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Why content marketers should care about Twitter’s Beyond 140 initiative

Content marketers should keep a close eye on Beyond 140, a Twitter initiative that could see users get access to a new, full-service publishing platform.

According to industry reports, CEO Jack Dorsey is keen on a blogging platform to sit behind the regular Twitter interface.

Users would still post short messages under the traditional 140-character limit, but they would have the option to link through to longer, richer pieces of content housed within the Twitter environment.

Beyond 140 has obvious parallels with LinkedIn Publishing, Facebook Instant Articles and even Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in that it represents Twitter’s bid to hold on to more traffic.

Right now, users scrolling through their Twitter feeds click on links that take them away from Twitter and off to third party sites, which then get a chance to monetise that traffic.

Twitter would like to keep users on Twitter for longer and hopes giving content creators the chance to publish full-length articles behind their tweets will help it achieve that goal.

Why this matters for content marketers

Twitter has a number of uses for content marketers, but principally it’s a means of getting content you’ve created or commissioned in front of more of the right people.

If you can find your audience on Twitter, tweeting your latest blog post, whitepaper or special offer can be a great way to get clicks, engagement and conversions.

That same piece of content can also be promoted on other social networks if the relevant audience is there because it’s your content living on a digital property you own (probably your website).

But Twitter, along with other leading social media sites, wants to publish as well as promote your content, which brings new opportunities, as well as new challenges for content marketers.

How LinkedIn and Facebook woo publishers

LinkedIn was first to the party with its big pitch to publishers. In February 2014, LinkedIn started giving users access to a blogging platform they could use to create, publish and promote their own content.

In the initial roll out, articles on LinkedIn Publishing had great visibility within the LinkedIn community and could also be a good short-term tactic to win organic search traffic from Google if your site had little or no traction in organic search results.

As long-form posts were switched on for more and more users (they are now available to everyone on LinkedIn) the battle to be heard got steadily harder, but publishing through LinkedIn remains the best way to get organic reach on the world’s largest network for professionals.

Unlike posts sharing links to content on third party sites, posts on LinkedIn Publishing are available to non-LinkedIn users (through Google’s search results). They can also make it into LinkedIn apps like Pulse or get promoted by LinkedIn’s content algorithms to members you’re not connected to.

While brands can’t publish long-form posts on their LinkedIn company pages, they can use their better-connected employees to post through their personal profiles and help promote their content to a potentially lucrative audience.

According to its website, LinkedIn has more than 400 million members in 200 countries, including seven million in Australia and one million in New Zealand.

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But while LinkedIn is the go-to site for professional networking, Facebook remains the world’s largest social media brand with more 1.54 billion monthly active users globally at the end of Q3 last year.

Facebook’s Instant Articles, launched last year, offered a select group of publishers the chance to create exclusive content for Facebook in exchange for a share of the ad revenue.

In many ways, Instant Articles feels more compelling for publishers (at least those invited to take part) than long-form posts on LinkedIn.

Facebook has shown that it can be pretty effective at selling advertising (USD $4.3 billion in the three months to September 30th), especially on mobile devices, which makes the revenue share appealing, especially for traditional publishers like The New York Times with their falling print circulations and various legacy issues.

But for brands, Instant Articles, in its present form at least, is limited. Access is restricted to traditional publishers, meaning there’s no direct content marketing play, although that might change depending how popular it proves with users.

It’s likely though that any extension or re-casting of Instant Articles for brands will require more than just the cost producing a great piece of content. Organic reach on Facebook has been getting increasingly difficult and in future brands wanting their content seen will need to buy ads.

Can Beyond 140 help Twitter attract new users?

Twitter has been under real pressure of late with its share price losing 50 per cent of its value since the first half of 2015 and questions being asked about the company’s ability to attract new users.

It will hope that Beyond 140, alongside other product innovations, such as the live video streaming service, Periscope, can spark renewed interest from an increasingly distracted public and help drive the sort of user growth investors expect from leading social media brands.

Content marketers should watch closely as more details emerge. Beyond 140 could offer an exciting new way to promote their best content or it could just create another platform to feed.

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