While the pervading narrative around Twitter in 2017 has been largely negative (lumbering growth, issues with trolls and abuse, misunderstanding of their own policies), the platform has actually made progress, and is seeing usage rates increase.
This was most clearly evident in their latest earnings report, in which Twitter showed that their monthly active user count had increased by 4 million, their largest jump since Q2 2016.
This was particularly significant given that their MAU count actually declined in the quarter previous – but more than that, Twitter also highlighted that their daily active user growth rates have continued to climb, even with their MAU count in some level of flux.
A big part of that growth has been attributed to Twitter’s introduction of an algorithm, which highlights the tweets users are most likely to be interested in, as opposed to a purely real-time tweet listing. While some have questioned the use of an algorithm on the platform, the results speak for themselves – but another key area where Twitter has been putting increased focus is on the notifications they send, the alerts and updates they push to users, in order to highlight relevant content and prompt further engagement.
Twitter’s been slowly trying to work more of these types of notifications in, capitalizing on user attention without being overly intrusive - which is obviously a tricky balance. But if they can get it right, that might get users coming back to Twitter more often, and as such, Twitter’s been trying out a few new notifications of late, in order to make users aware of relevant conversations.
As highlighted by The Next Web’s Matt Navarra, one of Twitter’s newer notifications is their ‘In case you missed it’ push. Some users may have been seeing these for some time, but Twitter seems to be expanding the usage of such updates, prompting more users to click through.
Twitter’s also trying out more on platform alerts, like this one, which highlights recent actions from people you’re connected to on a profile.
The idea, of course, is to prompt further engagement - and with Twitter needing to show growth, they’re looking into a much wider range of avenues and options.
This would also include a recent change to their formerly Android-only tool Highlights - a listing of algorithmically chosen tweet content for you - which will now appear in your Notifications tab on both Android and iOS.
As part of our continued work to streamline the Twitter for Android app experience, Highlights will now be available via push notifications and within the Notifications tab.https://t.co/9UJMPFPi21— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) December 19, 2017
Twitter’s also, of course, made changes to their Explore section to showcase more content, adding in new sections to Explore like ‘Popular Articles’ and topic-based highlights, relative to your interests.
These updates are all part of Twitter’s larger engagement push – they may not be obvious, not all of Twitter’s changes are as up front as expanded tweets or Threads, but each of these smaller additions adds to Twitter’s broader goal. And while users will continue to call for editable tweets and/or other ‘game-changing’ options that would expand the Twitter experience, it’s likely that these more subtle shifts will be more influential in Twitter’s future growth, enriching the user experience through machine learning and data, as opposed to making a bigger splash with shiny new additions.
Indeed, where these tools could come in particularly handy is with Twitter’s expanded video content push - if Twitter can find more ways to make more users (and importantly, more interested users) aware of their expanded TV-like offerings, ideally as they happen, that could help Twitter get more viewers to each, which, of course, would mean more ad dollars.
Twitter seems to have gone a little quiet on their expanded video offerings, but they have a new slate of streaming video programs coming in 2018, and their new push notifications could help promote them to targeted audiences, enhancing their value. Definitely, such notifications and tools will help in a general context, helping get users more engaged, but their value in promoting their video content could be particularly relevant.
2018 will be a pivotal year for Twitter. The platform, while hugely popular, has struggled to convert that attention into profit, and while it remains a key provider of real-time news and information – particularly in the age of a tweet-happy US President – if Twitter can’t find ways to boost its revenue potential, there may be more significant changes afoot.
But Twitter is changing, it is evolving – maybe slower than the market would like, but it’s very clearly moving in the right direction. Will that be enough to maintain, and increase, the platform’s value in 2018, or will we see a more significant shift in focus?
Smaller tweaks like this may be small, but their relevance in Twitter’s wider context is significant.