Why Twitter’s New Timeline is Good News for Savvy Social Marketers

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Ben Rubenstein

Sr. Manager, Social Media & Online Community

If you were paying attention to Twitter over the past month, you likely witnessed two classic rants from eccentric millionaires. Since Kanye West’s public therapy session/fund drive has been covered adequately on other blogs, we’ll focus on one more relevant to marketers:

That’s Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responding to rumors — and complaints — that his company would soon introduce a new timeline that would display tweets based on an algorithm instead of simply showing every message in reverse-chronological order. In other words, Twitter was becoming even more like Facebook, and not everyone was happy about it.

twitter timelineThe new Twitter timeline rolled out on February 10 (optional for now) and it actually looks a lot like the old timeline, with one key difference. When users first sign in, they’ll be presented with a sampling of the ‘best’ recent tweets from accounts they follow at the top of their feeds, with the traditional reverse-chronological timeline below. The number of tweets shown at the top will vary, but Twitter estimates about a dozen will show on average. MarketingLand has a great FAQ on how it all works.

What does the new Twitter timeline mean for marketers?

So, what does this mean for marketers?  Here’s the key quote from Twitter:

“We use a person’s past Twitter activity to predict which Tweets they might like to see most. We look at accounts they interact with, Tweets they usually engage with, interests, and what’s going on in their network.”

My takeaways from that:

  • Optimize your posts. The ‘best tweets’ algorithm will take into account users’ interaction history to determine which messages they see at the top of their feeds. In other words, if you’re creating good content that users interact with on Twitter, you have a better chance of that content floating to the top of the feed and getting more exposure – even if you don’t post at exactly the right time when your users are online. It’s always been important to test tweets and determine the right mix of messaging, images and hashtags to engage your target audience, and this change rewards those who understand that.
  • Engage with influencers. The accounts that users have interacted with will be a signal in Twitter’s algorithm. By building relationships with powerful Twitter users who can share your content with their highly engaged followers, you’ll increase your brand’s likelihood of vaulting into the top of the feed. KISSMetrics has a great guide to targeting and reaching out to influencers; BuzzSumo is a powerful, affordable tool for doing this kind of research.
  • Follow trends. Twitter’s real-time nature has long been a selling point, and the new algorithm will use network activity as a signal when deciding what tweets to show (this might be what @jack meant about becoming more ‘Twitter-y’).

So if several of a user’s followers are tweeting about the same event, that event may be prominent at the top of that user’s feed. A colleague of mine recently noted that, soon after turning on the new timeline, the top of her feed was dominated by, yes, Kanye West hot takes. You can decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing, but for marketers, it means that you can’t ignore what’s going on in the world outside your niche, because it will likely impact your visibility more than ever before. Whether this means a focus on real-time or ‘responsive’ marketing depends on your team’s goals, skills and resources; at the very least, you should consider trends before blindly scheduling posts.

You may have noticed that these recommendations generally align with established Twitter best practices. If Twitter’s new timeline works, it should be about showcasing the best of Twitter, rewarding those who are doing things right.  If it doesn’t work out, well, #RIPTwitter will be trending once again.

building social influence, social media, social media marketing, Twitter, Twitter timeline

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