Twitter tests new ad unit; mulls character increase

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 6 January 2016

Twitter is testing a new “conversational ad" unit, which would allow users to individually tweet a brand's message to their followers as well as give brands instant feedback.

The social platform described it as a way to make it even easier for consumers to engage with and then spread a brand’s campaign message, which could include spreading a hashtag or to even vote on a question from the brand.


"It’s a powerful way for advertisers to extend their presence across Twitter," a company spokesperson said.

The conversational ad format builds on promoted tweets by including call to action buttons with customisable hashtags that are said to encourage consumer engagement.

The ad format could be another way for marketers to get influential Twitter users (dubbed social influencers), in particular, tweeting about their brands.

According to radio presenter and social startup founder Jules Lund, influencer marketing is set to become the industry's golden child. In September, Lund launched his own influencer marketing business Tribe, a “marketplace” which allows brands to work with not only celebrity influencers but also citizen influencers.

Twitter's new conversational ads mean that after someone clicks on a branded hashtag button, a tweet box appears pre-populated with the message the brand wants the person to tweet, including the hashtag and photo or video that appeared in the brand's promoted tweet - this can be amended by the user.

As a thank you, the consumer then receives a message from the brand for having engaged with the tweet.

The move comes as speculation mounts around Twitter mulling a change to its character limit by the end of Q1.

Currently tweets can only contain 140 characters, giving Twitter its micro-blogging moniker, however according to Recode, Twitter is currently considering a 10,000 character limit. The same limit the platform recently gave its direct messaging offering.

Media reports on Recode say that while there is no official launch date for the change and the product that goes with it - thought to be called 'Beyond 140' - the limit could slowly be increasing over coming months.

Responding to the speculation Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said via the platform that Twitter has noticed people take photos of text messages or paragraphs of texts and then are tweeting that, and he asked the question, what if those paragraphs of text could be searched and highlighted? He says they could be given more power.

“We're not going to be shy about building more utility and power into Twitter for people,” he says. “As long as it's consistent with what people want to do, we're going to explore it.”

He did add however: “The majority of tweets will always be short, sweet and conversational.”

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