On Wednesday, February 10, Twitter introduced a „new timeline. Rumors were running around a few days before the release date about Twitter changing to a more Facebook-like feed based on an algorithm. These rumors resulted in the Twitter Hashtag #RIPTwitter to trend on Twitter. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey joined the discussion in the attempt to quell the fears of Twitter losing its one unique aspect. The real-time feed that is not influenced by an algorithm no one understands and all marketers are trying to game. The feed that treats everybody’s tweets equal and does not favor tweets from the huge brands with tons of followers.
Since the release of what the new timeline was all about, the heat in the discussion has slightly cooled off. Still there are some things you should know about the new timeline, how you can use it or not and what it may give you.
1. What is the new Twitter timeline all about
When you are following more than a handful of active accounts on Twitter and are only on Twitter for a short time per day, you probably miss a lot of tweets from your followers. You will only see the few tweets that went out a couple of minutes before you opened Twitter.
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The new timeline aims to change that. In addition to the Twitter feed that we all know and that contains each and every tweet from the people we follow, Twitter now adds a compilation of the ”best tweets” you missed “while you were away.”
You may already have seen some tweets titled “while you were” above your feed in the past weeks. The new timeline expands this feature and shows you a compilation of tweets you missed while you were away from Twitter
2. What will show in the new timeline
The new timeline will show some tweets from your network and which you missed above the feed as we all know it. Twitter claims to show tweets that you are most likely to like and engage with.
The number of tweets Twitter users will see in this new part of their feed strongly depends on the velocity of their Twitter community and on how often you log into Twitter. Twitter’s VP of revenue product Ameet Ranadive claims there will be an average of 12 tweets. But if you are only following a few accounts it’s likely to be less.
Good question, next one. As Facebook or Google Twitter is not likely to fully disclose their algorithm, otherwise all marketers out there would jump the bandwagon and game the algorithm – they are likely to try anyways.
Twitter claims they will show you the “Tweets you’re most likely to care about.“ Twitter analyzes how users interact with tweets and what kind of tweets they like. They guess your favorite topics and what’s going on in your network. All tweets shown will be from people you follow – apart from the ads.
I would have guessed they use signals like how often a tweet was retweeted or liked, but my “while you were away” section does not confirm it as I see a lot of old tweets without any retweets.
4. Does everybody already have the new Twitter timeline?
No, it will apparently take a few weeks to show on every account. I have not got it on all our accounts, yet. You can easily see if you already have it: Simply log into Twitter. “While you were away” is going to show on top of your feed.
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Yes, sure. Go to your Twitter settings and unsubscribe to “Show me the best tweets first”.
6. What could be an advantage of the new timeline
I admit that I do not believe this is of interest to large accounts. We have already sorted the most interesting people we follow into lists as we cannot conquer the mass of tweets coming in otherwise. The updates I have seen in the “While you were away” section so far were not of overly huge interest to me. I get far better-targeted content in feeds to my favorite lists.
However, I think this feature can be useful for Twitter newbies. People who do not know about the list feature and are still poking around and finding their way. If Twitter gets it right, these new Twitter users may get a better feeling for Twitter and not be left utterly in the dark.
You should try “While you were away” out for yourself and decide if the new timeline adds value for you. Twitter is always a little about chance discovery since nobody can watch just about ALL tweets flooding our feed. Why not using the new timeline as another way of stumbling over great tweets from the people you follow.
So what about #RIPTwitter
Obviously, the fear of big changes was a bit over the top. What Twitter offers so far is an additional feature to make the user experience easier. Since Twitter seems to have an enormous problem of explaining the benefit of Twitter to new Twitter users, this new feature may help. For many people, the timeline of Twitter is either empty or overwhelming. While you were away may help with that.
Since we are not forced to use it, we still get the old and loved timeline, why not simply sit back, use it if we like what we get and switch it off if we don’t.
Note from 2020:
In the years since I wrote this article, there have been more changes to the Twiter feed that you need to know. If you want to know how to make Twitter show your tweets to many people, check out my new article about the Twitter feed.
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