Independent Thinking Blog

Twitter Changes Afoot: 3 Things You Need to Know

Twitter has rolled out three major changes in the last week: updating its API, opening up analytics, and expanding advertising. Each is  likely to have an impact on the way we interact with and on the platform.

Let’s look at what Twitter has done.

The updated API puts Twitter back in charge of tweets. An API, or “application programming interface,” is the underlying code that lets one software program talk to another. (That’s about as technical as I can get.) The practical purpose is to help Twitter regain control over its ecosystem. According to an article on CNET:

“The updated API … includes restrictions on how often third-party apps can access information on Twitter, as well as limiting the number of users for developers of third-party apps to 100,000 users unless it has permission from Twitter for more.”

This is huge.

When Twitter started out, the company encouraged the development of third-party apps (e.g., Hootsuite. TweetChat, Seesmic, Uber). In addition to making a lot of power users happy, it also helped to spread adoption of the platform. But as users flocked to deploy the capabilities of these new tools, from scheduling to search to chat, that meant they weren’t on (More on that in a minute.)

Why this matters to you (#1).

If you’re a long-time Twitter user, you probably remember the days when you were lucky if you could refresh your tweets every couple of minutes. In order not to hit my hourly API limit, at one point I had my “everybody” stream refreshing every 3 minutes, my mentions every 2 minutes, and direct messages every 15 minutes. It was streamtime, not real-time.

Streamtime is back–if you’re not using an application that Twitter has certified. The two-tier effect was in evidence  in the last solopr twitter chat–where it was all-systems-go for TweetDeck users (since TweetDeck is owned by Twitter) but just about everyone else was looking for a solution. (Check out the chat transcript for some options.)

Why this matters to you (#2).

Twitter has opened up its analytics (via  so you can get information to track reach, engagement, and more. TechCrunch  has a good overview here. The purpose, of course, is to give you data that might help you figure out how to advertise.

Why this matters to you (#3).

So why does Twitter want your eyeballs on its own platform? Dollars (and euros, and more)!

One word: Advertising . What I’ve seen in the first iteration of Twitter ads has been either a sponsored tweet fixed at the top of a “search” column (especially hashtag searches) or the occasional ad tweet in my stream. I think we’re going to see a lot more of both. I received my first e-mail inviting me to advertise on Twitter the other day–meaning they’re moving beyond beta and big companies. My branding brain is already thinking about how targeted advertising might be useful to some of my clients.

Have you examined your analytics? Tested advertising? What stands out for you?

Photo by David Goehring (Flickr).

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