Twitter recently announced an update that provides users with a more visual timeline, allowing them to preview and interact with (reply, retweet or favorite) images and Vine videos from within their timelines on both Twitter.com and their mobile apps. With this news, Twitter joins the ranks of Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram in moving from a primarily text-based social platform to one that is more visual. For marketers, this is an opportunity to increase follower engagement, provided that content calendars contain strong visual content designed specifically for the platform. Promoted tweets are also impacted by this update and the inclusion of previewed imagery within these ad units is likely to have a positive impact on ad performance. Here we’ve provided more specifics on the update and some guidance on how marketers can make the most of these changes on Twitter.
- Photos and Vine videos will now be previewed in the timeline, whereas before a user had to click a link to see the image. Instagram images and links however will not be viewable in timeline. The preview will appear like this in a user’s timeline:
- The preview size of content on the timeline will be 440 x 220. Marketers should try to create images within these specs so that the full image is viewable in timeline. If the content is larger and includes text, the text should be placed towards the top of the image so that it appears in the preview. Currently, there is no option to choose which portion of an image will be previewed.
- The option to include a URL in a post which links to an image will be removed from mobile apps. As of now, URLs are still visible on Twitter.com.
- Mobile users will have the ability to turn off the preview function in the Settings tab.
- Tweet actions like reply, retweet and favorite can now happen directly in timeline, but are also still available on individual tweets.
- This latest update, coupled with other recent changes like embedded tweet functionality, Vine “time travel” extension and conversation threads within timeline, seem like a natural progression as the industry makes the move from text to visual. As Twitter continues in its attempt to own the live event, social TV and advertising space, in-stream imagery and videos for organic and paid content will help them in doing so.
What This Means for Marketers
- Twitter is no longer just a conversation channel. Editorial calendars will need to contain strong visual content specifically made for the platform.
- Visual brands should look to create all imagery posts keeping in mind that they will be teased through the preview function, and even consider telling a story in the new space with these images.
- Photos, images and videos need to be top quality. In the past, live event coverage imagery could be sub-par since users had to click to view it. Since all followers will now immediately see this imagery, it will need to be high quality and emotive of the brand’s TOV. Pro-sports teams and entertainment brands can virtually reimagine the platform with all of the possible behind-the-scenes and on-the-ground action shots that can now be showcased, and in effect promoted.
- Think beyond your followers. Photos in promoted tweets have essentially now become display ads. This is a great opportunity for brands to now reach a whole new audience in a whole different way.
- Tweets that contain photos and videos can now be expected to drive up engagement with users. Brands need to monitor and test engagement on visual content, as well as timing. Food & QSR brands should target their customers with food imagery during key dining times. And apparel brands should look to see if visual content will spike traffic on the weekends. Brands should play around with this update to discover what their users want to see.
This update could revolutionize the delivery of news on the platform. Twitter is known as the place where news breaks, but visual imagery would make Twitter an even more compelling source for real-time information. This is a way for news organizations to deliver even more content to their readers in a succinct and sharable way.
Within hours of the platform update, there were a handful of articles on how to turn the auto preview option off. Users are already complaining about seeing a spike in porn and spam targeting, and as usual with all platform updates, are threatening to leave Twitter all together. Keeping this in mind, brands should be cognizant that just because a user can preview imagery now, not all content should contain photos or video.
With every new platform update, brands must weigh the pros and cons of altering the way they do business. But with Twitter’s move towards a more visual timeline, brands now have a new opportunity to reach their current followers with more vibrant content, and drive conversation and engagement from their paid efforts in a new way.
By Danielle Johnsen Karr, Digital Communities Supervisor at 360i