Doubling the number of characters you get to use on Twitter won’t make much difference if you’re not sending cut-through messages already. If your 140-character tweets weren’t connecting, the new limit of 280 characters will only mean you’re spending twice the effort for the same paltry reward.

In their words, “Twitter is where people go to connect with their passions and interests”. Unfortunately, those passions and interests often involve endless and abusive political debates or catching up on salacious celebrity gossip.

Then there’s the trolling that goes along with that. Plenty of people and businesses have deserted Twitter in the past couple of years because of this, as well as Twitter’s inability to police the platform and keep users reasonably protected. The move to 280 characters just gives the trolls more ammunition to do their thing. Twitter has lots of problems and that’s reflected by the struggle it has in monetising the service effectively.

Twitter has two main purposes for businesses: to promote and to service. You can still do that on the platform but you need to know what you’re trying to achieve and what kind of messages will do that for you.

One big company that has been getting mileage out of its Twitter account recently is KFC. It came to the attention of observant Twitter users that the KFC account was only following 11 other accounts. Usually brands follow a lot of accounts in order to get follow backs and retweets. So who were these special accounts the fried chicken restaurant was following? Eleven herbs and spices, of course! That’s the kind of genius that will get you noticed on Twitter, but it’s in rare supply.

For most businesses the trick is to target and engage with the accounts that show real interest in what you’re doing. You can still build strong one-to-one relationships on Twitter if you’re responsive and conversational. When other users see you’re engaging with people it encourages them to get in on the conversation as well. Lots of micro-conversations is better than blasting out generic tweets that disappear into the Twitter black hole.

Mix up your tweets by using pictures, GIFs and videos to attract attention. Try to make them helpful, educational or even humorous if you can, but most importantly, make them relevant to your followers. Like any form of social media, Twitter is still about making connections with people who share your interests and passions. That’s what makes it powerful. Especially as a small business, you shouldn’t worry about hitting a mass audience with your message; you need to hit the people that matter to you.

If you are diligent, consistent, responsive and friendly, you can still get some return on your Twitter investment. Add a splash of fun and creativity when you can. The new character limit will help you push more into your tweets but it won’t fix anything unless you’ve got your basic engagement strategy in place.

Katy Cao

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Bendalls works with behavioural psychologists to deliver true word of mouth advocacy, customer community groups, social media strategies, social media content creation, social reputation, implementation and social search optimisation.