The unfortunate impact of the new Twitter timeline

MK-24-Blog-BannerYou may or may not have noticed, but your Twitter timeline has changed – it will no longer automatically show Tweets in chronological order. We know Twitter users don’t like change, and with a raft of changes announced in the past few months and weeks, including the furore around #Twitter10k, the drop in share price, and the Brand Enthusiast Gallery, scepticism is at an all time high.

But the latest update has riled more than just the everyday user. In updating the timeline, Tweets will be arranged based on relevancy, rather than only chronology, at the top of your timeline. London’s transport provider TfL seemingly immediately threw its toys out of the pram, with an announcement of their own – causing yet more outcry.

TfL explained that it will change how frequently it will post to its Twitter accounts, and the types of content it will post, in response to the introduction of the algorithmic timeline. The travel service was concerned that only “high impact and important updates would be likely to reach customers” who activate the tweet-selecting algorithm. In response, they announced how their content would change:

“Now selected content on Twitter is shown out of sequence, we will reduce the amount of minor alerts and focus on providing up-to-the-minute alerts for major issues, as well as a renewed focus on customer service across our various accounts.”

Although that decision now seems to have been rescinded, with a TfL spokesman issuing the following statement:

“We are not making any immediate changes to the current range of information we post on Twitter, which means customers will continue to receive real-time travel updates.

“Social media platforms are continually changing and we will continue to work in partnership with them to ensure we provide our customers with the information that they need.”

What seemed to be the problem in this particular case was a lack of communication on Twitter’s part – there was no proper explanation that non-chronological timelines were optional, and that there is a very easy way of making sure that nothing changes.

So a complete U-turn then, and good news for commuters in London. But this whole episode has wider implications for both Twitter and for brands. If Twitter continues to announce changes without listening to users, the current air of discontent will only increase.

And if this spreads to brands and advertisers (a large part of Twitter’s income) in the way that it seems to be, Twitter really is in big trouble.

All it needs is more communication from Twitter, more consultation with and listening to users rather than the current focus on short-term financial gain.

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