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Twitter's 'While You Were Away' Feature May Be a Marketing Game Changer

Posted by drew on Jan. 22, 2015, 5 p.m.

Twitter announced recently that they would be rolling out a new feature called “While you were away,” which offers a selection of some of the top tweets you may have missed while not on Twitter. This feature is available on iOS immediately, and will be available on Android and twitter.com soon as well.

Twitter determines the top tweets by looking at engagement (favorites, clicks, retweets) and “other factors,” according to the announcement made Wednesday. Frequent Twitter users will see the “While you were away” tweets less frequently, while occasional users will see the feature more often, given that they see fewer tweets naturally.

These tweets will be different from the paid promoted tweets that sometimes show up in your timeline. “While you were away” tweets will only come from accounts you have already chosen to follow. While some say this will compromise the real time, up-to-the-minute nature of Twitter, others are saying it will alleviate the pressure of having to scroll through past tweets to catch up.

While You Were Away Twitter Feature.png

As an internet marketer, I’m more interested in how this will affect social media marketing strategy for those using Twitter. It has typically been common knowledge that the half-life of a tweet is relatively short (I’ve seen it listed as 18 minutes before), purely because so many tweets are coming out all the time, and your content is bound to be pushed down sooner rather than later.

Given this reality, it was very common for brands to schedule tweets relatively often, to ensure that their brand is consistently on user feeds, regardless of when those users log in. With the dawn of this new feature however, that strategy may change. Fewer tweets are now necessary to reach the same number of people, if you can craft tweets that earn significant engagement.

Along the same lines, it is possible to seem “spammy” or obtrusive to a user if your tweets show up too frequently in their feed (in both the “while you were away” tweets and the regular feed). Tweet frequency should be weighed differently against tweet quality going forward.

Content syndication, which was once a popular practice on Twitter, may become less important, given that engagement on these tweets is typically lower than on the originators of the content.

Given that the feature is so new and hasn’t reached all Twitter users yet, it is hard to say how this will affect user experience or Twitter marketing strategy, but I predict there will be new recommendations for Twitter marketing if this feature stays in place.