The latest on the Twitter algorithm, plus how brands can work with it

Our social media lives are now ruled by algorithms rather than chronological timelines and this has added a new element to social media strategy that ever marketer and social media manager is now well familiar with.

Keeping up with the changes can be difficult and time consuming, so we did a little research around the latest on the Twitter algorithm and added our recommendations for how brands can craft content to perform well with it.

Got a question or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

The latest on the Twitter algorithm

It has been more than a year since Twitter switched from a strictly reverse-chronological timeline to one powered by an algorithm and there’s still confusion around what exactly that means, both to casual users of the platform and to marketers. First, an explanation from the Twitter engineering blog:

“Right after gathering all Tweets, each is scored by a relevance model. The model’s score predicts how interesting and engaging a Tweet would be specifically to you. A set of highest-scoring Tweets is then shown at the top of your timeline, with the remainder shown directly below. Depending on the number of candidate Tweets we have available for you and the amount of time since your last visit, we may choose to also show you a dedicated ‘In case you missed it’ module. This modules meant to contain only a small handful of the very most relevant Tweets ordered by their relevance score, whereas the ranked timeline contains relevant Tweets ordered by time. The intent is to let you see the best Tweets at a glance first before delving into the lengthier time-ordered sections.”

How exactly does it decide what it thinks will be engaging to a user? The algorithm looks at:

  • The Tweet itself: its recency, presence of media cards (image or video), total interactions (e.g. number of Retweets or likes)
  • The Tweet’s author: your past interactions with this author, the strength of your connection to them, the origin of your relationship
  • You: Tweets you found engaging in the past, how often and how heavily you use Twitter

So what, exactly, does this means for marketers and their content strategy? We’re glad you asked.

How brands can work with it

The most important points for marketers to take away from Twitter’s algorithm updates are the ones around engagement factors (like a user’s relationship to tweet authors, including brands) and the use of media cards.

For the former, that means your brand needs to be working to not only build your audience on Twitter, but actively engage them in a way that keeps your Twitter content ranked highly in their feed. Think about how you can be the most helpful, interesting, or both, to your fans and followers. What content has resonated with them most in the past? How can you replicate that without repeating it? Has what they want from you shifted over time?

Be sure you’re maximizing both your promoted and organic content by using different CTAs for each, and more.

As for the media cards? Twitter doesn’t outright say they rank tweets using media cards more highly, but it stands to reason that they were brought up for a reason. In this case you should test: Do your tweets with media in them perform better than text-only tweets? Do video tweets outperform still image tweets? What other media can you experiment with? Does media work better in your promoted or organic tweets?

Design and run some purposeful experiments around these questions to get the answers your brand needs to continue crafting a successful Twitter content strategy.

A final consideration is that of the impact of influencers. With an algorithm, popular tweets are even more likely to get picked up and shared, as this piece from Slate highlights:

“Without an algorithm, users might log in and see at the top of their timeline a random thought from technology writer Farhad Manjoo that got far less engagement than his typical tweets. But even a rudimentary ranking system could ensure that users are more likely to see a viral joke from comedy writer Dan Amira, playing off a popular meme, which generated far more engagement.”

If you have a good relationship with Twitter influencer and it would make sense for your brand to work with them, it’s worth considering.

Our last word of advice

Measuring your performance on Twitter is the only way to see which of your tweets (and therefore which parts of your content strategy) are resonating with your audience and which are not, telling you what to do going forward.

We can show you a personalized demo of how our analytics can help you keep track of your performance over time— and even a little into the past. Get started by clicking below or shooting us an email. We’re always happy to help!

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