Twitter_256x256Twitter’s recent announcement about revamping the user experience is a big deal. Cosmetic changes trump Heidi Montag, for realz. Just in case Sarah Shourd is reading this, here’s the scoop: Twitter will soon introduce a parallel view next to the tweet stream to host rich media and information about content creators and additional context of the tweets.

Changes to the micro behemoth will have a significant impact on the whole gamut of stakeholders: users, brands, developers, investors, zoologists, you name it, if you’re one the 160 million Twitter users these changes will affect your experience. Here at Pandemic Labs we’re mostly interested in the impact on brands (it’s how we make our monies after all). On the whole we welcome the changes, but there are a few gray areas and dangers to keep in mind. Here are the positives and negatives for brands as we see them at this early stage…

Yay!

Content is King:

The new Twitter will integrate dynamic media thanks to partnerships with the likes of Flikr, TwitPic, Ustream, Vimeo, YoutTube, and more. Instead of having to follow a link away from Twitter, users will be able to see the latest LATFH.com video without leaving the site. That’s cool. For brands it means users will be more likely to see their rich media, more likely to share it, and more likely buy stuff. Oh my!

Making dynamic content easier to view and share will likely change the standards of usage over time. We suspect the number of tweets featuring rich content will grow and the expectation for brands to have dynamic content to grow concurrently. This will mean that Twitter campaigns will need to become more thoughtful and potentially more expensive to execute. Lucky there are good agencies to help with that kind of thing. Ahem.

Content Contextualized:

Tweets will now be accompanied by biographic information, recent tweets, and other additional context surrounding the author and content of a tweet. This change will make tweets more meaningful and conversations more accessible. Ultimately we think this will enhance the dialogue with more @replies, #, and all that jazz.

Anything that improves the breadth and depth of Twitter conversations is something marketers welcome with open arms.

No More More:

The new Twitter has infinite scroll. This means people will be able to scroll through “old” content without hitting the ‘more’ button. The logical deduction is that people will read through more content. Again, we’re psyched, this is good news for brands.

Boo!

Apps & Automation:

Right now it’s unclear how much of the new Twitter’s API will be opened. This means desktop applications might not be able to offer the new features. While this is a great way for Twitter to support their monetization efforts it may render apps like, Seesmic, TweetDeck, etc. obsolete. For brands who use desktop solutions to track and automate their Twitter accounts they may need to go back to good ‘ole Twitter dot com.

Mobile:

Also unclear at the moment is how changes in the desktop experience will manifest in users’ pockets. What will future mobile clients look like? At Pandemic we’re also wondering if this will motivate usage differences between mobile and desktop. While this is not a danger to brands per se, change can always be scary.

The $160,000,000 Question?

Investors have pumped $160M into Twitter. That’s a lot. But Twitter has seriously lagged on monetizing the site and investors are still waiting to see their investments pay off. Changes to the site were certainly motivated, at least in part, by a larger monetization strategy. We want Twitter to make money, we’re not opposed to monetization. The only thing we’re worried about is how that process plays out. There are two distinct dangers.

  1. Monetization schemes alienate users and they leave.
  2. Twitter charges brands for interactions, or the ability to post rich media.

These are unsettling scenarios to Pandemic. But hey, at least we’re not working in a dying medium.

That Twitter continues to be daring, make changes to their product offering, and improve the experience is a good thing. Change may be scary but inaction is lethal. We think Twitter’s move will help ensure the vibrancy of the platform for a long time to come. Brand’s investments in the platform are safe. Twitter is here to stay.

If you want to see the new Twitter in action, and you like absurdly hyperbolic videos, check out this indie promo from the friendly folks at Twitter: http://twitter.com/newtwitter

Written by Tom Schuyler