change would also make a “huge difference” to managers of global brands, given that customer service exchanges in other languages involve longer words that present a challenge when there’s a short character limit.

Better media relations vs. inbox pitch spam

A boost to customer service isn’t the only opportunity PR and marketing pros will have with Twitter’s DM change.

As more communications professionals use social media to build relationships with consumers and journalists, longer DMs could mean better media relations. However, it could also increase lazy pitching efforts.

Adam Schrader, an editor and reporter for the Dallas Morning News, says although he doesn’t expect an increase in pitches from PR pros, the change could bring over younger users who have been using Facebook to communicate.

“I like it because you can send more information, essentially turning DMs into private messaging like on Facebook,” Schrader says.

Nicole Fallon, assistant editor at Business News Daily, says she has mixed feelings about the new feature:

I do see its potential—as most Twitter users know, it’s a real pain to try to communicate valuable information in 140 characters (or, as is often the case, split it up into multiple DMs). It would be easier to be able to get the whole message across. But on the other hand, I think it’s going to put a ton of pressure on journalists to respond right away—it’s hard to say, “I didn’t see your DM” when you’ve been tweeting all day.

Fallon says she expects to get more “spammy” pitches but hopes that PR pros “will be respectful and not abuse their new messaging power.”

Kristen Raymaakers, account manager at InkHouse Media + Marketing, wrote that PR pros should remember the importance of building relationships and to use Twitter DMs selectively, as most journalists still prefer email.

“For now, pitching via DM is still novel to reporters,” wrote Raymaakers. “They see PR representatives who pitch via DM to be tech-savvy and on top of their game. That is, until everyone catches on and Twitter becomes yet another vehicle for journalists to be bombarded with irrelevant information.”

Fallon agrees, saying PR pros should still keep things brief.

“I’m only in favor [of a Twitter pitch] if a PR pro sends a DM asking a very simple, short question—Would you be interested in this subject? Do you ever cover [this] topic? Can I send you more information about my client?—and then moves it over to email,” Fallon says.

Schrader says that unlike journalists, PR pros tend not to use personal accounts, choosing instead to tweet from an agency or brand account. This could also lower the effectiveness of media relations efforts.

“Sending messages from [a company’s] Twitter account doesn’t build relationships,” Schrader says.

A crucial lesson for PR and marketing pros is this: Twitter is giving you more space to speak directly with customers and reporters, but you’ll still have to employ relationship-building skills-including listening-to make the most of the new feature.

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