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Longer tweets : the effect on twitter users’ behavior

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Twitter announced working on a new feature allowing to post tweets exceeding 140 words. Social media specialists were quite puzzled by this announcement. Much of twitter’s success is based on the shortness of the messages and we can wonder whether twitter is not losing its DNA.

In this blog post we are trying to predict what may happen and how consumers will react.

Twitter users’ behavior today

Twitter users today tend to follow a lot of other twitter account. It’s one of the rule of the game. I follow you; you follow me. Each twitter account has 208 followers on average but only 57% of twitter users have tweeted within the past 12 months. In other words 43% of twitter users are inactive and are just reading tweets of others.

Brevity: The reason for Twitter success

Following 208 accounts takes time. You’ll cope with it if you’re constantly following your twitter feed; what most people can’t do. Only 36% of users go on twitter daily, and 22% several times a day. It means that 64% of users are facing their twitter feed on an irregular basis; that feed is likely to get huge and screening it needs to happen quickly. Short messages definitely help to perform a quick scan of your feed. Brevity is an ally to foster usage. So what will happen if message length increase?

Longer twitter messages may lead to decreased usage

Today an infrequent user can still cope with a long feed. Going through short messages is still possible. Your brain will help quickly make a decision, based on a few characters, whether the tweet is worth more of your precious time.

Tomorrow longer tweets, with more than one sentence, will require more cognitive capacities to go through. As a consequence the user will have more difficulties to make decision, may be less active and eventually follow less people to be able to keep up with his previous usage rate of twitter.


We do think Twitter has a good (probably business-driven- reason for opening up the platform to longer messages. Yet we fear that by doing so Twitter will influence negatively the usage of users, consuming more of their cognitive capacity and pushing them to follow less people, consume less content and eventually interact less.

Image: Shutterstock

Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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