It’s no secret that Facebook uses an algorithm to prioritize content in its user’s newsfeeds. Based on social context and other factors, the algorithm decides what users do and do not see.
Twitter on the other hand, used a simpler approach for its timeline. Posts on a user’s timeline were displayed in chronological order, and it strictly showed only content from people that users follow.
Fast forward to last week, and Twitter has debuted some changes to the mobile timeline, all the while being very cautious not to use the word algorithm.
Enter timeline changes.
In a post from Twitter titled, “What’s a Twitter timeline?” They spell out what will now appear on a timeline:
1. Tweets from people you’ve chosen to follow
2. Promoted Tweets or Retweets
3. Other tweets or users that Twitter thinks is relevant to you selected based on popularity and interaction.
Number three is new to the mobile timeline, to which Twitter says, ”Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.” They plan to do that by allowing tweets that seem relevant to your interests based on followers etc, to populate into your timeline, regardless of whether you follow them or not.
We have to admit, having some kind of activity feed of people you’re following in timeline could go a long way for engagement on Twitter in the mobile realm – if users are accepting (so far Twitter users are not happy with the changes). In an article for AdAge, Mark Bergen reveals an interesting correlation between ad revenue and timeline views for monthly average users as shown below.
As ad revenue increases, timeline views and presumably interactions are trending downward. It appears that this is a strategic pivot by Twitter to increase engagement and influence the current trend of declining timeline views by attempting to give users more engaging and relevant content.
Potential for Growth
On one hand, Twitter has said that it won’t rule out branded content coming into user’s timelines through popularity and engagement. This could be an opportunity for brands to take advantage of the changes. Lee Maicon, senior VP-strategy at 360i says, “The changes provide an opportunity for earned media campaigns, like those involving promotional deals with celebrities or other popular Twitter users.” If a brand could use a celebrity endorser to create viral content by capitalizing on these new timeline changes (beyond the celebrity’s follower base), there’s a great potential for success organically.
The Other Side of the Coin
“If Twitter can add content to the feeds, it can take it away,” says Bergen. Meaning, we wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Twitter was limiting the organic reach of its posts.
Back in March in a post titled “Fighting for NewsFeed Real Estate,” we wrote about how the changes to Facebook’s Algorithm are seriously affecting a brand’s capability to get their organic content seen by their followers. It’s no great leap of logic that Twitter could do the same thing here by reducing the percentage of timelines branded content shows up in, forcing them to purchase an ad product for increased visibility. Theoretically, Facebook has laid out an actionable course for Twitter to mimic straight to higher ad revenue, should they chose to follow along.
What do you think of this approach, should brands have to pay to play on social media? Do you think Twitter will follow Facebook’s lead?