There are more reports coming in that Twitter is testing non-reverse-chronological Timelines, with people seeing updates that are out of order from what they usually see. This appears to be an experiment Twitter is running to see if something that presumably is more akin to Facebook’s engagement-based feed is more engaging. This comes a little over a year since it launched “While You Were Away,” a feature designed to surface Tweets deemed to be potentially interesting to you that have been posted since the last time you opened the mobile app.
My Voce colleague Christopher Barger wrote a great post last week about how Twitter keeps experimenting in the name of gaining users and engagement but almost always in a way that aggravates existing users, especially the power users that make up so much of the activity there.
It occurs to me though that if Twitter does adopt some sort of algorithm-based feed that feeds off engagement signals it’s going to make influencer programs even more important than they already are, possibly just as important as owned channel strategies. After all, if people are going to see things with big engagement numbers, then it makes a lot of sense to have people with huge audiences that can get up into the several millions or, even if the numbers aren’t massive, have passionately involved and engaged fans who hang on their every word.
So if @Influencer can bring you a 7% engagement rate compared to an @YourChannel engagement rate of 4%, and the difference means you make it into an algorithm-centered feed, then that can be an option that’s pulled out even more frequently than it already is. The same thinking would presumably apply to paying for reach, which would increase engagement. Those dollars all of a sudden become a lot more justifiable.
That’s not to say owned and managed channels won’t still be important. They will. And I continue to hope that a filtered feed is something you can opt out of since personally I like the messy stream. But Twitter seems intent on changing a lot of elements of the core experience, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Let’s just hope that when they’re done it still resembles the tool and platform so many of us enjoy and use frequently exactly because it’s not subject to the same invisible levers Facebook is.