What the new Twitter timeline means for brands

Twitter is changing the algorithm of its home timeline in order to further personalize the tweets each user gets. How will this affect brands and publishers? Here are some ideas.

Twitter recently announced a new home timeline that will show you tweets you’re most likely to interact with. It is meant to be used after you’ve been away. It is an iteration, and, one hopes, an improvement of the current “while you were away.” It is a setting you can turn on. It lets you see your best tweets at the top of your timeline; the rest will appear in chronological order. When you refresh the timeline, it will arrange the tweets in the way we are used to.

Here’s how this will affect publishers and brands:

Choosing your timeline is a fixed setting

As this is a setting and not something that you can select in the home timeline itself, I expect that people won’t switch it off and on regularly. So I guess less-active users will rely on the new algorithm to show them tweets. This would be really good for Twitter, as it will attract more users. It will be easier to make sense of all the tweets which they normally would see as a total overload. And because you can always go back to the chronological timeline by refreshing, this could be a feature that will be used a lot by active users as well, as an extensive version of ‘while you were away.’

High quality content will have a longer lifetime

For brands, this new timeline will be a big chance to get more engagement and reach, as most of a brand’s content is timeless. Twitter claims that the timeline will be filled by accounts that you interact most with, and that’s people. So also on Twitter, user shares are a growing opportunity. But you may also see tweets from accounts you don’t follow, selected on popularity and how people in your network interact with them.

On Twitter, an average tweet gets 75% of its reach in less than 3 hours, making its half-life 4 times shorter than a Facebook post. If the content is relevant and engaging, the new timeline will make the active lifetime of a tweet much longer. Twitter faces the same process Facebook has gone through: optimize the algorithm that pin-points the most relevant post. Let’s hope we don’t face the same sweepstakes and engagement-bait we saw on Facebook a couple of years ago.

Less real time context

For publishers, it’s a bit more complex to predict what the new timeline will mean. When tweets about news, or even breaking news, are extracted from their real-time context, they could gain less interaction than in the chronological timeline. Twitter would have to take into account the velocity of interactions and show the tweets with a high velocity first, and leave out the ones that slow down quickly.

When Twitter’s goal is to show evergreens at the top at the timeline, news publishers wouldn’t benefit right away. So let’s hope that the new timeline stays optional, as a timeline based on algorithms would cause news to break a lot slower. One thing is sure: For news publishers to attract new followers, a thorough selection of engaging content could become even more important.

We’re really curious to see the first results and we’ll be testing a lot to find the conditions that affect the new timeline’s algorithm. To strengthen our hypotheses, we would love to hear from you. What do you expect of the new Twitter home timeline? Let us know your thoughts.

Gonnie Spijkstra is product strategist at Nine Connections. A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.


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