Social media managers for brands, corporations, and small businesses will be looking much more seriously at how they use their platforms after massive changes to two top social networks. Facebook made headlines after it released a list of revisions to the way brand pages work. The short list includes a drastic reduction in impressions for brand posts; a heavier reliance on paid, inorganic reach; fewer but larger ads; and some design modifications that shift the Facebook wall to the left—a subtle attempt to circumvent users’ learned behavior of ignoring sidebar ads. Twitter has answered these controversial changes with excellent updates to the design of the Twitter profile, as well as a few introductions that will transform Twitter culture. Brand managers will love the new, larger profile header image. Not only is it larger than Facebook’s has ever been, but it also seems to avoid many of the Facebook restrictions. Brand managers will probably be able to put up whatever they want on their brand banners. Restricted only by what works and what doesn’t, they’ll quickly learn to effectively use this space. This is one aspect of Twitter that brand managers love: The platform leaves “best practices” up to the users to decide. Perhaps followers don’t want to see an offer-laden header—or maybe they do. Twitter isn’t going to judge. Along with the larger header comes a larger, left-aligned profile image that gives brand managers a larger canvas to express themselves. This will allow them to put greater emphasis on their logos. Did I mention that this profile image is also far larger than what Facebook allows? Another excellent update that brands will love is the ability to “pin” a tweet to the top of their profile. Got an amazing deal on a product, but don’t want to continually post it? Pin it. Trying to get a hashtag to catch on? Pin it. Want everyone to see that awesome image you posted last week? Pin it. This is another feature borrowed from Facebook, but it flows seamlessly with Twitter’s functionality. Along with this change, users will find their first several tweets are larger than ever before. Twitter has enlarged the font size and bolded it. This reinforces the importance of your latest tweets and helps direct the attention of the viewer. All these changes amount to a fresh new look that enhances the visual experience of the feed, similar to the beloved Instagram and Tumblr. One can’t comment on Twitter’s updates without acknowledging the obvious visual mirroring of Facebook’s profile page. It’s blatant, but it’s also as if the Twitter designers said, “Let’s take the Facebook Page profile and make it better.” The upgrade is more streamlined with more white space and less of the Facebook-style branding. That means more opportunity for a user to customize his or her page. The only branding on the new Twitter profile page is Twitter’s little, blue bird. After all, do users really need to be reminded of what platform they’re on? This blank slate approach is Twitter giving brand managers the creative freedom to do as they please. The best will survive and thrive, and the bad ideas will eventually disappear. While Facebook is regulating, governing, and charging, Twitter is opening a vibrant user experience of trial and error, experimentation, and freedom. Twitter knows its rival is taking quite a bit of flak from social media managers, marketing coordinators, and small-business owners for its profit-driven changes. For a marketer, brand manager, or social media marketing agency, the Twitter updates offer much more to work with. Twitter clearly wanted to make a splash, and by unleashing these updates on the heels of Facebook’s sorely received changes, stakeholders will be encouraged to take a hard second look at Twitter as a platform.
As Twitter continues to roll out updates, including more intuitive ad-buying opportunities, design upgrades, and whatever else its creatives dream up, the platform will continue to garner the good will of its users while persuading new users to consider taking the leap into the Twitterverse. Jay York is a social media strategist at EMSI Public Relations, a social media marketing agency and national pay—for—performance PR firm. You can find EMSI Public Relations on Twitter @emsiPR.