Twitter’s Algorithmic Timeline: #nbd or #gamechanger?

March 4, 2016

Twitter’s Algorithmic Timeline: #nbd or #gamechanger?

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Twitter’s Algorithmic Timeline: #nbd or #gamechanger?

Repressing a twinge of anxiety, I moved the slider over on my Twitter settings to “Show me the best tweets first.” What would this be like? Would I hate it or love it? Has Twitter lost its soul or taken a step to regain it?

The Understatement Award goes to the fact that things haven’t been going too fantastic for Twitter lately. Growth has stagnated, complaints over their inability to stem harassment have grown, and Jack Dorsey’s first few months as CEO have been, well, a dumpster fire.

Maybe this change is just what Twitter needs? After all, Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm change was greeted with as much enthusiasm as the angry villagers on Beauty and the Beast. But time on site improved, and that’s good for Facebook. Could this change improve the experience enough to keep Twitterers engaged for longer? Other networks are moving to increase engagement by leaps and bounds, and it’s about time Twitter caught up.

The idea is based on the “While You Were Away” feature that’s already built in. It groups “highlight” tweets together in WYWA sections, but the rest of the feed is reverse-chronological, as always. How much WYWA you see depends on how often you check Twitter. The feature can be turned off and on, though it’s the new default.

If the change will help bring better, more engaging tweets to the forefront, it could make it better for everyone. Either way, marketers should pay attention. Here’s how the algorithmic Twitter feels to me so far.

Short answer: pretty much the same. I’m on Twitter quite a bit, and I was expecting it to be more different than it actually is. There are these:

Twitter Algorithm

I think these “highlights” are helpful. They’re not obtrusive, it helps me cut through the noise and see what tweets are getting engagement, since those are the ones I really want to see anyway. Better tweets = better Twitter. 

Besides those sections, I’m not seeing a huge difference. I feared it might break up the “live” aspect of Twitter and nudge it down the slippery-slope till it becomes Facebook, where I sometimes cry “where is that post? Oh, the algorithm ate it.” I’ll keep an eye on that the next time I’m following a tweet storm or a trending event.

So what about those of us who use Twitter for marketing? Shocking news: engagement still wins. Keep up those efforts to create engaging tweets, and they’ll be more likely to show up in those WYWA sections. It also means that we should shy away from repeating tweets as much as possible, since quality not quantity is even more king than ever.

It seems Jack and company’s goal is to give Twitterers a reason to stay longer. With growth plateaued and clutter increasing, that mission is more important than ever. And let’s be real—like many other social network changes that we cry “foul” at the beginning of, before we know it, we’ll probably forget it even changed.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your take on the new Twitter algorithm? Great idea? Bad idea? What do you think it means for marketers? Share your thoughts in the comments. (And no 140 character limit!)

Header photo credit: Petit_louis via VisualHunt / CC BY– image modified