Why #280characters is great for Twitter prize promotions

There was a mixed reaction to Twitter extending its character limit to 280. Actually, it wasn’t really a mixed reaction, it was a negative reaction. Some Twitter users bemoaned the loss of the art of crafting perfectly formed, pithy tweets, while others insisted all it did was give people more opportunities for talking themselves up and trolling. However, although the move may not have been popular in the Twittersphere, it’s definitely good news  for those of us in the prize promotions world.

When the maximum character count was 140, it was a serious squash and a squeeze to fit abridged terms and conditions into a prize draw tweet. The choice was either compromise on content or run to two tweets. The latter was still problematic, though, because clients were happy to pay for a promoted tweet about the competition or promotion itself, but less keen to pay for a second promoted tweet containing abridged terms and a link to the full terms and conditions.

The new 280-character limit means that it’s much easier to include those abridged terms and conditions and important points of information such as, say, the closing date. Under the CAP Code, promoters are required to state the closing date of any promotion or competition prominently, even in a tweet, but it’s surprising how many don’t, including Thomas Cook, as a recent ruling from the ASA highlighted.

In June this year, the travel company ran a Twitter promotion asking people to post videos of themselves strutting like a flamingo. The prize was a £5,000 gift card, but there was a complaint to the ASA, because the tweeted link to the full terms and conditions didn’t work and therefore the closing date wasn’t clear. Thomas Cook had made it hard for itself by running the same competition, but with a slightly different closing date, on another social media platform – there’s a lesson there about keeping it simple – and its social media team didn’t realise the link was broken. Defending itself, Thomas Cook argued that there was ‘insufficient space’ in a tweet to explain the different closing dates without causing confusion, but that definitely didn’t wash with the ASA.

Now you have 280 characters at your disposal there’s no excuse for failing to publicise the terms and conditions for your prize promotion properly, and the ASA is likely to reflect that in its future rulings. Of course, 280 characters does give those of us running prize promotions increased flexibility and improved scope for creativity, and I definitely welcome that. Mind you, as lots of Twitter people pointed out, doubling the character count may also double the chances of @realDonaldTrump accidentally starting a war…

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team (702 characters)

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