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Unexpected guests on Twitter…and why they’re a good thing

Twitter’s making waves this week after some intrepid tech journalists discovered a change in Twitter’s definition of its Timeline, which states users may now see organic posts from those they don’t follow.

Though this might seem intrusive at first glance, I assure you – this is a good thing.

With the exception of promoted ads, Twitter news feed has largely included only the users you follow. However, as pointed out by at least one watchful news source, this is changing. They noticed Twitter updated its “What’s a Twitter Timeline?” page to read:

“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.”

This actually presents a tremendous opportunity for organic activity on the platform for marketers, in particular, expanding earned reach. In addition, it could have implications for paid social efficiencies.

How will Twitter determine what content to show?

“We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it.”

Quartz said, “In most cases, these seems to be tweets favorite, but not retweeted, by people you follow.”

However, many factors could come into play, including link clicks, embeds & how similar the content is to content the user faves/RTs. The language used by Twitter, particularly “signals”, suggests similar methodology to that used by Facebook and Google, suggesting a quality/relevance algorithm to determine content.

Why are you doing this Twitter, WHY?

Twitter has struggled in recent times with its user base, including slowed user growth and faltering Timeline views. The question Twitter had to answer then, was – how do we keep people on our platform longer?

A: Find a way to show them, and get them to engage with, content they wouldn’t otherwise see.

Organic “suggested posts” could lead to increased activity on the platform through easier content discovery, which could help user satisfaction. A further benefit for users may be follower growth/engagement (good for brands and self-esteem).

Plus, by developing further, more refined ways of identifying relevance to users’ interests, Twitter will likely be able to transfer this over to its ad products, further refining targeting. In turn, advertisers would be able to increase spend efficiency by appealing to more specific subsets of the Twitter user base.

TL;DR Twitter now has an algorithm to show users content from those they don’t follow, organically.

Published by

Jason Morton

Jason Morton has worked for several years in digital in the UK and US. He has extensive experience in strategy and a number of creative disciplines.