Algorithms are an essential part of the modern social media landscape, so it is important for social media marketers to understand how a platform's algorithms work and create strategies that will take advantage of them.
Facebook and Instagram have shifted to an algorithm-based feed, but Twitter isn't sold on it 100%. In fact, Twitter is still largely showing the most recent posts first in favor of using a purely algorithm-based timeline.
In our post in late 2017, we discussed how the new Twitter algorithm will work and how it can affect your timeline. Today, we'll talk about how the algorithm affects posts in your timeline in the real-world and provide five simple tips to make the algorithm work for you!
How Does the Twitter Timeline Algorithm Work?
Twitter's timeline is always changing thanks in large part to their effort to constantly test their algorithms. In fact, their timeline product manager, Deepak Rao, said in a conversation with Slate that their algorithm changes either weekly or daily. Constant changes help increase the platform’s key metrics and it is unlikely that the tests will stop anytime soon.
However, Twitter's top man, Jack Dorsey has expressed his desire for the platform to have a live and real-time timeline, unlike those of Instagram and Facebook. For the meantime, the company’s timeline is not fully-algorithmic.
On the other hand, algorithms do play a role in the timeline, so it is essential to fully understand how it all works on Twitter. Let's get started!
Twitter's Timeline Algorithm
There are three main sections in the Twitter timeline:
- Ranked Tweets
- The "In case you missed it" section, and
- Most Recent – tweets arranged in reverse-chronological order
When you log in, the tweets that show up on your screen will be given a relevance score by the algorithm based on several factors. Below are some of the factors that play a role in affecting the overall relevance score of tweets:
- Posting time (recency)
- Engagement (retweets, clicks, favorites, etc)
- Presence of media cards (video or image)
- Your interactions, connections, and relationship with them
- Tweets you engaged with, how often you use Twitter, how long you use it)
Using these factors, Twitter will put the most relevant posts in the ranked tweets and "In case you missed it" sections your timeline.
Now, let's delve deeper into what make up these three main sections of the Twitter Timeline.
1. "Ranked Tweets"
Ranked tweets are essentially those that the algorithm calculates to be the most relevant to you. This section will look pretty much like your regular timeline as it generally still shows the most recent tweets. However, there is some leeway to this. Not all the tweets in this section will be shown in reverse-chronological order.
This is where the factors discussed above takes effect. The algorithm may show tweets that are relevant to you based on the accounts you interact with or the type of content you engage with the most.
2. "In Case You Missed It" Section
As the name of the section implies, this section shows tweets that the algorithm thinks you are interested in but were sent out some time ago.
If you're one Twitter regularly or follow just a few accounts, there’s a big chance that this section won't appear. However, if you’ve been off Twitter for several hours or days, you may see relevant content pop up under this module.
Unlike ranked tweets, these are ordered according to the relevance score and may be from hours or days ago. This gives you the opportunity to see tweets that you care about. Otherwise, these Tweets may be buried under your regular timeline, and you won't be able to see them.
3. "Most Recent"
Once you finish scrolling though ranked tweets and the “in case you missed it” sections, you’ll be able to find the accounts you follow based on the most recent one posted.
Here, you’ll find regular tweets, retweets, promoted tweets, and suggested accounts. Similarly, you might find some tweets from accounts you haven’t followed as part of Twitter’s strategy to make your timeline more interesting and relevant.
Now that we have discussed the three main sections of the Twitter timeline. It’s important to use this knowledge to further your social media strategy. Below, we discuss some of the ways you can increase your brand’s reach on Twitter.
Tips to Increase Your Brand's Reach on Twitter in 2018
Similar to other major social platforms, Twitter puts a premium on engagement. To increase your reach on the platform, people must engage in your content.
Here are ways to increase your Twitter engagement and increase your reach on the new timeline algorithm:
Recycle Your Top Tweets
It’s not uncommon for brands to recycle their tweets. It’s generally accepted for Twitter users to tweet the same content over and again even during the course of the day, so why not do the same thing for your top tweets?
In our post, 12 Awesome Ways to Repurpose Old Content and Boost Its Reach, we discussed the usefulness of finding content that users engaged with and using it to create a similar post to help bring in more engagement for your social accounts.
With Twitter, it's even easier to do this, since you don't need to repurpose at all. An easy way to find your most engaging tweet is to go through the analytics in your Social Report dashboard and find your best performing tweet.
If you aren’t using Social Report, you can find your top tweets in the Twitter analytics page.
Experiment with posting times
You increase the chances of being seen by your followers by making posting during times when they are actually online. When you increase your chances of being seen, you can increase the chances of engagement and vice versa.
This is a favorable cycle that you can create by hitting the optimal times for posting. The best way to find your best time to post to first tweet consistently and see which one gets the most engagement from your followers.
Once you have a good sample size, you can head to your Social Report analytics dashboard and find the best times your posts are retweeted, replied to, favorited, etc.
Video is king – or it will soon be – in the social media world. It seems that many social media experts are pointing towards video as the best content type to use for social media marketing. Similarly, Hubspot found that videos rank among the top content types people want to see more of:
Nearly all social media platforms have provided positive statistics on native video on their sites. According to Facebook, there are 8 billion video views on the platform daily. Similarly, Twitter also sees more retweets on their native video. According to the site, videos are six times more likely to be retweeted than images.
There are many ways to create engaging videos for Twitter consumption. Here are some suggestions:
- Do a Live Q & A on Periscope
- Record a quick how to and use Lumen5 to edit and add text
- Do a behind the scenes video that looks at your company culture
Here's an example of using a short and simple video on Twitter from Starbucks:
Twitter users are adamant about using the platform to have a conversation with the brand they follow. However, replying to mentions isn't just about serving your customers well. Replying to your customers can help generate more engagement on your posts – which can boost your position in your fans' timelines.
Similarly, replying to your customers regularly can encourage your fans to engage more with your content in the future. Again, a favorable cycle emerges for your Twitter strategy.
Other than increasing your reach, replying to your fans can have a positive effect on your brand as well. According to Twitter, consumers are willing to spend up to 20% more when a brand answers their tweets. Similarly, they are 30% more likely to recommend the business.
Here's an example of how McDonald's engages with their fans on Twitter:
Hey, Jordan! After we messed up last time, we knew we had to do it right when it came back. And knew we had to make more… A LOT more! So we’ve been working every day since then to bring it back right, and we can’t wait for you to try it!— McDonald's (@McDonalds) February 26, 2018
If you are interested to see more examples, here are Four Brands Building Brand Loyalty Through @Replies.
Have a Better Hashtag Strategy
Hashtags were created and popularized by Twitter, and it still plays a major role in the social platform. There are two types of hashtags across all social media channels:
These are general hashtags that a community uses and that your customers most often use. This includes anything from #digitalmarketing to #fitness and everything in between. They are generally used to help boost your presence in your niche.
Branded hashtags are those created specifically by your company. When you see these you automatically know that the tweet is talking about a specific brand, so they can help increase brand awareness for your company. Examples of these include Nike's #justdoit, #EQUALITY, and #teamnike hashtags.
Remember to regularly use branded hashtags. When your customers are familiar with your branded hashtags, like Nike's, you have more chances of people noticing your post as they scroll through your timelines. In addition, it can encourage User Generated Content, and it bodes well for your company when people start tweeting your branded hashtags to their followers.
If the recent trends (280-character limit, Threads) have shown us anything, it's that Twitter will continue to tweak their platform to better serve their customers.
Although the Twitter timeline won't be fully algorithm-based in the near future, the competition is steep, so it is essential not only to understand how the algorithm works but to put strategies in place that will help you one-up the competition. Remember to use the 5 tips above and continue to visit Social Report's Insights for more information about Twitter strategies.