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Twitter to Filter its Feed for Relevance; What it Means for Brands and Publishers

Twitter to Filter its Feed for Relevance; What it Means for Brands and Publishers Jim Anderson
For social media fans, the big news of the moment is that Twitter may be considering ways to replace its classic feed — every tweet and re-tweet from everyone you follow, in reverse chronological order — with a feed ordered by algorithmically-determined relevancy to the user. Twitter CFO Anthony Noto suggested as much at a conference in New York last week. “Putting that content”—relevant content—“in front of the person at that moment in time is a good way to organize that content better,” Noto explained.

The speed and scope of any such changes are far from clear, but this issue seems unlikely to go away.  The emergence of algorithmically-curated content is both inevitable and desirable.

The arithmetic is pretty obvious.  Today there are about 6,000 tweets per second flowing through Twitter.  Even users who follow a modest number of people, brand and publisher Twitter handles will quickly find the quantity of information to be overwhelming and hard to deal with.  It’s a symptom of Twitter’s significant success, but it’s still a problem for most users.  It’s an unruly, often challenging user experience — an overabundance of content that we can’t possibly process. Not only that, an unfiltered feed rewards those who shout the loudest, not those who provide the best content. There has to be a better way.

Facebook introduced filtered posts after it became the social media lingua franca. As Twitter grows and evolves, it only makes sense to do the same. Twitter is an eight-year-old, widely adopted network. Sooner or later, it must confront its wildness.

The filtered feed’s opponents are vocal, but they’re a relative minority.  Some users would perhaps leave Twitter if their feed were organized and filtered algorithmically, yet most people on Twitter would be happy to have a better experience — more relevant content that is more readily visible, with less white noise and endless scrolling to get past all the frequent and loud shouters. That’s the kind of experience effective algorithmic filtering delivers.  It’s a logical move for Twitter.

So what does this mean for brands and publishers on Twitter?  Beyond the obvious of “produce high quality content,” it means:

1. Understanding content that is being published by others into the feed of your audience.  This “surrounding content” represents the context into which your message is published.

2. Making sure you are publishing at a time when your audience is active.

3. Sequencing your available content so that you can best match it with the topics that your audience is engaging with right now.

Accomplishing that requires a sophisticated analysis of massive amounts of constantly-changing data, to determine not just what to say on Twitter, but when to say it, to get the greatest engagement possible. There’s a science to social marketing, and a filtered feed will make that even clearer than it already is.

It’s time for a filtered feed on Twitter. A filter is a necessary tool on a platform that’s so widely and variously used. And if Twitter becomes simpler to explore, it’s easy to presume this means its use will continue growing in surprising ways.

Jim Anderson has a distinguished track record in technology, with a 20-plus year career spanning the development, productization, and sale of technology solutions in both B2B and B2C environments. He has spent the past six years on the cutting edge...

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