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What Twitter's Expansion to 280 Characters Means for Internal Communication

INC 2017-11-10 21:03:57

It's no surprise that Twitter's recent announcement that it's doubling character count from 140 to 280 unleashed a storm of comments online.

For example, my fellow Inc. columnist Ed Zitron issued a heartfelt plea: "Please don't destroy Twitter," lamenting that:

"Watching the Twitter feed become a bloated Tumblr-esque blog-roll of people's extra-long, pained thoughts has made me miss the days of the humble tweet-storm, as people at least realized how silly it was to make multiple tweets string together. Everybody has decided that now is the time to have extra-long thoughts about everything."

Zitron's succinct (and tweetable) advice? Your tweets should still be between 140 and (at most) 170 characters.

"The original character limit certainly had its restraints, but recent events have proven that it's in fact a really good thing that there was one," he writes. "Try and focus on making sentence-long tweets, perhaps only straying 30 characters (so maybe a few words) over your normal tweets."

Meanwhile, over in my world of internal communication, my colleague Casey Gatti asked this relevant question: "Does Twitter's character expansion have implications for how organizations communicate with employees?"

The short answer? Yes.

Gatti, a technology expert who thinks about these issues all the time, reminds communicators that "employees today are sophisticated media consumers. They can choose from an infinite array of devices, apps and platforms to find information or be entertained.

"So when they come to work, they bring their expectations with them," says Gatti. "As a result, they think that internal communication should be as simple and convenient as what they experience externally."

But here's the tricky part: Twitter's move to 280 characters doesn't mean that employees expect longer internal communication. In fact, employees' enthusiastic adoption of short-form social media (Snap, Instagram and, yes, Twitter) has made them crave more bite-sized content at work.

What Twitter's change is really about is listening to people's preferences and responding to their changing needs. As Aliza Rosen, product manager at Twitter, writes, "We are making this change after listening and observing a problem our global community was having (it wasn't easy enough to Tweet!), studying data to understand how we could improve, trying it out, and listening to your feedback."

So Gatti's advice is to pay close attention to employee expectations and adapt communication to meet those preferences.

And I'll always emphasize the need to make employee communication simpler and shorter. Too much of internal communication is simply too large. It's like a big meal: complicated, heavy and time-consuming. Employees don't want to read a long email. They don't want to spend 10 minutes (an eternity!) watching a video. They don't want to attend a two-hour meeting.

What employees want is less textbook, more Twitter (even when it's a "long" 280 characters.)  As Rosen explains: "Twitter is about brevity. It's what makes it such a great way to see what's happening. Tweets get right to the point with the information or thoughts that matter."

Guess what: That's great advice for internal communication as well.