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Why Is Innovation Vital For Social Media?

Everyone is getting pretty excited that Twitter is stopping media attachments and usernames from eating into the precious 140-character count.

I, for one, continually find myself chopping out words and deciding between hashtags to get my Tweet below the character limit once I’ve added a media attachment. What’s worse is that usernames are also counted – which almost feels as though you’re being penalised for engaging with your audience and actually being social on a social media platform.

A few other improvements have been announced, notably the ability to retweet and quote yourself. Initially, I thought this was a bit pointless and even somewhat narcissistic. But I’ve now realised that this is just an affirmation of Twitter knowing the platform is ‘noisy,’ and offering an elegant solution to cut through the noise with minimal algorithmic interference.



Is this innovation?

For years, we have been applauding Twitter for staying true to its purpose and design – remaining relatively unchanged since day one. However, this pride has started to hit back – and hit back hard.

If you’re a keen follower of popular marketing publishers, you will probably know that Twitter is really starting to struggle. It’s less a case of losing existing users, but an inability to attract new users.

We all know that the Internet is becoming (has become) more and more visual. In fact, it’s become so visual that it has started to spill outside of the computer screen with the development of some very impressive virtual reality technology.

Essentially, Twitter absolutely nailed it at the beginning. It was pretty much perfect. They knew that and their users knew that. With this in mind, Twitter has generally tidied itself up over the years but has failed to move with the tide and ruffle some feathers along the way.

And all of this makes me think, why were so many valuable features missing from Twitter to begin with?


Twitter has always been a text oriented microblogging platform. The platform lends itself well to this media format. Because of this, attachments are likely to have contributed to the character count from the early days of Twitter to dictate its direction.

Images, videos and linking were also far less common back in the day. (By back in the day, I only mean 5-10 years, which really isn’t long ago at all.) It probably wasn’t much of a priority for the Twitter developers to update this functionality back in 2009, which eventually became a bit of a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ scenario.


What does Facebook do differently?

Facebook, the obvious example to use, has continually changed the platform at the dismay of many of its users.

“Why, why, why have they done this? I’m boycotting the site.”

Three years later and they’re still using Facebook daily and still threatening to leave upon each significant update.

People are afraid of change. It makes them uncomfortable. The fact that it’s momentarily different makes it feel wrong – which makes it seem bad. But considering how often people use Facebook each day, it doesn’t take particularly long for any of these new features to feel normal again.

What I’m trying to say is that Facebook is always innovating. They’re always changing the platform and generally, for the better. There’s a good reason why it’s the biggest social media platform and the most powerful marketing tool in the world.

For those of you who have seen The Social Network, you’ll know that Facebook and its founders haven’t been afraid to upset the masses of a few people right from the beginning. It’s in its DNA.

Twitter’s ‘niceness’ and unwillingness to temporarily upset its audience for the greater good has caused it to stagnate – and is now having to make amends.

Tweets beginning with a username no longer requiring a period before the ‘@’ is a weird oversight from day one and should never have been a thing. It later became a bit of a ‘Twitter Quirk,’ which is just a way of dressing up an error as a conscious and considered feature.


Isn't it a bit late?

The removal of attachments and usernames from the character count is obviously a very welcome addition – but isn’t it a bit late? I’m all for staying true to your purpose and design, but you also have to make sure to adapt, move with the tide and strike while the iron’s hot.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Twitter. I respect its values and why it may be somewhat unwilling to adopt new features. But unless it starts innovating more, moving quicker and reinvigorating faith from its users – I’m not sure where we’ll see it in another 5 years’ time.

If you would like to learn more about Twitter, Facebook and using social media for business – join us for our next Social Media Strategy training session. Book your place online or by calling 01202 684 009.

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