We’ve been seeing Twitter experiments for a while. Like the “activity tab”, the top stories and top news. Now we can say it: they were a prelude of a complete re-design of the whole platform. New features means new opportunities for users, brands and developers. Let’s see how.
For Developers: Embedding and Button
Developers can now use embeddable tweets: they can click the “Embed this tweet” button to make a tweet appear into a webpage, and this will allow users to retweet, reply, add the tweet to favorites and eventually follow the author. In the meanwhile Twitter has been successfully working to integrate new features with platforms like WordPress and Posterous.
There are some news even concerning buttons: new personalized hashtag-related or mention-related ones have been added to the “follow button”. Also, a new button takes users to a conversation stream related to an hashtag, while another one enables users to write a tweet to the account inside the button, taking the conversation from the website to the desired Twitter account (including brands).
Buttons customization seems to be following a consolidated trend (Facebook recently presented its new custom actions), even though Twitter is focusing more on conversation-centric features.
Conversation is clearly the key element in this whole Twitter’s usability and design change.
For users: Home, Connect, Discover
The presentation video – together with the description of new functionalities – already shows the potential of the new interface:
The most interesting thing is the new approach: a tweet is not anymore considered a “140 characters space”, but a “dynamic piece of media”, as the official official blog stated. And good thing they said it, since most of users understood this concept a while ago. New changes reflect this direction, making photo and video contents even more visible.
From a user point of view, the most visible change is the importance given to the tweets stream, to the followed accounts and to the subject of the conversation. The whole new usability pattern can be summarized in three words: home, connect and discover.
The first one indicates the tweets stream of the people we follow (which was present even in the “old” version). “Connect” includes all the features we could find in the “activity tab”: there we can see who mentioned us, who put us in a list, who retweeted our contents or saved them as favorites. Using the “Open” button we can also figure out how many people retweeted our content. To make it simple, all our interactions can be found in a single place, quickly and easily… and this is very good news for analysts like me!
“Discover” is probably the most interesting new feature: according to the place we are, the most discussed themes and our interests, Twitter offers us a stuck exclusively for conversations that well combines with one or more of the above mentioned factors. They told us that “simplicity meets serendipity”; and serendipity will increase the platform usage and the density of interlinked connections.
Profiles also changed a little: now all the information of a user can be found in one page, which is aesthetically consistent with the new design. All the new features are available for mobile as well (including new keyboard shortcuts), with the introduction of new navigation keys for each section. And of course, even Tweetdeck has been updated.
The feedbacks from who tried this ‘new Twitter’ are quite balanced, even though a good amount of them underlined a clear tendency to converge towards the same path other platforms followed: first of all the Facebook Timeline (which I still consider similar to Myspace!), then WordPress (someone just created a WordPress theme inspired to the new Twitter design).
For brands: the value of conversations
Even Facebook, with the new Open Graph, is openly trying to make the conversation revolve around brands. They understood that a Like doesn’t mean anything, if it’s not followed by engaging activities; and this can be seen with the “Talking about this” value. On the other hand, Twitter has always been offering advertising spaces strictly related to the flow of conversation, as we’ve seen for sponsored tweets, stories and trends.
Until now: Twitter finally decided to embrace the idea of “brand page“. It’s the last social network that did it, even after G+, and just for a limited number of brands (that we can actually define as partners):
Unlike Facebook or G+, Twitter never forbid a brand to open its own profile (similar to the one of any other user) customizable with background images (like any other user’s one).
But now they give more possibilities: brands can choose a customized header (also visible on mobile devices), and select a tweet that visitors will see the first time they enter the page, that we could define “landing tweet”. Both features are free of charge.
Twitter also offers the possibility to separate the view of mentions and reply, to make a better distinction between the activity of CRM (technical support and caring) and the conversational contents of the brand.
The only thing we don’t know is: what will be the next step? It’s pretty obvious that, as soon as they will allow every brand to do it, a lot of companies will create their own page. But we have to wait to see if this will actually increase the volume and the quality of conversations.
In the meanwhile you can follow in real time all the comments from users: just check out what’s up with the #NewTwitter and the #FlyTwitter hashtags.