With 556 million active users, Twitter is one of social media’s most important platforms for communication, entertainment, and real-time news. Following a staggering buyout from Elon Musk in late October, the app has undergone a number of changes that are worth reviewing, especially when it comes to the algorithm.
In anticipation of future changes, here’s a rundown of why Twitter’s hidden algorithm is more important than ever, and how you can optimize your content to appear on Twitter timeline.
Powered by machine learning, Twitter’s algorithm works to personalize each user’s experience based on their preferences and activity. Because Twitter’s content cycle moves so fast, it heavily values the recent activity of both the user, and other accounts in their network. This structure helps trends and popular topics emerge quickly — by recommending tweets from accounts the user doesn’t follow, it continually filters and adapts content to be as relevant and entertaining as possible.
Each time a user demonstrates interest in a particular topic, or is engaging heavily with a certain group of creators or brands, the algorithm takes this into account. It can also register whether users prefer text posts, photos, or videos in order to show more of that given media. So, how do Twitter algorithms work? The baseline is that Tweet suggestions are primarily driven by each user’s interests, network, and recent activity.
One of the larger changes to Twitter was the creation of two separate feeds, an algorithm-based ‘For You’ segment, and a more curated ‘Following’ tab.
The Following section is a straightforward remnant of Twitter’s original structure — here, you’ll only see content from those you follow, and whatever content those accounts choose to like and retweet. It’s removed from the algorithm’s suggestions, but your activity here still dictates future content.
For You contains a mix of content from accounts you’re following, but with a higher amount of suggested tweets based on your activity. This is likely where a consumer will hear about your brand, as there doesn’t have to be a user interaction for your tweet to appear on their feed.
Leverage the For You tab to keep a pulse on what tweets and trends are popular within your industry, while using the Following section for a more curated experience — typically, you’ll have an easier time generating ideas for your brand by paying attention to the For You feed.
Following Musk’s entrance to the company, a lot has been changing and rolling out for Twitter — these following changes were the major updates made to Twitter in 2022, and will affect content prioritization in different ways:
The 80/20 rule is an approximate guideline that suggests 80% of your tweets should be focused on content, value, and audience engagement, while the remaining 20% should contain direct promotions or sales. It’s a great rule of thumb for maintaining an authentic and engaged base through Twitter, a key component of building and maintaining brand awareness on the site.
Because Twitter users tend to gravitate towards natural and engaging content, outright promotions and excessive calls-to-action will tire them out. Accounts like Wendy’s thrive through the 80/20 rule — the majority of their tweets contain product placements, but their authentic and lighthearted approach lets their social manager focus on the fun, engaging aspects of Twitter.
Since Twitter is a platform where users can decide what kind of content they see, it’s important that social marketers optimize their content so it has the best chance to be seen on Timeline and the Following tab.
Follow these steps to optimize your Twitter content:
Verification was one of the first major changes after Musk’s purchase thanks to the adoption of the Twitter Blue system. By having an active account that is over 90 days old, you’re automatically eligible — follow the steps in the app’s ‘Settings’ tab, and for $8/month (or $84/yearly), you’ll be a verified account with a shiny blue checkmark. Early access for a business-specific checkmark is now open as well.
Hashtags amplify brand awareness, purchase intent for customers, and your overall visibility on the platform. Use them consistently and with purpose — scanning the explore tab will show you what trending hashtags are generating impressions, which you can apply to your own strategy. Motivate your audience to use branded hashtags through incentives, whether that’s a reward, retweet, or a reply.
Your potential reach and engagement on any given post will largely depend on its performance shortly after being published. Content that isn’t highly engaging will have a tough time rising above the competition — your posts might get buried amongst the noise if you don’t understand your audience’s habits and posting preferences. Dash Hudson’s Twitter Insights are a great resource for discovering your optimal timeframe and automatically scheduling tweets for those moments.
Twitter has a great selection of internal tools to check in on the social landscape and keep track of potential content. The Explore tab contains news and trends that will be relevant to a majority of users, and filtering through conversation topics and relevant accounts will clean up your feed to give you a good sense of popular content. Constantly draft Tweets to keep your ideas flowing, and bookmark interesting ideas to revisit when it's time.
Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (SMART) goals give you a road map to your desired outcome, and are reliable benchmarks for your content goals. Without proper goals, you’ll lose out on learning opportunities and potentially miss those areas of your strategy that require added focus. If content is your priority, start with a few ideas around total engagements per quarter, increasing campaign performance, etc.
If you’re using Twitter to increase your brand’s recognition and hopefully earn a few sales through conversion, it’s an excellent idea to start tracking ROI. Aside from using a social analytics tool to track your KPIs, you can keep track of your total engagement on different types of posts to see where you’ll get the most value out of your efforts. Comparing this against other social platforms can shed some light on your strategy, and what different audiences are resonating with.
You’re already making content on a number of different platforms, so repurposing them for Twitter is a natural step in the optimization process. These can be blogs, videos, images, or anything that you’re already planning to post on similar channels. Highlighting existing content gives your audience the chance to experience it for the first time, and creates a sense of familiarity and cohesion across social.
Referring to any advertisement that includes interactive elements (video, custom audio, polls), rich media gives your audience the opportunity to connect with your brand through different mediums. Because Twitter’s algorithm appreciates variety, switching your usual tweets with rich media will give you a higher potential ranking for when it comes time to share your content on other feeds. Before posting, make sure to review the optimal image and video sizes for Twitter.
When it comes to trends, Twitter is a revolving door of opportunities — new memes, inside jokes, and opportunities for virality come and go every week. By keeping tabs on popular formats, high profile tweets, and incoming trends, you’ll find great opportunities to increase your reach. The ‘Trending’ section of the Explore tab is a fantastic way to begin brainstorming.
Lists help you segment accounts and topics into custom timelines, and are fantastic internal tools for keeping a pulse on competitors and trends. Awareness of the current happenings, hashtags, and content streams that are important for your brand will provide learnings and guidance on what to post.
There’s a massive amount of ways you can succeed through the Twitter algorithm, and an airtight Twitter Marketing strategy and high-quality content drives of it all. Dash Hudson’s toolset focuses on marrying perfect content with competitive success — predict the performance of your photos and videos to make sure they’re winners, and track what competitors are rolling out in real time. In an instant, you can receive a benchmark of your performance against industry leaders, uncover your audience’s preferred posting time, and begin scheduling reports to share with your team.
Explore Dash Hudson’s Twitter features in a free trial of the platform.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to ‘reset’ the Twitter algorithm outright. The simplest way to see an instant change in your feed’s content is by navigating to the ‘Topics’ section. You’ll be able to select which topics appear on your feed, find new interests to follow, and exclude specific users or conversations. Other ways to alter your algorithm include engaging with different users, tweeting about certain topics, and using the Explore tab to find new interests. Keep in mind that these changes apply to your account’s algorithm only, and will have no impact on your followers.
While a number of Twitter’s back-end tools were built using open source technologies (and are freely available), the main algorithm is not one of them. Although Musk toyed with the idea through a poll in early 2022, there are no expected plans to change Twitter’s algorithm to open source in 2023.
Aside from choosing what content your algorithm produces (discussed above), the remaining changes you can make involve switching from between the ‘For You’ and ‘Following’ segments. By following relevant accounts, you can focus on your controlled algorithm and witness changes in your recommended content.