Twitter ups its game in the battle for social media supremacy

There’s a fierce battle going on for advertising revenue in the social media space as Twitter responds to recent improvements to Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Just hours after Facebook announced the launch of their subscription button to make it more like Twitter, Twitter announced the most radical shake up of its offering to make it more like Facebook. With the developments made to LinkedIn and Google+ this year, the functionality of the leading social media sites is increasingly overlapping and creating competition for the advertising dollar.

Although Twitter had improved the functionality of the site, making it more visual and tinkering with the way people can interact with the site, it has lagged behind in terms of development and exploiting the revenue generation potential of the site with over 100 million active users. Twitter had previously resisted wholesale change as it understood its users enjoy the simplicity of the way Twitter works but has now had to react to developments from Facebook, with 600 million users, and Google+.

There has also been a change in the mindset of the company. Whilst regular Twitter users might understand hashtags, @ addresses and the conventions like Follow Friday, new users found it a barrier to entry. Twitter now realises that there are more people in the world who don’t understand how to use Twitter than those who do and are making it more intuitive to use. There is a danger that existing users won’t like change but the developments are crucial to Twitter’s ongoing success and sustainability. More loyal users means more opportunities and appeal for monetising the site.

One of the most significant developments is the creation of brand profile pages, enabling companies to brand themselves more effectively. Having a full page to showcase your logo or image and your taglines creates a more visible presence for brands.

There is also the option to select and promote a key tweet, enabling new visitors to the page to see the topic of the day which could previously have been lost amongst historical replies and retweets. Although these features are free, enhanced brand pages will allow companies to take this one step further although it is unclear what this will cost. Many of the usual suspects have been lined up as launch partners with Dell, Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Disney amongst the first to set up their own enhanced pages.

The way you view personal profiles has also been revised making them look more like Google+ or Facebook pages with the information stream on the right and further details about your favourites, followers and images on the left hand side.

The way you view conversations has also changed allowing you to open up a conversation thread, linking replies to the original post. Pictures and videos have also been integrated into posts and conversations, allowing you to view them within your browser.

The discover section helps find topics of interest using a new algorithm. Rather than just searching for topics or hashtags, the discover section will pull out content it thinks you will be interested in. It already suggests new people to follow and this development takes it one step further.

Twitter have also created new improvements relevant to developers. They’ve improved the integration of their site with WordPress and Posterous. Tweets can now be embedded with a piece of code into web pages enabling users to follow, reply, favourite or retweet messages direct from your web page. They’ve also created new buttons for webpages to allow people to automatically reply to an account or mention a hashtag when they click on them. Twitter might be trying to imitate Facebook which already has 250 million interactions a year from other websites.

Although many of the changes are cosmetic and involve the algorithm behind the site, there’s certainly a lot for brands and developers to think about in regard to their presence on Twitter. It is also clearer to see where increased advertising might fit on Twitter without affecting the service. The changes are certainly an improvement as Twitter looks to significantly increase the number of people regularly using its service.

Posted by Thomas Atcheson.