Digital POV: Twitter Gets Conversational


Twitter have recently been rolling out an array of new products to make the platform seem more conversational. Ranging from the introduction of conversational ads, proposed changes to the character limits (140 to 10'000), and the rumored addition of “Direct Brand Messaging”. If Direct Brand Messaging comes to fruition, it will permit brands to interact with Twitter’s users in a way they haven’t been able to before, enabling them to speak directly to individual users, during, and in advance of the launch of campaigns.

Details and Implications

At present, brands can message users directly only if it is deemed necessary to respond in a more private manner to something which was tweeted previously.  This was primarily designed to be a customer service tool, and therefore had a much larger character limit of 10k. The recent introduction of Conversational Ads has again seen Twitter offering brands the ability to interact with users, by creating a poll with customizable hashtags, enabling a user to vote in the poll, and automatically generate a relevant tweet with the option to personalize further.

The introduction of Direct Brand Messages would ultimately see Twitter building and developing the customer service tool and Conversational Ads. Direct Brand Messages would enable brands to harness the positive sentiments of tweets already in existence in an ad format for their own benefit. Essentially, tapping into the theory that the endorsement of products by an unpaid, local user, could be perceived as much more influential and persuasive than those by paid celebrities.

For brands and advertisers, this update would mean that in addition to the traditional Twitter ad formats, by paying to promote a single tweet, the brand will be able to create a bespoke Twitter card to show their own message, whilst also showing hand-selected tweets by individual users. In order for this to work, Twitter will be required to present specific clients with their own content management system, allowing them to see the tweets related to their brands. If the brand or marketer would like to use a specific tweet about the brand from an individual user then they can directly message that specific user for permission to use the tweet.

One of the best things about this new feature is it will give the individual user the feeling that they are having an influence on the brand, which in turn will reflect favourably on the brand itself. You could also argue that users will also look favourably on the brand if they are seen to be genuinely paying an interest in what the users are saying. Furthermore, this system would also mean that brands will not always have to create their own copy, as they will be able to promote the posts of other users, which will have a much better reach than a standard retweet.


In summary, Direct Brand Messaging would be a natural progression by Twitter to expand its offering to advertisers and brands and provide a more varied service to its users, potentially increasing its 320 million monthly active users and increasing client investment.

For brands and advertisers, this service would primarily benefit multinational brands, who would be presented with a sea of content to leverage from users. The logistics of managing this however, would be complex, both for Twitter and brands, with the need to manually check tweets for meaning and sarcasm etc.  Furthermore, its success is still dependent on users actually engaging with brands in a more conversational way, and there is still the distinct possibility that some users might not be happy with brands using their positive comments for their own gain.