Twitter has announced new features for how users will view their timelines, including a new algorithm that posts relevant “best of” tweets above the most recent, alongside video advertisements from brands.
Twitter does not shy away from big changes, after introducing “likes” as opposed to the classic “favourite” earlier this year. However, this is still a big move for the social network, which has greeted mixed reactions online, but will this be enough to encourage growth for the platform in the future?
What is Twitter changing?
Twitter unveiled a new timeline for users, that shows recommended tweets right at the top when you open Twitter. These are tweets a user may have missed, based on what Twitter thinks the user cares about – using signals based upon tweets you interact with, topics that the user is interested in, and activity of people similar to the user in question. Recommended tweets will show in reverse chronological order.
Twitter puts it this way:
Here’s how it works. You flip on the feature in your settings; then when you open Twitter after being away for a while, the Tweets you’re most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline – still recent and in reverse chronological order. The rest of the Tweets will be displayed right underneath, also in reverse chronological order, as always. At any point, just pull-to-refresh to see all new Tweets at the top in the live, up-to-the-second experience you already know and love.
For instance – if you’re interested in films, and follow a lot of pop culture or movie reviewing accounts, Twitter may display movie-related tweets at the top of your timeline.
For now, the change is an option that can be turned off or on in the settings – so there are no changes for those who don’t wish to adapt to the new timeline.
For a social network that has grown based upon being “in-the-moment” and showing the latest updates when you open the network, this is a very major shift.
The other new change is “First View”, which is a way for brands to share videos across Twitter.
These new video adverts will be displayed high up in the feeds – ensuring that users engage with videos more frequently, whilst also making it a more appealing advertising platform for brands to choose. Facebook has seen similar success with sponsored posts and videos, so Twitter has made a move to emulate the same.
Twitter has always been a place for a quick jaunt on social media, where you can quickly digest the latest information online. Whether videos at the top of the timeline will be a good thing or not, is yet to be seen.
First View videos will be shown to everyone in a certain country or region over a 24-hour period. This is opposed to the normal ads, which is targeted at specific users. This means First View could be a much more impactful way to create mass awareness of a brand or product across a wide audience.
Twitter describes First View in this way:
First View helps marketers achieve significant audience reach with exclusive ownership of Twitter’s most valuable advertising real estate for a 24-hour period. When users first visit the Twitter app or log in to twitter.com, the top ad slot in the timelines will be a Promoted Video from that brand. Now, marketers can tell a powerful visual story across the Twitter audience.
Why is Twitter making these changes?
Despite the widespread use of Twitter, it isn’t gaining any more users. Twitter’s stock is also falling, and something needed to be done. This is the response to turnaround the network, after the (re)appointment of co-founder Jack Dorsey to CEO.
Twitter is also facing a dilemma when it comes to the monetization of the service – how do you make money from tweets that are no longer than 140 characters? With a new “best-of” section, there’s certainly more room to implement premium advertisements to tempt brands. But adverts put users off from using the service, so it’s a matter of balancing between adverts and normal tweets.
Twitter is essentially trying to create a better experience for its users – which is by no means a bad thing. Whether this is what users actually need for an optimised experience, however, is very much up for debate. At least the fact it is optional should calm the naysayers, whilst those who aren’t such regular users can catch-up on what they’ve missed more quickly.
What does this mean for brands?
High-quality tweets now have a much bigger chance of gaining traction at the top of a user’s timeline. Timing has always played an important role for Twitter, so now tweets shouldn’t always get lost amongst the noise of Twitter that has been happening in the past.
By giving brands the chance of organically rising up a user’s timeline, it certainly incentivises brands to make better quality and more informative tweets for audiences.
Not only this, but it should also impact those businesses or other accounts that are constantly updating every few minutes, and regurgitating the same content all too much. There’s less of a necessity to ensure you are tweeting so often in order for your followers to see it – as if the tweets are good enough, and your audience is interested, there’s always the possibility they will see it hours after it is posted. Whereas prior to this change, there was very little chance your audience would see an older tweet, unless of course they follow very few accounts.
For advertising purposes, Twitter has always been a very “skimmable” platform, as you will just pick-up on the few accounts or tweets you really want to read – which means many users don’t pay full attention to advertisements. Now there’s a dedicated section for the “best”, advertising will no doubt make its way into this section, and perhaps gain more traction with Twitter users, and hopefully a rise in impressions and engagement.
It also means that any evergreen content that isn’t time sensitive could prove very effective in the best tweets section. For instance, if a sports fan saw the scores from last week in the best tweets (as Twitter deduced he was a big sports fan and would be interested in a sports-related tweet) that’s fairly useless. However, if Twitter manages to implement a way that evergreen content can be identified and utilise in the best tweets section, then it could be a very important edge for content and social media marketers.
Whether the algorithmic changes to Twitter’s timeline actually impacts brands is something we will see develop in the upcoming months – and would seemingly be influenced by just how many people opt-in to the new changes.
However, there are still brands who are taking these changes very seriously. One high profile example is that the Transport for London has announced it is adapting its social media marketing to the new Twitter changes – which is not a usual occurrence for updates to social networks. This simply proves how big of a deal these new changes could be.
Overall, this move is a big one that aims to keep new and existing users happy and using the service. Which is a great thing for Twitter to be doing. Twitter has shown they are ready to make drastic changes to improve – but whether the public will take to these changes, and whether it will impact the declining growth and engagement rates, is not yet certain.
People moan about Facebook every time it updates dramatically, yet continue to use the service. Whether Twitter is on life-support is still not clear, but even if it doesn’t see growth due to these changes, the social network is unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon, and will remain an important channel for brands and the public alike.