In its early years, like many other social platforms, the Twitter algorithm presented content in a reverse chronological order that showed the freshest content first. As the user base and feature set of Twitter and these other social platforms grow, there’s too much content to keep up within a simple chronological order. That’s where the current Twitter algorithm comes in, using different ranking factors to show users posts they think they’ll like.
While this is a plus for users, whenever an algorithm is implemented or updated, it leaves many marketers concerned that the hard work they put into their content and social media strategy is going unnoticed… and this is the exact feeling with the Twitter algorithm. Changes to the Twitter algorithm are no different, but fortunately, there are ways to adjust your strategy and keep up with your social marketing goals.
While it might seem intimidating, understanding the Twitter algorithm to gain organic reach is easier than you might think. In this article, we’re going to take a look at how the Twitter algorithm has evolved into what it is today, and how you can use it to your advantage.
Why does Twitter use an algorithmic timeline?
When Twitter first came out in 2006, it had a simple timeline structure and Tweets were displayed in reverse chronological order from the people you followed.
This was great in the beginning, but as more users joined Twitter, it became nearly impossible to keep up with the thousands of Tweets one user would receive on their timeline in a day. This is why, as time went on, the Twitter algorithm was introduced.
How has the Twitter algorithm changed in 2020?
The biggest recent change to the Twitter algorithm happened in 2017 with the introduction of the relevance model, and replacing “While You Were Away” with “In Case You Missed It”.
As mentioned above, when you’re following hundreds, or even thousands, of Twitter accounts, it becomes impossible to catch up on all the posts you might have missed after being offline for a period of time. That’s why the changes from the major overhaul in 2017 still continue to resonate today with posts presented to users based on their relevance, determined at a high level by factors like the types of topics and authors that a given user engages with. Like all social media algorithms, the mix of factors identifying relevance is much more complex in practice and is constantly being refined.
Before we dive further into the details of the current Twitter algorithm, it’s important to recognize that:
The Twitter algorithm is constantly evolving.
The Twitter timeline is a mix of algorithmic content and real-time content.
You can turn off the Twitter algorithm in your own feed display if you want.
Understanding how the new Twitter algorithm works
While recency is still a major factor, since a large chunk of the feed is still presented chronologically, the Twitter algorithm does share some common themes with other social algorithms. Twitter’s curation means that content quality and connecting with your followers are still essential ways to help your posts get reach and visibility.
Current Twitter timeline ranking signals
Since the Twitter algorithm is always changing, Twitter, like many social platforms, doesn’t share a full breakdown of its algorithm. However, a Twitter blog post from 2017 helps highlight a few other things to keep in mind when planning your content for Twitter:
Recency: How recently a Tweet was published.
Engagement: Has to do with how many Retweets, clicks, favorites, and impressions a Tweet has received.
Rich Media: The type of media you include in your Tweets, such as images, videos, and GIFs.
Activity: Refers to how active a user is. For example, how long its been since the user was last on the site, how many followers they have and how much they use the platform.