Thursday, August 21, 2014

Twitter Timeline Changes Include "Relevant Content" and Sponsored Tweets

Within the past week users on Twitter noticed that the social media company had deployed an experiment to a handful of users that started showing actions, like favorite Tweets, on the user's main Twitter timeline. In addition to that, Twitter also experimented with showing tweets from accounts users didn't follow earlier in the month. When it first appeared, it seemed as if this feature was simply a test due to the fact that it had yet to be universally deployed to all users. However, it appears as if Twitter has updated some key language on its help page that indicates a permanent change.

It appears as if Twitter has updated the definition of "What's a Twitter timeline?" with a new bullet point. That new point reads as follows:

Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that's popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don't follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting. 
A previous version of the same page was found in Google's Cache and reads:

 Note: You may see content from accounts you do not follow, such as promoted Tweets, Retweets from accounts you follow, or content that may be relevant to you. Read more about promoted Tweets here, and Retweets here

 The phrasing in the old text that you should focus on is "content that may be relevant to you". The new paragraph explains more explicitly something Twitter previously displayed. With the new paragraph, Twitter is more clearly defining what the "relevant content" is. Regardless, this just goes to show you that, as a company, Twitter is doing more of what it can to increase engagement in users and become more similar to other social media sites like Facebook.

What isn't clear is how or when Twitter will implement these changes, though it makes sense that the company is still experimenting with how it will show additional tweets to users and determine what works. However, some users will argue that this is a fundamental change to the core Twitter service. Until now, users had the privilege of only seeing the tweets you wanted to see, not counting retweets and sponsored tweets. This new influx of "relevant content" could turn Twitter into something more like Facebook and its newsfeed with all the sponsored content, something that many users don't particularly care for.

The most relevant point to consider is that Twitter is an immediate social network. Users are living in the present moment on Twitter with Facebook allowing for more longevity to content. However, as Facebook has proven time and time again, making major changes doesn't necessarily result in a loss of users as most people adapt and get used to it eventually. However, more people are willing to leave Twitter behind then they are Faebook and leaving Facebook over Twitter makes much more of a statement in terms of social networking, so Twitter should definitely tread lightly.

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