The very simple reasons Twitter just totally messed with your feed

simple reasons twitter just totally messed feed polaroid header

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out a new feature that gives content uploaded from its native photo client and Vine a lot more real estate in your feed. Now, when you log in and glance over your stream, you won’t see links prompting you to expand a tweet for the full picture or the Vine video. Instead, you’ll see a much larger percentage of the image or video, which you can tap to view the full thing or to start playing it.

Bigger blocks of visuals fill up the space, and the idea of a preview has been redefined by the network.

There’s been the usual early griping about the feature; users don’t want to see every single photo uploaded via the Twitter client, or every Vine. The engorged previews take up too much space. A lot of people are asking how to turn it off.

Unfortunately, you cannot turn it off. Twitter wants to fill the feed with photos and Vine videos, and so it shall remain. And the reasons are incredibly obvious.

The Pinterest effect

The new Internet order has evolved thanks to a few sites that have been able to almost magically capture user eyeballs and retention – one of those platforms is Pinterest. Pinterest, now worth a mind-boggling $3.8 billion, is a marketer’s dream come true. The site is one of the highest social drivers of e-commerce; and while Facebook still has a hold on this space, sales that are generated by Pinterest are of higher money value. Basically, Pinterest equals cash money.

There are a few factors that have made the network into such an e-shopping and branding powerhouse. For one, it’s highly visual. And two, its infinite scroll feature has proven addictive for users. It’s been increasingly adopted across various social platforms, is a way publishers keep users lingering longer – and, when it’s combined with eye-catching visuals (you just want to see the next one), it’s a potent mix. Twitter (and its many advertisers) are clearly keen to adopt these business-friendly Pinterest perks.

Images drive interactivity

There’s also the simple fact that social content with images (or video) drive interactivity. A recent study showed that people are more likely to retweet or favorite tweets with photos; a look at my own Twitter analytics proved as much. Other social platforms aren’t immune to this either: Facebook posts with photos get 39 percent more interaction than those that are text-only. Twitter is a text-heavy network, especially since Twitter Card support was cut for a handful of third-party image apps.

Twitter wants to drive retweets and @ messages and faves; these are the things users look for under their Interaction tabs – these are the things they respond to, sending more data out into the tweet-filled ether. Statistically, throwing these photos into the mix without our even asking to see them will drive more interaction. More interaction means more data, more data means more value, more value means Twitter is a more attractive asset to potential partners and investors.

Because … brands

If you thought that this whole thing just maaaaybe had something to do with brands and marketing and advertising and all that jazz, you are correct sirs and madams! Social networks have been bulking up photos for the last year. Instagram went edge-to-edge, Facebook bumped up the size of News Feed and side bar ads, and Twitter did the same with all images in the feed. You can just imagine these networks pitching advertisers on the power of ‘big’: “Look, we know that the bigger something is, the harder it is to ignore it; if users want to log in here, they’re going to have to see your bigger, beautiful ad.” And because Twitter is particularly text-heavy, it’s a solid sell to be able to tell clients they now have a better approach than before, when we users had to hit expand to see more.

Brands already have a truly visual platform for “natural” advertising, where engagement is high – Instagram. More and more, Instagram is being embraced by marketers, and for good reason. Images speak louder than words; showing your product is better than talking about it. But since Twitter doesn’t embed Instagrams anymore (unless you’ve got that handy IFTTT workaround up and running), advertisers who push their Instagram photos to Twitter are out of luck when it comes to the new “preview” feature. So instead, maybe they’ll use the in-house Twitter photo-sharing service, which comes with filters and everything! See, it’s convenient!

The update isn’t going to kill Instagram by any means, and brands won’t abandon it – but if Twitter can even just slightly insert itself into the love affair between advertisers and Instagram, then consider the photo-in feed feature a huge success.

Look: This is what the Gap’s Twitter stream looks like.

gap twitter

The Gap is relying in TwitPic and Instagram to share photos – neither are getting the fuller photo preview treatment.

And here’s Starbucks’ stream, making full use of the new update:

starbucks twitter

Starbucks, which is one of the most active and popular brands on Instagram, is use Twitter’s native client instead of Instagram to show off photos on Twitter – and display them in all their enormous glory.

What are we losing?

Well, technically, we’re gaining more photo viewing. We might lose some speed. (Twitter seemed awfully slow at the initial roll out of this feature yesterday.) And if you use the native Twitter client, you’ll find yourself hitting the “X new tweets” prompt much more, because photos are taking up a lot more space and you can’t see as many tweets on your screen.

And as you can see above, this is a goldmine for brands that want you looking at what they’re selling. Check out what the streams of the some of the most active brands on Twitter look like now.

These are handles that tweet a lot, and if you follow them – for whatever reason – you’ll find yourself inundated with ads, and the feature could easily end up being abused. 

instagram ad

The positive side? Images are pretty, and we’ve proven as users that we like looking at them, time and time again. If this is the medium we want to be advertised to in, then perhaps the changes will ease the pain of missing “what Twitter used to be.” Buzzfeed also points out that becoming a viral hit via Vine or a Twitter pic just got a lot easier, and that users’ will personally be rewarded with faves and follows; not only the content they uploaded will be recognized, which is what happens on a lot of other social networks. 

Still, Twitter is a quickly becoming more of a playground for advertisers to flex their creative muscles (Oreo’s Super Bowl ad, anyone?), and the playing field just got a lot wider for them. 

Social Media

Build a wish list and shop videos with Instagram’s latest shopping update

Eyeing a product on Instagram? Now there are more ways to shop from the social network. Instagram just rolled out options to save products in a collection as users can also now shop from videos.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Alita: Battle Angel,’ ‘Detective Pikachu,’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's new trailers for cyberpunk adventure Alita: Battle Angel, game adaptation Pokémon Detective Pikachu…
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Digital Trends Live

DT Daily: Amazon HQ2(s), Indiegogo’s CEO, and Chris Bevans of Dyne

DT Daily's host Greg Nibler discussed headlines including Amazon's HQ2s and Twitter possibly getting an edit button. We also brought on the CEO of Indigogo and the creative director of Dyne.

Hackers sold 120 million private Facebook messages, report says

Up to 120 million private Facebook messages were being sold online by hackers this fall. The breach was first discovered in September and the messages were obtained through unnamed rogue browser extensions. 

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. You're in luck -- we've gathered 23 of the best subreddits to help…
Social Media

Facebook opens pop-up stores at Macy’s, but they’re not selling the Portal

Facebook has opened pop-up stores at multiple Macy's, though they're not selling Facebook's new Portal device. Instead, they're showcasing small businesses and brands that are already popular on Facebook and Instagram.
Social Media

Facebook Messenger will soon let you delete sent messages

A feature coming to Facebook Messenger will let you delete a message for up to 10 minutes after you send it. The company promised the feature months ago and this week said it really is on its way ... "soon."
Social Media

Pinterest brings followed content front and center with full-width Pin format

Want to see Pinterest recommendations, or just Pins from followed users? Now Pinners can choose with a Pinterest Following feed update. The secondary feed eliminates recommendation and is (almost) chronological.
Smart Home

Facebook's Alexa-enabled video-calling devices begin shipping

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.
Social Media

Vine fans, your favorite video-looping app is coming back as Byte

Vine fans were left disappointed in 2017 when its owner, Twitter, pulled the plug on the video-looping app. But now one of its co-founders has promised that a new version of the app, called Byte, is coming soon.

Social media use increases depression and anxiety, experiment shows

A study has shown for the first time a causal link between social media use and lower rates of well-being. Students who limited their social media usage to 30 minutes a day showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out.
Social Media

Twitter boss hints that an edit button for tweets may finally be on its way

Twitter has been talking for years about launching an edit button for tweets, but it still hasn't landed. This week, company boss Jack Dorsey addressed the matter again, describing a quick-edit button as "achievable."
Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.