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Keepin’ It Relevant: What #RIPTwitter Means for E-Commerce

This week, the Twitterverse went all, well, atwitter with the announcement that the social network would roll out an update to users’ timelines. Instead of seeing every Tweet from each account they follow in reverse chronological order, users logging into Twitter will soon see a dozen or so of the Tweets they’re “most likely to care about” at the top of their timeline. Their usual real-time feed will then follow these curated Tweets.

Whelp, looks like I’m going to be seeing even more Tweets from @andyroddick, @RogerFederer, and @KenJennings.

While the feature is currently opt-in, it will soon become a default setting — although Twitter users will have the ability to turn it off. E-commerce brands, on the other hand, can’t afford to opt out of paying attention to the change — even if they don’t actively use the network.

Wanted: More Users

It’s probably no coincidence that the update comes right after a quarter of flat user growth for Twitter. The social network might be altering its timeline as a way to make its experience more welcoming and bring more users on board.

But people who like Twitter as-is really like it as-is (guilty). And some are seriously freaking out that their beloved social network will begin serving content on a more curated basis, like algorithm-ruled Facebook. Users are still venting today with the #RIPTwitter hashtag.

At the same time, the speed of Twitter’s content delivery and the sheer volume of information it offers can be intimidating or confusing for new or less die-hard users. Which brings me to …


Consumers today count on relevance. Companies including Facebook and Google have kept users engaged by setting the expectation that they will be greeted with helpful, relevant content every time they log in.

Who can blame them? In today’s era of content overload, it’s impossible to sort through it all. My Slack channels and inbox can confirm this — and that’s before I venture out into the wilderness of the web.

Twitter clearly gets it, and is using its timeline update to add more relevance to its content in hopes of keeping current users absorbed, and winning new ones. This means a few things for e-commerce brands:

1. It’s less about the best time to tweet, and more about the best Tweet. Period.

Some brands put a lot of effort into determining the best time to tweet — down to the minute — so they reach the maximum number of users. Now brands might have a larger window of time with which to work, because it’s more important to have a relevant Tweet than a Tweet that’s timed just right.

2. Your Tweets are no longer guaranteed to reach the top slot of users’ timelines.

Some brands embraced Twitter after seeing their organic Facebook reach plummet to under 2% over the last few years. These folks, and any brand on Twitter for that matter, can no longer count on having every Tweet appear atop the timeline of every follower.

Now, Tweets that Twitter’s algorithm deems most relevant will claim the top spot in many users’ timelines. So if your Tweet about your latest promotion isn’t relevant to your followers, it won’t get as many eyeballs.

3. Twitter could become a more effective marketing channel for e-commerce brands.

Historically Twitter has not been a place for shopping — its stream-of-consciousness timeline has made it a place to get news, follow celebrities, and lampoon politicians. As a result, retailers have questioned the ROI from ads on the network.

But if the new timeline does make Twitter more accessible, it could attract new users — potentially those who hold the purse strings. According to Pew Research, only 12% of online adults aged 50-64 use Twitter, compared to 63% for Facebook. In the U.S., this highly coveted demographic controls up to 70% of disposable income

Really, this Twitter timeline update is just the latest step in social media’s collective journey towards increasing relevance and engagement among users. And e-commerce brands should stay ever-mindful of this trend’s implications.

Regardless of how they feel about this change, or whether they use it for business or personal enjoyment, e-commerce brands should take note and consider how they can deliver more relevant content (and products) to their customers.

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