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Twitter Unveils Custom Timelines

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It’s been a huge month for Twitter. Following its IPO, the platform has made several large-scale updates, including newly launched Custom Timelines that carry with them the power to help brands become real-time content curators.

On the heels of a recent visual overhaul to Twitter’s timeline, and the addition of geo-targeting capabilities within organic tweets, Custom Timelines allow brands to easily curate content without the help of a third-party technology. It’s a significant update with several potential use cases (listed below) – the popularity of which will hinge on user adoption and engagement.

What are Custom Timelines?

Custom Timelines are public pages, hosted on Twitter.com, that take the platform’s existing list functionality to the next level. Similar to Storify, the timelines give brands and users alike the opportunity to collect, curate and organize Twitter content in a central location. Contrary to lists, timelines focus on what people are saying, vs. who is saying it.

There are two ways to create customized timelines. Twitter’s own publishing platform TweetDeck has the functionality built-in, so brands and users can begin creating these timelines now from within that interface. Mashable has put together a visual how-to that goes through the step-by-step process for development on TweetDeck.

Brands and users not using TweetDeck can tap into Twitter’s API programmatically to create these lists on Twitter and embed them on their websites. Each timeline is given its own URL on Twitter.com, making it simple to share the experience.

Custom Timelines for Brands

Custom Timelines give brands the ability to curate content without needing to leverage (and pay) a third-party vendor. And since the feature makes Twitter more content-specific and more user-friendly, brands should begin taking advantage where appropriate.

Potential Use Cases for Marketers:

  • Event-focused Timelines — Think of watching the Breaking Bad finale or the World Series play-offs with a Custom Timeline pulled up on your phone or tablet. With customized content, you’ll be able to capture everything that is being shared and talked about on the platform in one central pace. AMC could have easily pulled in a Breaking Bad timeline on to their site, creating a strong destination for fans. With the Super Bowl and the Oscars right around the corner, it will be interesting to see how brands use the timeline functionality to further their own brand conversation within those key events.
  • Editorial Timelines BuzzFeed can now curate timelines for each of their verticals, as can CNN and the New York Times. And no need to be kept in the loop on public policy if you’re more excited about the financial ramifications of Obamacare. When larger stories occur, the Custom Timelines can give certain news outlets an upper hand in curating the most topical and relevant conversations in real-time.
  • Brand Campaign Timelines The Oreo’s and Nike’s of the world can now create focused timelines dedicated to key campaigns without adding hashtags to every one of their tweets. Twitter #Music has created interesting timelines that showcase songs and artists and which integrate music video Vines into easily searchable content.
  • Influencer Program Timelines Q&A’s and Twitter Chats have become a whole lot easier with the update. Marketers will no longer need to make sure that people are using a specific hashtag during the chat, and they also won’t have to worry about other brands or personalities hijacking the conversation simply by using a hashtag.
  • Sponsorship Opportunities Rather than simply tweeting about a big event or product, brands now have the opportunity to own the conversation. Advertisers can sponsor the timelines of partner brands or topics, creating more harmonious and impactful partnership. For example, BMW can move beyond an on-air spot within “Mad Men” and literally sponsor the real-time conversation surrounding the full episode via a dedicated Custom Timeline.

Over the course of Twitter’s maturation, it has evolved from a 140-character conversation platform to a visually engaging and easily ‘curatable’ feed of structured and relevant content. The ways in which brands and users interact in this new landscape are still taking shape, though ultimately we believe the updates will create a stronger platform for brands to leverage moving forward.

Cover photo via The Verge