On Tuesday, Twitter posted a blog about how it’s revamping its layout and I suspect there were many people like me who checked the date to see if it was a belated April Fool’s joke. It wasn't and your eyes really are not deceiving you. The screenshot below shows Twitter’s slow, deliberate march towards "Facebookification."
To be fair, the design only looks more like Facebook because of the latter’s recent redesign. I’m sure it was just a massive coincidence and that Twitter’s redesign has been on the building block for months. However, I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the office of Twitter’s lead designers when they saw the new look of Facebook roll out last month!
New Cover Photo
Background images are out of the new profile page, instead, brands now get to upload a 1500x500px cover photo. Keep in mind though that according to StatCounter, only 15% of Internet users have a resolution that extends beyond 1,500 pixels in width. Nearly 60% still work on a laptop/monitor/tablet with a resolution of between 1,024 pixels and 1,440 pixels in width. Big images might look glorious on a 1920x1080 HD screen, but a little bit silly when half of it is missing.
Curiously, the background image does make a return when you view individual tweets so we’ll have to see if the redesign is rolled out across all pages or just on the profile page.
We might see a brief return to the Facebook page profiles of 18 months ago where brands raced to make it look like the profile image was a mere extension of the cover photo. That fad has all but died out for big brands on Facebook now but it might make a brief resurrection on Twitter.
Twitter Is Image Sharing
If the recent photo collage update wasn’t enough of a hint for you, then this redesign should have all your alarm bells ringing. The text part of your tweet is playing second fiddle to the image. Also, note how the usual pic.twitter.com URL is missing now – more characters for your tweet (although less is more, right?) – and what’s that link in the bottom right? View more photos? That sounds like it might be important for brands to be aware of.
You Will Be Able To Pin Tweets
This is one new feature that I don’t quite get. Yes, Facebook also has the option to ‘pin’ a post to the top of the page, but a survey of 100 big brands by fan numbers (I know, we shouldn't be judging a page by the number of fans!) shows that the only brand currently using this feature is Starbucks.
Why is this the case? Why don’t brands want to highlight a post more than others? The answer is quite simple: we just don’t visit profile pages of brands. We rely on the news feed (or in this case, the Twitter feed) to consume all our information – and there’s so much information that unless the brand’s message appears while we are looking, chances are we’ll miss it forever.
This isn’t just conjecture either. comScore released a report last year that said people spend as much as 40% of their Facebook time just on the newsfeed, watching the stories come in. Users spent just 12% of their time on brand pages – and that has possibly declined even more as the organic reach has decreased.
I’m not sure how Twitter thinks it will be any different here – especially considering that the feed is an unfiltered torrent of updates. But that might all be about to change because…
< drum roll >
Most Engaging Tweets Get Special Treatment
Twitter has said that tweets that get higher engagement will get highlighted on the profile page. Is this a step towards an EdgeRank for Twitter - a TweetRank? There’s no word yet on how Twitter defines engagement, although my guess is that it will be similar to Unmetric’s Engagement Score which looks at Retweets, Favorites, Replies and audience reception rate.
According to new data from Twitter, the most engaging tweets are ones with photos embedded so I’m sure we’re going to be seeing an even more colorful and visual Twitter feed coming your way soon.
The most important new feature for me is the highlighting of the most engaging tweets. I see this as Twitter taking its first step towards making information more relevant. The success of Twitter was due to the short, simple tweets that people could consume easily, but now that the company is publicly listed, it will be under the same pressures as Facebook to monetize its audience.
Indeed, analysts are already worried that Twitter is unable to turn itself from a niche success into a mainstream player. This goes some way towards explaining why the social network has been borrowing more and more features from Facebook (and vice versa, if we’re to be fair).
Monetization comes from brands that are willing to advertise, yet they are unlikely to do so while they are still getting a ‘free ride’ i.e., appearing in every single follower’s Twitter feed, albeit for mere minutes. Gazing in to the near future, I wouldn’t be surprised if Twitter starts to throttle the amount of free visibility it gives to brands in exchange for a few more advertising dollars.