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Social Media Updates: A Gift for Brands

Posted: September 17, 2015, at 1:30 p.m.
by Taylor Shelnutt.

Six thousand tweets are sent every second around the world, accumulating to 500 million tweets per day. Three hundred million people are monthly active Instagram users, posting an average of 70 million photos per day.

Imagine the power behind that many tweets and photos. It’s no surprise that today’s public relations professionals must not only be social media savvy, but they must also know how to harness that power and use it for their clients’ benefit — or idly sit by while disaster strikes.

Twitter and Instagram released updates within the last month, creating buzz throughout the social sphere. The innovation generated excitement with casual users, but it also perked the ears of those who see social media as a fundamental part of their bottom line. It turns out that even simple social media updates can create ripple effects that impact the daily tasks of PR pros.

Twitter’s big step
On August 12, Twitter removed the 140-character limit for direct messages (DMs) that had existed since the platform’s launch. Now you can send and receive direct messages up to 10,000 characters in length, impacting the one-on-one conversations that tend to go more in depth about content located on the public Twitter feed. Sachin Agarwal, a Twitter product manager, said the update is “another big step towards making the private side of Twitter even more powerful and fun.”

Powerful is right. Brands are paying attention to the change, as it is allowing them to address customer issues more thoroughly in a private thread. According to a statistic from NM Incite, 71 percent of consumers who receive a quick and effective response on social media are likely to recommend that brand.

4385037500_809913f34f_oSo what does that mean for the PR pros who use Twitter regularly on behalf of these brands? Andrea Easley, a digital associate at Golin Chicago, said the update allows for an easier system of communication between the brand and the consumer.

“For consumer related complaints, especially if the consumer has a lot to say, it helps them get their point across and it helps us understand it,” Easley explained. The removal of the character length also allows for addressing these complaints more effectively and tenderly.

Brian Price, an assistant account executive at Edelman Chicago, is responsible for interacting with social community members. He said the update has facilitated smoother communication when talking with a community member privately, whether about a consumer affairs related issue addressing product quality or packaging, or gathering private information for “surprise and delights.” In PR lingo, that’s when an influencer tweets positively about a brand, and the PR professional is responsible for determining whether to send additional coupons or product samples to him or her for continued positive coverage. Therefore, it’s important that the person’s address and shipping information are gathered with as much thoroughness as possible in a private feed.

Instagram’s progress 

8649133454_82557a1787_oTwitter isn’t the only platform with a facelift. Instagram just released an update allowing users to avoid the ever-present difficulty of fitting all their photos into a square box. You can now upload photos in portrait and landscape orientation. Instagram said one in five photos posted aren’t in the square format but are manipulated with other apps to fit the square box. The company is trying to make sharing these photos easier, finally addressing complaints of Instagram users around the world.

PR professionals are expected to know how to manipulate Instagram for increased brand visibility and consumer engagement. Price said the update has impacted the designers and photographers he works with, as they create and capture content for posts.

“It’s saving us time and money because we don’t need to curate an image twice if we want to use it across all channels,” Price explained. “Previously, we would have to make two versions of the image, one of which was Instagram-optimized. That can be tough and time consuming.” And we all know efficiency is essential in PR.

Future outlook
Updates seem to be happening all the time, but these two social media changes could have long-term impacts. When Twitter removed the character limit for DMs and Instagram removed the square photo requirement, both platforms revamped an intrinsic part of their enduring strategy. It’s clear that what works during the introduction of a platform may not be a solution forever, especially if users have anything to say about it.

From a brand’s perspective, the updates should continue to help facilitate communication with audiences. Price emphasized how the Instagram change will save time and allow for increased productivity.

12769823803_4ae53142a6_o“Efficiency is so important right now in a client to agency relationship,” Price said. “A lot of clients seem to be looking for that and how we can stretch content further and do things with more agility. This allows us to do that.”

As for Twitter, Price wonders if the update may be part of a pattern. Could the strict 140-character limit on public tweets be lifted? Sachin Agarwal, Twitter product manager, refused to comment. For now, private conversations through DMs will be simpler, and that has long-term effects of its own.

Easley stated the importance of simplicity in allowing consumers to get what they want from brands at their fingertips.

“As these new innovations happen on social, it makes things so much easier for the brand and the consumer to understand each other,” Easley said. She also said the buzz about Twitter and Instagram around the office has heightened the importance of the changes, even on a nationwide level with other Golin offices. There is an increased focus on clear and consistent communication with consumers.

When social media updates are released, it’s often not only the casual users who are impacted, but the brands that are working to communicate with those users as well. Consumers are happy for personal reasons, and brands are happy for business reasons. With all audience sectors on board, it looks like Twitter and Instagram are on to something.


  1. Post comment

    First, I would like to say this is a well-written piece. I enjoyed this because social media is a dominant trend in society. It is present in the lives of almost everyone with a smart phone or computer. It is also becoming the new way to promote and market products/services to audiences. This makes it crucial for businesses to stay updated on all aspects of social media. I think it’s great that Twitter is lifting its character limit in its direct messaging feature. This will help dialogue and allow the company or person to elaborate on the issue being presented. Giving customers a full answer over Twitter will help with the customer service aspect of business. I do wonder if Twitter will lift the character limit on regular tweets? I think this would be a mistake for the company. What makes Twitter unique is the 140-character limit. I like Twitter because I don’t see paragraph after paragraph of rants or complaints. Brief is sometimes better.

  2. Post comment

    Great post about the recent updates on Instagram and Twitter! I find it very interesting that Twitter removed the 140-character limit for direct messages, but not public tweets. Although the unlimited character count for private conversations only seem to be a minor change, I think it’s very impacting for brands who use Twitter to address customer complaints to be able to handle the problem more effectively without having to condense the message. I agree that businesses who actively use Twitter to engage with consumers will benefit in that customer service responses will be much quicker and easier. Regular, everyday Twitter users will also benefit from this update for personal reasons, but some may not. Personally, this update doesn’t affect me because I rarely use the direct message feature on Twitter. Instead, I use Twitter to casually keep up with the latest trends and entertainment, but that’s just me. Many Twitter users have been waiting for the character limit change in public-facing tweets. I find it surprising that it hasn’t been changed yet being that the direct message character count has, but I guess we’ll see what Twitter has in store for us!


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