Remember when Facebook and Twitter were two entirely different sites? Considering the changes both sites have made in recent times, a casual observer would be forgiven for thinking Twitter is a bite-sized version of Facebook. With the latest change bringing preview images and video clips to the news feed directly, the line separating the two blurs again. Image previews brings its own content problems, like the potential of a graphic video or image appearing on the site without warning, but that’s a topic in itself, so for now, let’s focus on the change itself.
If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, Twitter needs that association as it does have a growth problem. Taking inspiration from an incredibly popular site without compromising the core product is the best way to bring in a new audience, the biggest barriers for users joining the service is how much of a focus it places on creating your own content as well as discovering interesting accounts outside your own circle of friends, keeping your news feed fresh and interesting.
While the likes of @MagicRecs provides a possible solution for discovering content, getting new users in is a bigger problem. If they see that it’s focused on media – imagery is the most accessible medium online for a number of reasons – it will look more inclusive and will draw you in. Before now, Twitter was all text and hyperlinks, but if it can show the average person that it’s a hive of activity through imagery, that’s going to be a major hook for those sitting on the fence.
For those already signed up and using Twitter regularly, it’s another step to ensure you to stay on the main news feed at all times. All the recent changes can be attributed to this goal including threaded comments, bringing DMs to the main page on its website (but not on mobile since that would take you away from the news feed), turning @MagicRecs into a main app feature and now showing image previews in its news feed. Considering that its IPO is happening on Nov 6th, it’s a good time as ever to show potential investors that it’s making the effort to improve the experience.
It allows for a more inclusive experience, but what it also allows is for advertisers to offer more options when using promoted tweets, which I’ll be amazed if brands don’t start including images on them immediately. Just look at the first preview tweet in the main image as an example. This practically begs for companies to provide things like simple infographics to catch the eye of its target audience, but don’t be surprised when some brand accounts end up placing banner ads in its tweets.
Since Twitter is very careful with the number of ads its places in your feed (the one you will see very often is a promoted tweet located at or close to the top of your feed), your feed isn’t going to be disrupted by numerous ads. Bring video ads into the equation and Twitter is practically become an advertiser’s dream.
Users, on the other hand, mightn’t feel so enthusiastic about the change, and being bombarded with imagery is going to be a headache for many. Having the option to switch previews off on mobile is a small relief, but the fact that it’s doesn’t allow Web users to do the same suggests that it’s so focused on mobile (if that wasn’t obvious enough already), it’s content by just keeping everyone on mobile happy since that’s where its main audience now lies.