Twitter’s algorithm has evolved over the years – with hundreds of millions of users and over 500 million tweets being sent every day, evolution is key. Twitter offers a powerful opportunity for people to reach a global audience in ways they would never have been able to otherwise. Twitter is most commonly used to assist in building meaningful connections with a relevant and engaged audience.
Regardless of whether the user is a CEO, journalist, artist, author, or individual scrolling for top news sources, the Twitter platform is varied enough to sustain all user types – if the user understands the algorithm. We have the low-down on what makes the Twitterverse click.
The Twitter Algorithm
It’s been about a year since Twitter announced updates to their algorithm processes, as noted on the Twitter Engineering Blog. Tweets are now ranked according to the following standards:
- The Tweet itself: its recency, presence of media cards (image or video), total interactions (e.g. number of Retweets or likes)
- The Tweets author: your past interactions with this author, the strength of your connection to them, the origin of your relationship
- You: Tweets you found engaging in the past, how often and how heavily you use Twitter
Twitter re-scores their rankings on user interactions every time the app or timeline is refreshed to ensure better accuracy for the user.
How the Twitter Algorithm Works
Twitter’s algorithm-defined timeline essentially highlights the top tweets you “missed” while you were away doing other things (e.g. living life), then throws in additional recommendations to switch it up. For the most part, though, Twitter displays tweets from accounts the user is already following - in reverse chronological order.
Twitter chooses the tweets the user is shown based on accounts they interact with most. The tweets users engage with most are also factored into the priority decision.
Timelines can also consist of collected tweets from accounts in lists that the user has curated or as search results. For instance, a user might see a tweet from an account they don’t even follow. How does this happen? Engagement. Twitter connections that engage with you are more likely to see your tweets, even if they don’t follow you themselves – and vice versa. Promoted tweets and retweets are also highlighted when users first log back on after being away. You can find instructions on how to turn off these types of behaviors here.
User tweets with the most engagement will organically boost far better than those with little engagement or little to no interest. The more popular your tweets, the more they will be boosted to your networks – and to users outside of your networks. The Twitter algorithm was built to identify valuable content in this way.
Videos are shared more frequently than posts without them and timing is everything. Twitter says that tweets with videos get 2.5 times more replies, 2.8 times more retweets and 1.9 times more favorites than non-video posts.
Posting at the “right time” has been proven to increase organic engagement. According to an analysis by Wiselytics, the lifespan of a tweet is only 24 minutes. That’s nearly four times shorter than the 90-minute shelf-life of a Facebook post.
The Huffington Post says the best time to retweet a post is at 5 p.m., 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. On the flipside, they believe 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. also return higher click-through rates. Kissmetrics says weekdays at 5 p.m. are best for engagement, and Hubspot believes 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Monday to Friday is the best time to post to Twitter.
If you’re hoping to organically boost a tweet by promoting it, think again. Unfortunately for the user, Twitter has instituted rules that bar promoted tweets from gaming the system. Only organic engagement factors need to apply.
With this being said, it’s more important than ever to understand that boosting a tweet organically requires engagement on multiple fronts. Increase your follower count, decrease your following count, and interact more with your audience. Use hashtags wherever possible and invest in Twitter Analytics to define your audience with every tweet.
The Twitter Evolution
Twitter’s user base has continued to grow since its inception over 10 years ago.
Back in 2014, Twitter began to include recommended tweets, accounts and topics in user timelines. This helped expose users to content from people and accounts they normally wouldn’t have been following in the first place.
In 2015, the “while you were away” feature was introduced to the masses. It was described as “a recap of some of the top tweets you might have missed from accounts you follow.”
One year later, in 2016, Twitter began to apply the same algorithm that powered “while you were away” to slightly reorder more of user's timelines. They referred to this new algorithm as “in case you missed it,” but users weren’t thrilled with the new concept and threatened to quit the social media network en masse. At the time, the #RIPTwitter hashtag went viral, and garnered even more attention for the brand. After all, the whole reason Twitter was so successful in the first place was that it offered “real time” content. The new algorithm changed up the game.
In time, the #RIPTwitter hashtag didn’t seem to stir up too much controversy. Currently, it’s anticipated that Twitter gained 9 million monthly active users in just the first quarter of 2017. The company itself says that the Twitter algorithmic timeline actually increases how often users tweet and retweet.
Taking the time, initiative and energy to wholly understanding the most current Twitter algorithm to boost organic engagement is imperative to the success of a highly functioning business and/or brand.