Twitter is playing with the linear timeline of its feed

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 22 January 2015

Twitter is today introducing Recap - the first step in a strategy to shift the traditionally linear nature of users' feeds towards a more curated, non-chronological order, based on an algorithm.

The Recap feature, or While you Were Away, serves users with three tweets that have occurred since they last looked at their feed.

It is the first algorithmic interference in what users see in their feed. Posts that are served up are based on prior interactions and engagement with the accounts people follow.

For instance, if a user regularly retweets posts from Pedestrian, or Adidas, or favourites tweets from particular users, they are likely to see recaps from those accounts.

Twitter revealed it planned to begin playing around with its previously strictly chronological feed last year in an effort to make relevant content more accessible. It said the move was in recognition that the volume of tweets on the platform means that a lot of content is missed by users.

Currently, the feed acts as a 'moment in time' allowing users to see what people they follow are saying at any one time, but Twitter wants to broaden its reach and thinks a curated feed is the way to go. But, it will need to be mindful of alienating its existing users and advertisers in search of a wider audience.

The move evoked the wrath of die-hard Twitter users and spurred a raft of reports proclaiming the shift meant the end of real-time marketing on Twitter.

Facebook has long fallen foul of marketers because of changes and tweaks to its algorithm that mean entire strategies are based around the shifting sands of the platform's algorithm. The organic versus paid reach debate still rattles the cage of many marketers and agencies. While the gradual shift will no doubt impact Twitter's advertisers, it will want to avoid falling into the same trap.

Last year, Twitter CFO Anthony Noto said the change was coming because a chronological feed isn't "the most relevant experience for the user."

In a blog post today Twitter said: “A lot can happen while you’re away, so we’re helping to fill some of those gaps with a few of the best tweets … our goal is to help you keep up.”

The Recap feature has been in beta with some users, including in-house with Twitter staff, for a number of weeks.

When it goes live, users will see it at the top of their feed have the opportunity to exit out of it. Users that log in to Twitter more often will see it less, while those who log in more infrequently will see it more.

Twitter has struggled with growth since its IPO a year ago, and is pushing hard to monetise the platform through advertising. Adam Bain, Twitter's president of global revenue, told AdNews last year that the focus for 2015 is how to monetise the audience that views Twitter from a logged out status. Twitter claims that including this broader audience gives it reach close to 700 million users. Way above the 284 million average monthly active users it currently counts and much closer to Facebook’s user numbers.

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