There are some things that cannot be said in 140 or fewer characters. For this reason, Twitter (News - Alert) offers a direct messaging option that allows users to communicate privately, and while there is still a character limit, users can send as many messages as needed to get their point across without barraging a profile. Historically, the catch to this system has been that users can only send private messages to those who are currently following them—sort of a problem in customer service circles where, for example, a customer cannot contact a company via direct message unless that company is following him or her.
This changed yesterday when Twitter opened up its direct-messaging feature, allowing users to communicate without having to follow one another. This isn’t the first time Twitter has made this offer; that was two years ago, and it lasted two months. This time, they’re playing for no take backs.
While naysayers are already tossing stones at the Twitter bird, the open direct-messaging feature is optional. Interested users can manuallyactivate the feature—or not—in their account settings. Of course by doing so, users open themselves up to torrents of unwanted spam messages and harassment from strangers. Twitter addresses this concern by blocking a user you don’t follow upon deletion of their messaging thread. For Android (News - Alert) and iOS users, a new direct-messaging button will be added to profiles that makes sending messages quick and easy.
Logistically, direct messaging is an area that Twitter has never excelled at—the point of the social media platform is to be conversational, but in a low-commitment way. Still, messaging apps are all the buzz these days, and sooner or later Twitter will have to chime in with a solution of its in. They chose sooner.
Users who rely on Twitter exclusively for social outreach may or may not take to the new direct messaging feature, but businesses using the social media platform have a lot to gain from it. As multi-channel customer support and feedback becomes the norm, companies are presented with new threats to their online reputation in the form of social media. By offering angry tweeters a private venue for their venting, companies may alleviate the threat Twitter can pose for their reputations. Companies will also be able to improve their overall customer communications by having a more personal line of communication with other Twitter users—prospective customers.
Twitter has made a big move here, and it should be interesting to see how—and if— it works out for its users.