The Battle for the Newsfeed: Twitter’s Latest Algorithm Update
By Samantha Kretmar
Earlier this week, Mashable broke the story about Twitter shaking up its part of the social universe with an announcement about the changing face of its newsfeed. The network has been desperately struggling to determine how to attract more users and generate additional revenue from its base of about 320 million monthly active users. At first glance, the latest newsfeed change doesn’t present a clear solution to either challenge.
Sometime ago, Twitter announced the release of the “Moments” feature, which sought to help solve the monetization question by offering users a way to curate the content of their Twitter newsfeeds, which can often seem confusing and disorganized to those who aren’t Twitter power-users. The confusion surrounding content and the organization of the newsfeed remains one of the highest barriers to entry for users joining Twitter. Moments sought to alleviate this issue by categorizing newsfeed content and aggregating posts from those people one follows and others influential to a particular event or “moment,” like the Super Bowl. The latest iteration of the newsfeed update seeks to do something similar by helping to aggregate content in a more organized fashion and, in this case, sorting it by showcasing the “best tweets” at the top of the feed—out of chronological order. However, users can opt-out of this upgrade and keep the newsfeed in the traditional chronological order.
While this recent newsfeed upgrade does offer the possibility of making Twitter easier to navigate for new users, the backlash from existing users has been strong. Regardless, the real question remains the same: will the newsfeed algorithm update be enough to reverse the tide of shrinking monthly active users on Twitter and attract more, new users? The answer: no. This newsfeed update doesn’t offer enough incentive to make Twitter easy enough to use that Granny will join, the same way she hopped on Facebook, and not just to play Candy Crush!
Twitter remains a platform recognized for delivering short tidbits about trending topics that are highly ephemeral and temporal in nature. As a result, the older, non-digital native demographic groups that have embraced Facebook for the social snooping it facilitates don’t get the same benefit from Twitter, and therefore don’t have the same impetus to join. If you aren’t interested in the latest rant from Kanye West or by-the-moment news and political updates, then Twitter doesn’t really jive with you.
In thinking about the percentage of the populous that cares enough about those “of-the-moment” news and pop-culture updates to overcome the barrier of entry to Twitter—taking the time to follow the right people to get the flow of content desired in one’s newsfeed—it makes sense why Twitter’s audience has reached a plateau. Additionally, the trend and time sensitive nature of Twitter also makes it a difficult space in which brands and advertisers can engage. For success on Twitter, brands need to create content on the fly to capitalize on trending conversations and opportunities, and the moments are rare when a brand’s core products or tenants actually align to a trend on Twitter to justify such an investment. Given both of these factors working against an increased pool of users on Twitter and the desirability of the platform for advertisers, Twitter needs to think outside the newsfeed to find a solution to these issues.