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7 New Twitter Features (and 4 Others You May Have Missed)

7 New Twitter Features (and 4 Others You May Have Missed)

In an industry fixated on rapid growth, any slowdown in user acquisition or monetization sounds alarms. And Twitter, whether it likes it or not, has been sounding a lot of them lately.

After a few years of stagnant monthly active user growth and disappointing the market, Twitter has been on an upswing thus far in 2017 -- beating investor projections by generating more money and adding more new users than initially anticipated.

In the face of a negative narrative, the company has been quick to take action and focused predominantly on changes geared toward the user -- and it seems to be working.

Download our pre-sized Twitter cover photo template here to create a brilliant header photo of your own. 

 Over the last year, Twitter has made a number of changes, small and big, to drive user engagement and improve the overall onboarding and experience of the platform. But we know how tough it can be to keep up with these types of updates, which is why we put together a list of the more notable features and changes below. Marketers, take note.

7 New Twitter Features

1) The End of Vine ... and the End of Periscope?

When technology companies are struggling to grow, as was Twitter for much of 2016, they will usually do one of two things -- cut staff to make financial ends meet, or develop new innovations to attract and engage users. In Twitter's case, it did both -- Twitter sunsetted Vine and launched an in-app live video streaming feature -- thereby eliminating the need to stream from Periscope for many users. Vine paved the way for the popular short-form and infinitely-looping videos we see on Snapchat and Instagram today (like this one), and in the fall of 2016, it was ultimately shuttered as Twitter shifted its focus to live video content. Vines are still available to share and watch (and rewatch), but now, six-second looping videos must be recorded and shared directly to Twitter or saved to the creator's camera roll. Then, in December 2016, Twitter launched its own in-app live video streaming and recording function -- effectively eliminating the need to live-stream from within the Periscope app.

Twitter hasn't discontinued Periscope the way it did so with Vine, so users can still download the app and live-stream videos to their audience there. But these changes in such rapid succession disappointed a lot of avid fans and users -- and reflected Twitter's growing need to keep users within its app.

It's no secret that video is no longer just popular -- it's also a requisite element of any successful social media platform. Twitter is trying to innovate its video creation, broadcasting, and sharing tools to give users the types of content they want -- short-form, looping, and live broadcasts -- to compete with other platforms, attract new users, and keep existing users engaged.

We haven't seen Twitter jump on the bandwagon of creating an ephemeral video stories feature like most of the major social media platforms -- yet. But we should expect more features and announcements -- like Twitter's deals to live-stream professional sports and breaking news -- that signal its continued emphasis on video content in the future.

2) A New Layout

In June 2017, Twitter completely redesigned its desktop site and mobile app to make Twitter feel "lighter, faster, and easier to use" in response to user feedback:Twitter's user base has been slowly growing -- and sometimes dipping -- over the past few years, and these UI and UX innovations could help attract people to Twitter, while also preventing users from leaving it.

how-many-users-does-twitter-have_large.png

 

Here's a rundown of the changes:

  • Decluttered UI: Twitter now offers a sidebar menu where users can more easily navigate to their profiles, lists, and personal settings -- instead of having to tap through the app more than once.
  • Real-time reply, retweet, and like counts: Users can now watch the engagement numbers with tweets increase in realtime within the app, instead of refreshing and reloading tweets.
  • Clearer typography and iconography: Twitter changed the in-app font, made some headlines bolder to attract attention in the busy feed, and changed the "Reply" button to a conversation bubble (so it didn't look like a back arrow anymore).
  • Round avatars: Profile images are now round instead of square.

And here's what these changes look like in action:

Check-new-look-iOS Refresh Full Walkthrough.gif

 

 

Most of the changes were widely panned by users, but this is the internet, after all -- and Twitter will never make everyone happy. Some users pointed out that cosmetic UI changes are not nearly as important as improving users' abilities to report and challenge abusive language on the platform -- and that's next on our list.

3) More Comprehensive Anti-Harassment and Cyberbullying Features

One of the biggest complaints against Twitter is how easily harassment can spread and exacerbate on the network -- and there was no better test of this hypothesis than political rhetoric surrounding recent global elections. Historically, tweets aimed at threatening or scaring individuals on Twitter have gone unfettered and caused a number of users to delete their accounts or even fear for their safety -- as blogger Ariel Waldman has chronicled.

Twitter Rules prohibit the kind of abuse we mean here -- threats, hate speech, bullying, and harassment on the basis of users’ race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, ability, disease, or nationality. However, until as recently as March 1, 2017, there haven’t been a lot of options for users report and stop abuse they were experiencing in real-time. Twitter has begun to respond to harassment and threats on the network with a series of features and services aimed a keeping people safe. These additions include:

  • Notification filtering: Users can specify which accounts they don't want to receive notifications from. For example, you can filter out notifications from accounts without profile photos and with unverified email addresses.
  • Mute option: Users can mute specific keywords and phrases, and they can choose how long they don't want to see that type of content.
  • Reporting transparency: Users now receive notifications when -- and if -- Twitter intervenes on an abuse report the user files.
  • Time-out: Users who are reported are sometimes temporarily put in "time-out" while Twitter investigates the report to prevent the further dissemination of abusive content.
  • Safe search: Machine-learning technology will prevent users from being served potentially abusive content when they search for tweets on the platform.
  • Hiding abusive tweets: Twitter has started identifying low-quality tweets from potentially abusive accounts so users see high-quality content first. The tweets will still be on Twitter -- they'll just be harder to find.
  • Preventing new abuse: Twitter has started preventing reported and flagged users from creating new accounts with the same contact information in an effort to prevent repeat offenders on the platform.

These updates are critical to ensuring Twitter stays a welcoming place for all users. In a leaked memo last year, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo underscored the importance of this move, saying:

I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It's absurd. There's no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It's nobody else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing.

We're going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them. Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital."

4) Moments for Everyone

Twitter introduced Moments -- curated tweets about a single topic or story, all in one place -- back in 2015. Moments allowed publishers and brands to pull together their tweets and tweets from other users about a topic to tell a story in one story collage -- and in August 2016, Twitter opened up Moments to any user who wanted to create them. Here's what they look like:

 

Now, whether you want to feature your own tweetstorm, content from other people on the platform, or both, anyone can easily make a shareable Moment to tell a story. You can go into the Explore tab (or the Moments tab on Twitter's desktop site), and create a new Moment there. Or, you can find a tweet you want to feature and create a Moment while you're scrolling or on your own profile:

twitter_moment_add.png

Moments present another opportunity for users to get discovered and shared on Twitter, so opening this publishing capability up to everyone was a smart move.

5) Explore Twitter

In January 2017, Twitter axed the Moments tab and created the Explore tab on the mobile app, which combined Twitter trends, Moments, and search -- all in one place.

It was a simple new feature that combined features already in existence, but by putting these all in one tab, Twitter made it easier for users to find and engage with new content on the platform -- and hopefully, stay in the app longer.

Here's what it looks like (if you haven't already noticed it):

Explore-Screenshot1.jpg.img.fullhd.medium.jpg Explore-Screenshot2.jpg.img.fullhd.medium.jpgSource: Twitter

6) More Characters to Reply

Twitter made a big change to the way users can directly reply to one another. Whereas before, users had to @mention the account they wanted to reply to, the mention is now built directly into the reply button. This gives users more characters with which to reply, because they don't have to type in the username and cut into their precious 140 characters. Check it out:

new-reply-button-twitter.png

This change has been met with some criticism, though -- because users can't specifically one-off reply to particular people. So if you're included in a tweet with multiple other users, everyone will get a reply notification -- even if the reply isn't specified for them. To specify who you want to reply to, you can click the hyperlinked Twitter handles and check or uncheck the users you wish to send a notification to, like so:

twitter-reply-example-uncheck.png

So while Twitter is giving users more room to express themselves, it might also give them the ability to communicate with too many other users if they don't choose the feature above -- especially if bullies and abusers are replying-all to tweets.

7) Safer DMs

If you receive private Direct Messages from users you don't follow, users now have the option to approve or deny the request to connect -- and report the message if it's inappropriate.

 



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