Twitter Has Finally Figured Out The Audience Equation

  • Twitter is planning to shake up its platform by extending the character limit to 5,000-10,000.
  • Twitter is now optimizing the platform for longer form content, which is shown to work in various social sharing, SEO, and viewership studies.
  • This should bode well given the recent launch of Twitter Moments and deep search integration with Google.
  • I anticipate a small string of business wins will generate a snowball effect making Twitter stock a more compelling buy at these lower levels.

Another major shakeup to Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) user experience is on the way according to an NY Times article. The new change could be a game changer for Twitter as it moves closer towards a self-sustained ecosystem for brand marketers, celebrities and everyday Twitter users. In the past, Twitter relied on hyperlinks and built a referral network. However, much of the internet has shifted towards long form content to remain competitive, which has compelling dynamics for a platform with the size of Twitter.

Here’s what the NY Times stated:

The project, which internally has been referred to as “beyond 140,” is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March, said the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the company’s plans. Twitter has not determined what the final tweet character limit will be, according to people familiar with the discussions. One number that has been tossed around internally is 10,000 characters, the same limit that users have inside private Twitter messages. Another possibility could be 5,000 characters, these people said.

A character limit extension to that extreme would have been unheard of under the leadership of Costolo. Many of you might be wondering whether they’re rocking the boat too soon, or if this is an act of desperation. The average word length in the English dictionary is 5.1 letters, according to Wolfram Alpha. So, instead of being limited to 28 to 35 words, Twitter is planning to raise the limitation between 980 words (5000 characters) to 1,960 words (10,000 characters).

This is particularly interesting, because the platform is starting to move towards full blown blogging as opposed to microblogging. Many have circumnavigated the character limit by posting pictures with a full paragraph of words, so an overhaul of the character limitations has been long overdue.

At the moment, Twitter is thinking in terms of optimization, which is why inside sources are having difficulty in communicating where they stand on the continuum. I’m leaning towards the character limit extending up to 10,000 characters as opposed to 5,000 characters. This is to give greater freedom to bloggers who want to use Twitter as a major platform for blogging. The channel is literally ubiquitous, which gives quality content heightened visibility.

1-10-16 TWTR pic 1

Source: Medium Corporation

According to Medium Corporation, the average blog post length should be 7 minutes or roughly 1,600 words. The word count can vary depending on the complexity of subject matter, but from personal experience, I tend to get the best result in terms of viewership at 1,100 to 1,800 words. This tends to be the case across any platform. Social sharing or viral content tends to be maximized once you move the word count further up the spectrum as many view longer content to be of higher quality.

1-10-16 TWTR pic 2

Source: serpIQ

There’s also a consistent trend in search ranking for higher word count articles. In other words, Twitter’s integration into Google Search was the starting point to this strategic shift towards long form content. To surface relevant tweets, the content needs to exceed a word count of 300 and the highest ranked search queries have word counts above 2,000.

Nonetheless, I doubt Twitter will take its character limit to that extreme, but there’s no denying that roughly half of all web viewership comes from search results. So optimizing Twitter towards search conformity will result in substantial improvement to visibility, which translates into more viewership activity thus boosting the available ad inventory.

The problem I have noticed with Twitter is that pricing has gotten pretty expensive for some of the more isolated and targeted ads. I’ve paid $4+ on a CPM basis for many of my targeted ads with very limited conversions, because there wasn’t a whole lot of meat in the pitch and the landing page was weak overall. In other words, Twitter’s ability to convey brand themed stories will result in higher conversion rates thus creating higher quality ad-buying experiences, which then will result into a significant boost to social shares and viewership of sponsored content.

However, the observations on optimization and search engine ranking isn’t all encompassing enough. We’re talking about a social property here, and ironically a recent study from Quicksprout indicates that a 1,500-word count will increase social sharing by 50% when compared to content with a word length of 400.

In other words, if Twitter was deemed a great platform for marketing content in the past, the next four months will bring a sea change to the platform because most of the high quality content producers always keep in mind length and quality. If quality content is surfaced more frequently on Twitter, the ability to market back links will diminish. This reduces the availability of low quality free marketing as content-intensive themes will take center stage.

In other words, Twitter is finally giving people a loud microphone that lasts for 7 minutes as opposed to 10 seconds. The idea that people don’t like to read or don’t like long form content has been put to bed. If platforms migrate over to Twitter it will help to mitigate Facebook’s attempt to retain more of its onsite visitors through news syndication with major publishers. In other words, Twitter is following Facebook’s lead in this attempt. But, the implications sound overwhelmingly positive as there’s no objective data point to refute the contagious nature of quality long form content.

This ties into how YouTube changed its policy on rankings to be more inclusive of higher quality evergreen content in March of 2012. It relied more heavily on retention time and viewership drop off rates. This resulted in higher quality content surfacing more regularly as it became more difficult for rick-rolls, and click-bait content with creative thumbnails to rank higher.

YouTube also emphasized the video length into the video search algorithm, so if you produced longer videos you would get a higher ranking assuming a decent chunk of your audience sat through the entire video. This put pressure on video creators to create more elaborate content schemes to leverage smarter computer logic as opposed to a content approach that fell short of audience expectations.

Hence, YouTube transitioned away from a pure viewership algorithm and started to use more advanced analytics to better target content, which eventually resulted into the YouTube of today with various notable celebrities like Michelle Phan, Pewdewpie, Mosh, Jenna Marbles.

We can then tie this back to Twitter, because we see similar themes. It seems like major revision to strategy within the social app space tends to have favorable long-term effects assuming the change in strategy can be fully backed with observable data and trends. It seems Twitter is fully committed to long form content but is heavily debating about optimization.

Based on third-party studies it’s suggested that the optimum is at 1,500 words, which is why I’m leaning towards the 10,000-character limit as opposed to 5,000. Of course, in the initial innings a lot of stuff will have to be sorted out, and you’ll usually come across forum-jocks, and wannabe Quora experts on Twitter. But, given enough time, the quality will shine as many of the well-established dot com influencers from highly visible blogs will leverage the character limit.

This implies that many of the well-established Twitter figures will gain an added tool in their arsenal, which they will leverage. It also opens the opportunity for smaller profiles to rapidly grow organically. And if small profiles grow quickly the site wide implications are large. It means that Twitter can crop up its own staple of “Twitter celebrities,” which will then result into positive media coverage around a new age of Twitter influencers capable of shaping the voice of the platform.

This also ties back into Twitter Moments, which enables Twitter to surface the most relevant/popular content. However, pictures of cats, sport stats, and headlines about the presidential primaries wasn’t sufficient (a small needle mover). In the end, they needed better content, and so the synergies of curation in conjunction with quality content is the next logical step.

While, I’m still cautious on my outlook with regards to Twitter stock. I believe the market is misinterpreting their strategic shift away from microblogging. With a captive audience, editorial curation, the final missing puzzle piece was the content.

So, just maybe Twitter stock is worth another look. Maybe it’s worth more than just another look as it's trading at $19.00. Looking back at the Facebook IPO, we know the market is a fickle bunch. It was only after Facebook integrated its sales & marketing with product development that things started to turn around as they launched mobile app ads through the collaboration of the product and marketing team. That transition occurred in 2013, and it took only a couple more quarters before mobile ad revenue exploded through the roof. This corresponded to the recovery in its valuation post IPO.

In other words, I think Twitter is experiencing a similar pattern, and it will take several more quarters for recent and future changes to surface into relevant audience metric improvements. Nonetheless, I believe there’s enough compelling evidence to indicate that these small series of wins will generate a snowball effect. As such, I’m changing my tune. Twitter stock is a buy below $20. I’m revising my hold recommendation to a buy and will update my various rating changes on TipRanks, so Amigobulls readers can follow my analysis for consistency.

As always, thank you for reading.

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Comments on this article and TWTR stock

OliviaU
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Thanks for the quick read. A lot of good info in there.
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Olivia at http://www.ampronix.com/
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