Social platforms are continually rolling out new updates in a non-stop effort to provide the best experience to users, whilst also attracting advertisers with a plethora of marketing options. The more advertisers they attract, the more revenue rolls in.
So far in 2016, Twitter has dominated the press on this front, in a bid to keep their dedicated daily active users interacting on the platform - and arguably more importantly, attract new users too.
Long-standing users are becoming more and more convinced that Twitter as we know it is on the way out. Each recent new update has been deemed ‘too Facebooky’, bringing ripples of unease through the community. So, what is the reasoning behind these frequent updates, and how can businesses capitalise on them whilst the iron’s hot?
New Home Timeline Algorithm
At the beginning of February, Twitter rolled out its new timeline update - aiming to combat their ‘real-time’ issue of important tweets being missed whilst users are offline. Previous similar efforts to this such as ‘whilst you were away’ and personal engagement notifications proved popular with users, and so led to a more radical re-haul of the Twitter algorithm as we know it.
Currently, you are required to opt-in to this new feature by turning it on in settings. Twitter will then decide, based on previous engagement behaviour, which tweets you’re likely to care about the most - similarly to Facebook. It then places these at the top of your timeline in classic reverse chronological order, with the old timeline remaining underneath these highlights below. Once you pull the timeline down to refresh it, it returns to a complete stream of real-time updates.
3 Ways to Maximise Return
- Include more evergreen tweets that don’t date quickly. Transport for London have already responded to the organic timeline change by ending their less important real-time updates to focus on the major disruptions and delays, which are likely to be most engaged with and seen by users as soon as they log on.
- Heighten social content quality control. Think of this as an opportunity to clear up your social feed. Before posting, ask yourself - is this tweet 100% necessary? Is it likely to receive high engagement or provide essential value? With top quality content remaining in users’ timelines for longer, quality of posts will overtake the importance of frequency.
- Adjust your overall content split to boost engagement. For example, if you are currently sharing 40% product posts, 40% informative news stories and 20% posts for engagement purposes, you may want to consider upping the percentage of engaging posts to secure a stronger position in the Twitter timeline.
GIF Search on Twitter
Nothing catches attention on Twitter like a moving image, and as the demand for video content and other moving content such as cinemagraphs is still going strong - Twitter introduced a GIF search similar to Facebook’s on February 17th. Although Twitter has supported the inclusion of GIF posts for years, users formerly had to manually upload them. The ability to grab the GIF and upload directly on the platform will boost the number of GIFs in the Twitter timeline – and most likely, user engagement overall.
GIFs are a great way to express yourself in an engaging and unique way, allowing brands to add more personality to their tweets. Get ahead of your competitors and jump on the GIF-wagon before it becomes a mainstream part of social content strategy for all.
3 Ways to Maximise Return
- Be creative. If you feel an update is lacklustre, or the accompanying image just isn’t doing it justice - enter the GIF library!
- Stay relevant. If you spot a GIF that makes you laugh out loud or inspires you, that’s great - but only incorporate it into your updates by relating it back to your product or brand message.
- Capitalise on trends. GIFs are a great way to stand out in the noise surrounding trending topics - but again, be sure to remain true to your brand voice and message.
Periscope Broadcasts: Live on Twitter
With 1.9 million daily active users reported in August, Twitter-owned live video streaming service Periscope is earning its stripes as more than just a one-week-wonder social platform. Since its launch last year, there have been over 100 million live broadcasts, and at the start of January Twitter brought both live and replay broadcasts directly into tweets.
Live broadcasts are a great way to immediately capture the attention of your audience, who will feel a sense of urgency to watch events unfold live. An increasing trend, for younger social users in particular, is the need for instant gratification - and of course, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)! Live streams are a key way to feed this need for real-time social entertainment and news.
3 Ways to Maximise Return
- Launch campaigns, events and special offers live. Use Periscope to generate a buzz around new offerings by documenting them in a real-time live stream – also providing you with instant feedback as the stream happens.
- Use exclusive social-streamed broadcasts to build personal relationships with your online following, by providing behind-the-scenes ‘sneak peek’ style updates not available to offline customers.
- Host a Q&A session. Run a Periscope/Twitter campaign to by asking your followers in advance to submit their questions to your brand ambassador or company staff member using an #AskXXXX hashtag. Not only will this create a pre-stream buzz, it ensures users will be compelled to tune in to see their questions answered.
The final update to note so far in 2016 is the addition of Twitter’s most engaging posts appearing on the home login page. This increases the reach of Twitter’s content - meaning that users who don’t have the Twitter app, or haven’t signed up yet, can view Twitter’s highlights simply by visiting Twitter.com.
Unless your company has an astronomical budget, it is unlikely that you will ever reach this dizzying height, however…
3 Way to Maximise Return
- Before logging in each day, have a quick scan of Twitter’s most popular tweets and trends - e.g. hashtags such as #ObamaAndKids. These can be extremely valuable in influencing your real-time content, with the likelihood of gaining more engagement from followers due to their topical nature.
- Spot any opportunities to engage. For example, Kanye West recently tweeted a picture of North with the caption ‘My Heart’ - which would have been a great retweet for baby brands.
- Notice which post formats perform well day after day. Are you seeing lots of short, snappy updates accompanied by images - or is it longer tweets with hashtags that are performing well? This will change according to seasonality, and can be a great benchmark for your own choice of post formatting.
I hope you found this round-up of Twitter’s four most prominent updates so far in 2016 useful. Which was your favourite? If you have any questions, or need help with any of the above - find me on Twitter at @ruby_mae.