26th January 2018 / Marketing Posted by Paul Ovenden

What are Twitter threads and why might you want to use them?

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Do you remember when Twitter told the world that the 140-character limit was its USP? We do. Since those early days this restriction has gone from being a fundamental characteristic of the platform to a “quirk” and now just an old school relic. It all began when photos were no longer included in the character limit. And then last year then Twitter doubled the limit to 280. And now you don’t even need to stick to that limit because there’s a new feature called “Twitter threads” that allows you to link multiple tweets together. So, when it comes to social posting the sky’s the limit (because there isn’t one on characters).

Why is this happening?

Mainly because all sorts of different types of research have been undertaken and have shown that previous intelligence on post lengths wasn’t that accurate. Social media is a relatively new technology and so there were bound to be some tweaks along the way but this is quite a bold about face. Now, instead of the goal being short blog and social posts we’re looking at an approach that requires something longer. Buzzfeed carried out research on Twitter posts after the increase in the character limit last year. It found that those tweets that went over the 140-character limit got more engagement (i.e. retweets and likes) than those that didn’t. Social media analysis can take you down all sorts of rabbit holes but that’s a pretty simple equation to digest – lengthen your tweets if you want more engagement.

How does Twitter threads work?

The concept behind Twitter threads isn’t exactly that innovative. In fact, it was probably inspired by Twitter users themselves. If you’ve ever seen someone posting a series of tweets that begin “1/x,” “2/x” then you’ve already seen the origins of Twitter threads. Except, with the official version, it’s all much neater and you can go back and add more, as and when you want, so you’re less likely to lose the “thread” of what you’re saying. The changes have now mostly been rolled out across Twitter so, if this is something that appeals to you, all you need to do is look for the “+” button to link your tweets together. If you want to see this in action on someone else’s timeline then look for “show this thread.”

Why is it exciting?

Twitter threads aren’t exactly a social media revolution but they are worth mentioning, especially if you’ve found up to this point that engagement has been hard to generate. Of course it won’t solve all your engagement problems – you still need to be engaging reciprocally to get something back and posting great content. However, it does have the potential to help grow this side of social.

Plus, Twitter threads enables a deeper discussion and digestion of topics, which could well change the way that we use social media. It used to be all about bite sized chunks but today you can communicate without the need to condense or cut words. It’s worth bearing in mind that, despite these changes, fairly digestible content is still a good idea – no more than 10-15 tweets in a thread we’d suggest.

Benefits/opportunities?

  • Posts can be more informative – especially useful if you’re tackling a juicy topic
  • It’s much easier to adapt and extend your posts – ideal, for example - if you’re providing commentary on unfolding events
  • You can now extend previous posts that might have felt a little thin
  • No need to resort to removing spaces, shortening words or using text speak
  • Connected tweets are easy to discover via the “show this thread” feature instead of looking back through old tweets for the “1/x,” “2/x” etc
  • If you’ve felt that your social media use has been somewhat curtailed in the past by the character limits now’s the time to start embracing the potential wordiness of the social medium.