The Bluebird of Social Happiness (a.k.a. Twitter) is about to pull out all the stops and start rolling out a new release of the popular real-time social media site that they hope will drive users above their reported 160 million users.
Starting Tuesday night (September 16, 2010), the roll out, which utilizes a two-pane in one window style approach, has a lot of editors going “gaga.” In an AdWeek interview, Twitter CEO Even Williams described the new Twitter: “You can click on a tweet and get a richer, faster, more detailed experience and get related content.”
The timeline of mentions, retweets, searches and lists are now above the timeline. With a click on a tweet, rich media, like photos and video from sites like YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, Kiva and Twitpic will be viewable on the right pane. These links are still shortened to fit within the 140 character limit of Twitter: No change there. Even geotagging is supported – adding a location to a tweet will be able to display a map for the address being referenced. For example, sharing a location from applications like Foursquare will support this map feature.
So, when will everyone get the new toy?
According to the New Twitter web site, “These changes will roll out as a preview over the next several weeks. During the preview, you’ll be able to switch back and forth so you have time to grow accustomed to the way things work. Eventually, everyone will have the updated version of Twitter.com.” It should take several weeks before everyone has at least a peek at the new version.
Businesses may want to be more cautious and see how their tools (like Hootsuite or CoTweet) and other major applications adapt. This appears this is an interface change, not a change in the API that sends the data to the other tools. The easier interface may increase Twitter’s user base, making it an even more important place to be. Enter my mantra that “you have to be where your customers are”; end of mantra.
Also of interest would be changes in usage patterns as the new version rolls out that may impact how and when users engage with others or click through to web sites.
Problems that many like myself have (with more than 2,000 followers) is how do you parse that much knowledge from that many people into usable chunks – and still have some of the day left for work. One of the benefits of Twitter is being connected to amazing people and then getting to meet many of them on a professional basis. For others, it’s much simpler: find other people who share the same interest. Either way, the new version may make it easier to find people who share what YOU think is relevant content.
For the record, I create several smaller lists of people who really add value to my day on a regular basis. When I am crunched for time, these mini-lists let me view in 30 seconds the information I need to know quickly. Hootsuite, CoTweet, and Tweetdeck are all outstanding for this.
Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo, also quoted in the AdAge article, is looking to the money side of things. “The benefit of the new interface is there’s much more opportunity for users to explore,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for users to engage with the tweet and to see the ways others have engaged with the tweet.”
With engagement to content perhaps not even a click away, the possibility of advertising and branded content seems inevitable for a company that needs to monetize the product without upsetting their user base. This may be the first step and it could be in the right direction.