This week Twitter announced a new layout to be rolled out for profiles. While not seen as necessary fix for users, the changes likely reveal underlying growth strategies and revenue objectives for the newly public company, and an attempt to jump user number and brand interest in a highly competitive online space. We examine the upcoming changes and their impacts.
What will it look like?
The proposed update will feature enlarged cover photos, a focus on graphic content and a new way of displaying tweets. There are now pinned Tweets, larger appearing popular Tweets, and Tweets will be shown as individual update containers, much like a Facebook Newsfeed.
- Best Tweets: More engaging Tweets appear slightly larger, so ‘better’ content is easier to find.
- Pinned Tweet: Tweets can be pinned to the top of a page to better showcase particular information to others
- Filtered Tweets: Users can decide which timelines to view on other profiles, with a choice between Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos, or Tweets and replies
- Faster updating: Twitter’s servers will be promoted for updates every 30 seconds and automatically threads new Tweets into the stream
Why is it being implemented?
Twitter’s recent fourth-quarter earnings report earlier this year showed that while user base was growing, its user engagement was decreasing. This indicates that people are interested and trying the platform, but aren’t being retained. While it has been claimed that Twitter is trying to “be like Facebook”, this switch to a more ‘mainstream’ appearing platform is probably to appeal to new users who are familiar with other social networking sites.
As a public company, Twitter is facing shareholder pressure to increase its user base and find innovative monetisation opportunities for the platform. Changes in user preferences, a need to incite non-users to the platform, and the ability to better appeal to and showcase brand pages are likely key incentives behind the redesign.
What are the implications?
It’s anticipated the switch will have two big impacts; one on user behaviour, and another for advertising and promoted content.
Users can have more discretion in how they appear to others who visit their profile. This is not only good for your average user control, but ideal for brand pages looking to better position content to visitors. The faster updating will also benefit those who engage in live-tweeting, a differentiating use and benefit of the platform.
There is some uncertainty in moving Twitter from its core user case; a real time micro-blogging newsfeed, and shifting into a potentially algorithmically focused feed. With graphic tweets and ‘more popular’ tweets being afforded more content real estate, it appears Twitter may be slowly adopting these methods. Rather than being limited by the feed space on devices for real-time updates, algorithms used by other sites such as Facebook prioritise content to ensure users view relevant updates. This is seen as a key user retention strategy and contributes to repeat visits and engagement, but also a way for Facebook to profit from commercial Pages by allowing targeted updates. As such, brands vying for newsfeed space and user attention pay a premium for more favourable algorithmic referencing.
This could benefit Twitter in terms of advertising revenue, however many core users prefer the platform due to it’s simplistic, transparent, content feed.
Will it work?
While Facebook knows all too well the user complaints bombarding over every minor change, Twitter will be anticipating backlash from unhappy Twitter-ers. For the core users, adopting to this new format may take some time, and perhaps incite others to leave in pursuit of the old simple style. However the current volume, frequency of use, and loyalty of users will probably not see this as a large risk, with slow implementation of subtle changes as a key mitigation to user attrition.
The updates are also more user friendly to non-Twitter natives, with the similarities to other networks reducing the learning curve or unfamiliarity of the platform. This will ideally incite new user adoption, attract brand attention and increase advertising revenue. As such, this is a great outcome for the Twitter company and affiliated stakeholders. Looking ahead to upcoming reports and results will truly reveal the impact of Twitter’s strategy.