Twitter wants to become your No. 1 news destination.
The organization rolled out a host of changes on Wednesday aimed at creating better experiences for users looking to keep up to date on live events and breaking news. As Twitter hopes to drive more traffic and users to its site, PR pros should note the platform’s growing importance for news dissemination.
Twitter announced the changes in a blog post which read, in part:
People come to Twitter to see and discuss what matters to them—from breaking news to the day’s events and memes. This is because whatever is happening in the world, is happening on Twitter—with real-time conversation. There’s no better example than #NBATwitter. Check it out!
Right now if you want to follow #NBATwitter, or any news, you have to find the relevant accounts, hashtags, or Moments to follow. But this could be easier. We’ve been working to change how you discover all the information around news, events, and stories, and today, we’re sharing a few steps forward. It’ll be easier to find and follow the big events and stories you care about in your timeline, notifications, and Explore. Also, there’s a new look and feel for Moments showing everything you’d want to see.
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Twitter is known for its instant updates and short format, but other tools the platform has built aren’t serving users in the same way. The organization wants to change that.
The features it’s built for people interested in ongoing events—Trending, Moments, live video, curated timelines, and search—are almost entirely disconnected.
All this will change within the next few weeks, however, as Twitter begins building dedicated pages for news events (think: Hawaii’s volcano eruption) that will bring everything together. Inside these pages, curated timelines will show the best and latest tweets about an event, live video will show up at the top when relevant, and a compose field will sit at the bottom for people to chime in. Twitter will promote these pages everywhere: in bubbles at the top of people’s timelines, in search, in its Explore tab, and via personalized push notifications. Moments will be almost entirely absorbed into this new feature, in function but not in name, as its curators will now work alongside algorithms to pick which tweets to feature.
These changes also mean that Twitter is changing its Explore tab, potentially reshaping how users find stories and updates on the platform.
Twitter is making some major updates to the Explore feed, which will now surface curated pages dedicated to news stories surrounding breaking news, live events and stories in a way that will drive a closer fit to individual users’ interests and help them find more of what’s happening across the site. Some of these changes will also be popping up at the top of user home timelines in a bid to draw users down exploratory rabbit holes that expose them to new accounts and new communities.
Twitter essentially wants to bring its editorial voice, now seen in its “Moments” feature, to its main news feed.
There’s going to be a big mix of what is being curated by humans and algorithms as the company looks to marry the editorial voice it has built up in Moments with its human curation team with a highly targeted algorithm that can find interests and grab the latest tweets that meet them. It’s all about striking a balance and understanding the limits of curation in each situation, the company tells me.
“We wouldn’t, for example, set a human on the task of trying to identify all of the relevant live conversations coming out in real time in a particular situation so that’s where algorithmic curation comes in,” Twitter’s Director of Curation Joanna Geary told TechCrunch.
The changes to the news feed will require some guesswork on the part of Twitter, and the organization is hoping to successfully profile users and identify what content they want to find.
Now, Twitter will predict relevant topics and send breaking-news notifications based on a person’s interests. It’s overhauling the explore section of the mobile app to show curated content for major events and stories that are organized by topics like news, entertainment and sports.
Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey “often says we want Twitter to be the little bird on your shoulder that tells you what you need to know, when you need to know it,” said Keith Coleman, the San Francisco-based company’s vice president of product. “When something important happens on Twitter, we want Twitter to tap you on the shoulder and say ‘hey, this is going on and we want you to check it out.'”
Twitter also hopes to revamp its “Moments” feature, the curated post section.
Twitter Moments bring together tweets and information about a topic that you may not get through your timeline alone and since 2015, they’ve provided users with a single place to get caught up on political happenings, breaking news and popular culture events. Up until now, you’ve read through a Moment by swiping horizontally, but in recent tests, Twitter found that users actually preferred exploring Moments arranged vertically. So it’s switching up the orientation and vertical Moments are starting to roll out now.
US Moments will also start featuring multiple timelines. Twitter has been playing around with this design in some of its sports Moments, but going forward, some Moments featuring news and events will have a recap timeline as well as a timeline of the latest updates and commentary. Any live video that might be available will also be included at the top of a Moment, a feature that will be especially useful as the World Cup gets going. “We’re giving you one place where you can catch up with all of this,” Joanna Geary, Twitter’s director of curation, told Engadget. “It’s a great place to experience the live video at the top of the page, and we’ll be making sure that if there’s anything relevant to that event going on in live video, you’ll be able to see it.”
What does this mean for PR pros? Here are some takeaways from the flurry of updates:
1. Twitter is an important channel for live updates.
Twitter is embracing its role as a news platform with live updates and breaking news stories. This means it is a crucial channel for crisis communicators and a potent tool for media relations campaigns.
Make sure you have a robust social listening program and are actively engaging with users online. If your organization isn’t ready to respond to breaking news on Twitter, you could find yourself falling behind before you even get started.
2. Video will become more powerful on Twitter.
As Twitter continues to push live video, appearing at the top of a newsfeed might require investment in video creation.
Going live can be a powerful way to grab attention, but PR pros should take care to produce quality videos. Live video has its own set of intrinsic problems, and communicators who rush into doing a livestream can damage their organization’s reputation.
3. Curation means quality will matter.
Machines don’t necessarily care how well your tweet is written; they’re just looking for keywords. However, as humans become a bigger part of Twitter’s attempt to curate its platform, PR pros can rise to the top by showing adept writing skills.
Instead of tweeting keywords and hashtags, try to find something unique to say about the news or provide new insights and information. Bonus points if you can find a way to be funny.
What do you think of Twitter’s latest changes, PR Daily readers?