A few Twitter users have been noticing tweets in their timelines that aren’t from accounts they follow, or retweets. This is all part of Twitter’s new test to see if it can boost engagement by showing users more content than they bargained for.
Currently, the only way to see tweets from accounts you don’t follow is through a retweet from someone you follow or a Promoted Tweet, which is an ad. In the new test, a handful of Twitter users reported seeing tweets that had been favorited by people they follow.
Re/code’s Peter Kafka was not impressed:
Twitter filling my feed with stuff I didn’t ask for – stuff other people follow and fav. pic.twitter.com/IVOViGF1QW
— Peter Kafka (@pkafka) August 17, 2014
And it seems many other users are similarly displeased with the cluttering up of their timelines with content they didn’t choose to get. However, discovering stuff that isn’t in your immediate network is nothing new. In fact Facebook does it all the time. Users see plenty of links that have been favorited by their friends or people inside their network, and this has upped Facebook’s engagement levels considerably. It isn’t surprising to see Twitter borrow plenty of features from Facebook in an attempt to increase its own engagement levels with newer users.
However, in many ways, Twitter is the anti-Facebook, showing more and more content to users’ feeds rather than becoming more selective , or having a sorting algorithm. That’s why this is a big opportunity for brands. If companies can get enough people to favorite their branded tweets, they’ll start showing up in the feeds of users who aren’t following their account. Till now, the only way to get that kind of amplification was to pay to promote a tweet. But now, brands could conceivably do this for free.
On one hand, this could mean better tweets from brands. We can expect to see even more real-time marketing now that tweets have a chance to organically go viral. That means funnier, engaging tweets, better headlines for written content and a lot more video.
Conversely, we could see even more tweets blatantly asking users to “favorite” them instead of retweeting, which can get pretty annoying. But on the whole, if Twitter decides to implement this new practice, it will definitely be beneficial for all sorts of publishers who now have even more opportunities to get their content discovered on social media.