Everyone is resolving to be better in the new year. Twitter is no exception.In the midst of laying off a large percentage of their staff (who ever said change was easy?), Twitter is pivoting to help make the service more relatable for new users and more useful for everyone. Two new features highlight this resolution: Moments and Periscope.
Of the myriad problems with Twitter, here’s the biggest: If you’re following more than a few people, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with the passing stream of information. First runner up in the problem category? The difficulty to discover new, valuable sources of information (especially for new users.) Twitter recently rolled out a feature that aims to eliminate both of these issues: Moments.
Almost from the beginning, Twitter has been great at sharing breaking news. It does this by crowd sourcing information from people who are on (or near) the scene of whatever is happening. For example: when Seal Team 6 flew into the Abbatobad compound looking for Osama bin Laden, a neighbor was live tweeting the event without really understanding what he was witnessing. In some ways, this is both blessing and curse: you can get access to immediate, unfiltered information, but that information is often inaccurate due to its “breaking” nature. The other problem is unless you happen to be following either the person reporting the information or someone who is passing it along, it’s very difficult to discover.
Moments, located beneath the small lightning bolt at the bottom of the screen in your Twitter app, brings these trending stories directly to you, even if you’re not following anyone who is actively involved. It performs this neat little trick by aggregating the data across the entire network to quickly identify and combine disparate bits of information into a related package. (This, we hypothesize, is based on decades of parents assembling bits and pieces of random words uttered by teens and piecing them together to form a coherent story.) For now, the stories you’ll find in Moments are curated by Twitter, but there are plans to make them both customizable and naturally occurring.
As I write this, the topics under the News heading include a story about an armed group of militia members who have taken over the headquarters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Princeton, Oregon. Moments has assembled tweets from CNN, The Oregonian, and a variety of local people who provided interesting details about the family involved and their intent, according to conversations with the participants.
Simply click one of the headlines and you’ll access a variety of postings on this topic from Twitter users across the globe. Most posts include photos and videos, making the whole experience feel more personal.
While still in its rollout infancy, I think Moments will be helpful for both experienced and new Twitter users. For the experienced, it helps bring quick clarity to the passing river of information; for new users, it provides instant usability regardless of how many people you’re following. In a sense, it creates a sweet spot of usability and relevance for anyone using Twitter as a source of information.
The other new Twitter product is a related application called Periscope. It’s easier to understand, though it might be a little harder to wrap your head around why you might use it. (As far as we can tell, however, not a lot of people ever ask themselves “why” before posting anything on social media, but that’s a whole different topic. Anyway.)
Simply put: Periscope allows you to broadcast live video directly from your smart phone. Simply open the app, write a brief description of what you’re doing, hit the broadcast button and you’re on your way. As soon as you start, everyone who follows you on Twitter will receive a notification that you’re broadcasting live (which is why the description is important. “I’m live!” is less likely to get anyone’s attention, whereas “Watching live while WKRP tosses free turkeys from a helicopter for Thanksgiving” is likely to get some traction.)
There are a couple of distinct advantages provided by the Periscope approach beyond shooting and posting a video to your website or YouTube. Most importantly, because the video is live, the viewers have the opportunity to interact with you. They can send in comments or questions while you’re filming, and you can respond directly in real time. Periscope also saves the videos you shoot, including statistics on the number of viewers, how long they stuck around, the comments posted, and whether they’ve “given you a heart” for your content (essentially telling you they like what you’re doing — awww.)
In addition, Periscope has announced that it’s available on AppleTV, meaning your content has the potential to be picked up and seen by a much larger audience than just your Twitter followers. We call this the 15 Minutes of Surprising Fame feature.
No doubt many of you are thinking, “Why would I want to broadcast something and who would want to watch it?” Great question. For some people, the answer is going to be similar to Edmund Hillary’s response about climbing Everest: because it’s there. Simply having the ability to do something is reason enough to do it. Given that, the result could be hours of videos of people eating doughnuts or attempting the cinnamon challenge. Which brings us back to who considers “why?” before posting. And yet . . .
Some of you have some really good reasons to be doing it. Here are two examples…
Our client Reis-Nichols Jewelers has periodic trunk shows where they bring in a world-class jewelry designer to display and discuss their work first hand, and meet the people who love their work. Periscope would be a great opportunity to show the Twitter followers who couldn’t make the event what the designer showcased Reis-Nichols could also stage a pre-event interview with the designer to discuss their background, their collection and emerging fashion trends to drive interest and traffic at the event itself.
Another client, Premier Supplies, a leading catalog retailer of farm supplies (think portable electric fences, sheep supplies, etc.) is well known for field testing the equipment they sell. Over the years, they’ve posted a variety of videos about these tests on their website and YouTube account. They could also broadcast some of these live on Periscope, where people could interact with them as they’re demonstrating their products. Premier is also a working farm, where hundreds of sheep are born every spring during lambing season. Who wouldn’t want to see a bunch of baby lambs running around? You know ewe would.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to be more connected, Twitter just made that easier. And if one of your resolutions is to eat more doughnuts, we will enviously watch you achieve it.