Twitter, famous for their 140-character text updates, has decided that attaching and embedding images and video into tweets isn’t enough for Twitter users. In an announcement, it was revealed that now, Images and Video will appear in the Twitter stream as previews, and that the multimedia can now be shared without any text at all.
Just like Instagram, Facebook and Google+, interestingly.
Is Twitter simply responding to the needs and wishes of their users? Or are they adding shiny new features simply to look better in advance of their IPO?
More importantly to me, I wonder about the long-term implications such a move might make for the social platform. This isn’t the kind of change you can rollback, regardless of how it affects use and value. For many, Twitter is a resource of links to articles and information – will that change? Will our Twitter streams be flooded with cat pictures and other nonsense, now that it’s easier to share images and no text is required, and the previews will show up in the stream by default.
If you enjoy sharing images and video, or if you really enjoy seeing them, this should be a cool update for you! It’s love on the web now, and updates are available for both iOS and Android apps.
If, on the other hand, you don’t want your stream of article links to be impacted too much, there are a number of things you can do:
1. Follow Discriminately – Rather than following random people, I recommend that my business clients are very specific and deliberate with who they follow. Follow potential clients, vendors, peers and influencers. Automatically following back anyone that follows you, or using other tools to follow random people to get them to follow you back will only pollute your stream with uninteresting and irrelevant tweets.
2. Maintain Twitter Lists – When you’re following people, have specific Lists, or buckets, set up in which you can put and categorize them. These might be categories of people or different topics or industries you’re interested in – whatever makes sense for you. By doing so, you can hop into a Twitter list any time you want to see tweets from just those people. You can also set up specific Twitter lists as streams within your HootSuite dashboard making it even easier to check out tweets from those sources.
3. Deactivate Previews – While you cannot deactivate previews on desktop, you can hop into your mobile settings and turn them off. On desktop, you can also make sure that Twitter warns you before showing any image or video content which may be sensitive. Fortunately for business users, this is on by default.
Unfortunately, this brings up another potential issue with Twitter and workplace usage. In order for Twitter to know that an image or video is “sensitive” (in other words, inappropriate), the Twitter user must go into their own settings and check that their tweets may be sensitive. Otherwise, their image and video previews will be shown in streams regardless of whether or not their followers are filtering tweets.
The solution is to refer back to suggestion #1 above – be careful who you follow! If you want to ramp up your Twitter follower count and begin following random people or using tools that facilitate adding followers through follow-first or seeding methods, you risk more than just a worthless stream. I’m sure the last thing you want is to be idly monitoring your Twitter stream only to have your boss walk by at just the moment you scroll past an inappropriate image.
If you’re curious how the new updates will look, here’s a Vine from Twitter:
What do you think? Do you like the new displays, or do you think it’s just a gimmick?