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Twitter’s Product Shift from Customer Service to Helping Brands Grow
In a subtle but important product release, Twitter has removed the 140 character text limit from Direct Messages (DMs). Here’s why this matters for marketers, as well as the future of Twitter’s revenue model.
But first, let me preface these observations with a question: when you want to complain about a brand, product, or service, what’s the first social network you take your grievances to?
That’s a big problem for Twitter, particularly its future as an advertising network: the world’s marketing leaders — and brands with the largest media budgets — see Twitter first and foremost as a customer service channel, rather than an ecosystem for building brand memory and driving consumer purchases.
Twitter isn’t a place where enough marketers go to build their brand, it’s where marketers sit and monitor, waiting for occasions to defend their brand in the public spotlight. By removing the 140 character DM limit, Twitter has finally made the first meaningful move to shift customer response management out of the public eye and toward private, more productive 1:1 conservations. Rather than complaining about a customer experience issue in snippets, customers can talk about—and resolve—their problems in depth and at length.
For marketers and media buyers, this update should signal a broader shift in Twitter’s product strategy toward helping brands grow. It puts Twitter on a path to being a platform where social and digital teams prioritize creative campaigns, rather than person-to-person conversations.
Decades of data from Nielsen and TNS analyzed by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science clearly shows two important facts about brand growth that are relevant to Twitter’s announcement. The first fact is that as a brand’s market share rises, so does its customer loyalty, known as the double jeopardy law of marketing. As a result, by effectively advertising and acquiring more customers—potentially via Twitter’s native direct response cards—a brand’s customer loyalty increases, both on and off Twitter. Statistically, responding to Twitter complaints 1:1 is a less effective brand-building strategy than publishing great content to your broader audience. The second fact reinforces that brand—and, by association, sales—growth doesn’t come from responding to existing customers, it comes from messaging that wins new customers. At first, this can seem counterintuitive, but if a brand has 10% market share in its industry, the best strategy for increasing sales is getting part of the other 90% of non-customers to buy its product, rather than trying to increase purchase size or frequency within its existing customer base.
Customer relationships certainly matter in business, but they can only be built after you’ve won a person’s business in the first place.
Overall, Twitter’s DM update is a first step toward helping marketing organizations re-prioritize brand-building efforts on Twitter, thereby attracting additional Twitter Ads revenue. If Twitter can also make strides toward improving user growth and mainstream adoption—its own fight to win market share in the battle for digital attention—it has a sustainable future as platform where brands and consumers build meaningful connections.