Oh Sheesh Now The Twitter Algorithm: Yes Twitter is Considering Changing the Timeline (Here’s What you need to Know)

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  • December 9, 2015

One of the main reasons that marketers have always loved Twitter is that they don’t have to fight the Twitter Algorithmalgorithm that they are faced with on Facebook.

In some ways, Twitter is almost the opposite of Facebook, blasting a fast stream of unfiltered content. I once heard a marketer compare it to a fire hose. A pretty fitting description, actually.

But the talk of changing the algorithm on Twitter has plagued marketers for a long time, and Twitter is now confirming that they are beginning the testing stage with a small group of users.

So it looks like something is finally going to happen… but what does that mean for you?

And what do you need to know, for now?

Changes have been happening for a while.

It was first announced fall 2014 that a Facebook-style, curated newsfeed was on the way.

As Twitter CFO Anthony Noto explained, “Twitter’s timeline is organized in reverse chronological order, but this isn’t the most relevant experience for a user. Putting that content in front of the person at that moment in time is a way to organize that content better.”

The 2014 announcement that Twitter would be making changes to improve the user experience was quickly followed by the addition of “While You Were Away” in January of 2015.

This feature shows users interesting tweets that they missed while they were off Twitter, a move aimed at encouraging users to return to the service more frequently.

That was followed by the release of “Moments,” a tab that shows tweets based on a range of topics. This was another move aimed at sorting content into categories that users might be interested in…so they can filter out some of the clutter.

While many of the current users may rebel against the idea of moving toward a more Facebook-style algorithm, the company is acknowledging what Facebook and Google have long since known: that users expect the services they use online to know what they want to see.

In a conference call July 2015, cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey said, “You will see us continue to question our reverse chronological timeline, and all the work it takes to build one by finding and following accounts… Our goal is to show more meaningful Tweets and conversations faster, whether that’s logged in or out of Twitter.”

In its most recent announcement on December 8, 2015, Twitter said that the company has begun testing a new algorithm where tweets will be ordered by relevance rather than reverse chronological order.

So it’s happening…but it’s still too soon to know exactly how it will impact businesses.

Change was Inevitable

Despite the changes Twitter has made to its service over the last year, it is still struggling to draw new users.

Over the three months ending September 30th, Twitter grew only 11%, from 316 million to 320 million. While that may sound like huge growth to us, it still missed its growth forecasts, and throughout the past year the stock has fallen approximately 32%.

As I said, change was inevitable.

What does this mean for you?

Companies complain daily about the fact that they spent years (and precious marketing dollars) accumulating fans on Facebook with the assumption that they would be able to freely reach them. With the decline in organic reach, companies now have to pay all over again to distribute content to their audiences.

The fear is that the same is going to happen with Twitter, that marketers will be required to pay to reach their communities on Twitter.

On the other hand, it could mean that if someone on Twitter has liked a tweet from a brand he isn’t following, that the algorithm could show that content to the user anyway.

The truth is that it’s too early to tell what the implication will be for marketers.

My best advice for you is to continue putting out value-based content that is relevant to your audience.

The brands that will likely suffer the most are the ones who are putting out nonstop promotional content that gets zero engagement.

Provide useful content that your audience wants to see and engage them in conversation. Respond to their questions, thank them for sharing your content… focusing on engagement and content is what will help you be successful on Twitter in both the short and long term. At least until we have a better idea of what the new algorithm changes will bring.

What are your thoughts? Let’s start a discussion in the comments below.


Author Sheena White

More posts by Sheena White

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