It’s no secret that I’ve loved Twitter for a very long time. While others drag its name through the streets or predict its demise, I maintain faith in the social network, knowing that its audience is unique and loyal…Twitter isn’t going anywhere.
Late last year, when CEO Jack Dorsey announced a number of changes to the platform, it raised a lot of eyebrows: maybe Twitter isn’t doing so well. These major overhauls looked and felt a lot like copycats of every other major successful social media network, with what seemed to be duplicated elements of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. But the mark of a smart organization is knowing when to let go of your flagship, no matter how attached you’ve been to it, in exchange for the fluidity of what works for people right now. And Twitter has been paying attention, and making adjustments accordingly.
If your audience is on Twitter (and they may well be, even if you’re not), then there are things you need to know about the new (and arguably improved) Twitter of 2016:
1. The move to an algorithm (March) Probably the biggest and most hotly contested change to Twitter’s format was the decision to move to an algorithm. But what does that mean? Well, prior to this year, Twitter had their feed shown to users chronologically, meaning that each user saw tweets from people they followed, as those people were tweeting them. It also meant that businesses/users could tweet the same thing several days in a row, at different times of day, to ensure that different audiences saw their tweets. Facebook, alternatively, operates on an algorithm: your content is shown to users based on how interested Facebook thinks your users will be in the content. If your Facebook content gets clicks, likes, shares, or comments, then your content will be shown to even more people. It’s a way to separate the wheat from the chaff on social media: show users what they actually want to see vs inundating them with crappy advertising. This is what Twitter has moved to.
Unfortunately, the algorithm also makes it harder for your content to be seen by users, which was the complaint about the Twitter change. I’ve heard too many business owners and marketers lament this very thing, saying that it’s “not fair” that Facebook (and now Twitter) weeds out this content. Here’s the rub: if your content doesn’t suck, it is likely to be seen by your audience. Instead of complaining about the change, we should be adaptable…and we should be investing more in the quality of our content and less in the “spray and pray” method of advertising: make a bunch of stuff that sucks and hope some of it sticks.
2. 140 characters and then some (September) The most recent change adopted by Twitter was the decision to expand its legendary character count…in specific circumstances. You still only have 140 characters, but now @mentions in comment replies won’t count against that character number. Also, you can add media: pictures, videos, GIFs, URLs that link to those media types, and they also won’t add to that character count.
Two caveats: if you are creating a new tweet with a @mention, or you use the @mention somewhere in the middle of your tweet (read: not at the very beginning), that @mention will count against your 140 characters–the change applies to replies only. Also, URLs that link to stories or written content still count against your characters. But now, you can add a picture to your tweet to make it stand out, while also sharing a link!
3. Open verification (July) You may have seen a blue badge next to certain Twitter accounts, typically celebrities in various industries:
Essentially, that little blue icon meant that Twitter had verified that the account was authentic: you’re getting the real Patrick Dempsey and his thoughts, and not some fan or parody account. Formerly, verification of an account’s authenticity was available only to major celebrities, but as of July, any account can apply for verification…as long as they are able to argue that their account serves the public interest. This means that accounts that serve the spaces of journalism, entertainment, government, sports, business, and “other key areas” have the potential to be verified.
If you think that your account serves the public interest, you can now fill out a verification application, provided you meet certain criteria. Note that verification is not guaranteed–Twitter must determine that your account is important to the public in some way. But if you qualify, you should definitely try and make your case!
4. Video changes (May) Two major changes to video took place this year. The first was to allow for longer video; video content in Tweets was initially only allowed to be 30 seconds long. In May, Twitter updated that to 140 seconds, meant to hearken back to its character count limit. Also, if you’re a business using video content on Twitter, there was an update made to the metrics of your video content as well. If you’re looking at your analytics, know that now a “video view” counts as your video playing for 2 seconds or longer to a viewer, with at least 50% of the video in frame.
5. Away with periods (Upcoming) In days past, when you replied to a tweet and began your reply with a @mention, your tweet wasn’t broadcast to the public on your Twitter profile feed. In order to make your response publicly seen on your feeds, you had to put a period or any other character before your mention:
Soon, however, Twitter will relax this rule, making any tweet you have with a @mention public, whether or not there are any characters in front of it. This will come on the heels of eliminating @mentions in replies from the 140 character count!
6. Thursday Night Football…on Twitter (September) CBS who? Starting last week, you can now watch Thursday Night Football on Twitter from your mobile device or desktop. Staying true to its branding, that Twitter is where you watch the world happen in real time, they’ve begun seeking out more and more ways to keep that alive. Says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, “Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world live NFL football.” 10 Thursday night games will be broadcast on the social platform in the 2016-2017 season.
Twitter is having an exciting year, and I’m excited for them and for their users, both individuals and businesses. Haters, you can keep your premature eulogies–Twitter is still in the game.
You deserve to work with people who understand the constant change of the social media world, and how your business can use those changes to its advantage. Talk to us about your social media situation: what’s working, what’s not, and what you want to accomplish, and let us help you maximize your online efforts!