After a testing period last summer, Twitter rolled out its new topics feature in November. Introduced to offer users more opportunities to discover new, relevant content, it signalled an important shift in the way the platform can be used. With over two months in the tank, what have we learnt so far and what does it mean for the future of Twitter for users and for brands?
Hashtags have been an invaluable tool for users and brands who want to share their content with a specific community or audience. The introduction of topics does mean that hashtags will have to evolve, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still important. Hashtags still have their place and will continue to allow for a more diverse pool of topics and more flexibility than the more rigid topics section of the channel.
While this shift is undoubtedly good news for Twitter users, it also opens up new avenues for brands too. If you wanted to reach a bigger audience in the past, you had to rely on new followers, often unreliable hashtags or Twitter’s ad features. Now, if you play it smart, you could be discovered by people who want your content simply by doing what you’re already doing. And doing it well.
Users are pressuring advertisers for more control over how their data is used, but they also want more control over the content that they see. Like online streaming services where consumers have control over exactly what they want to watch at any time of day, Twitter topics are just one more step in the increased personalisation across all online media. While the internet started as a global community, it is now a collection of millions of mini-communities who don’t want their feed clogged up with irrelevant content.
As with any innovation, we should all prepare for the inevitable flurry of brand mistakes. While all brands should pay attention to topics, the truth still remains – the best way to appeal to your target audience is to produce authentic content. That means content that is authentic to you and your brand values. But, it also means content that feels authentic to ever more discerning social media users. Try and shoehorn your brand into a topic and you probably won’t pass through Twitter’s topic algorithms and human checkers. If you do, nobody will care what you have to say anyway.