When social media first started, it was common to showcase content by chronological order. As the popularity and number of social media users increased, so did the number of post created every second. In time, many social networks switch to using algorithms to decide the order of posts shown. These switches were rarely popular and Twitter users have been among the most vocal in their displeasure. In a compromise on the issue, Twitter is rolling out a "Show Latest Tweets" button to give users the option to see posts chronologically.
Though it can be frustrating to social media marketers and users, it makes sense for social networks to use an algorithm to decide which posts to show. Every minute, there are thousands of potential tweets to show on users' Twitter feeds. Using an algorithm helps Twitter show the Tweets that are most likely to illicit engagement. However, many users complained about the new algorithm, and Twitter eventually gave in to the pressure.
Twitter first announced their plans to bring back a chronological feature in September. It's taken a few months, but the "Show Latest Tweets" button has rolled out the iOS app and should be on Android soon.
On Dec. 18th, the company tweeted, "New on iOS! Starting today, you can tap to switch between the latest and top Tweets in your timeline. Coming soon to Android."
The nature of Twitter can make a chronological view preferable to many users. If someone is using Twitter to keep up with the latest news around a fast-moving topic, then they probably want to see the most recent Tweets first. And when people post a lot of Tweets very often, showcasing more popular Tweets instead of more recent ones can confuse people. Imagine someone Tweets something that gets a high initial response, but they later post another Tweet that negates the older one. An algorithm would show the older Tweet because of the higher engagement, even though the newer Tweet is more relevant. An algorithm can't tell the difference.
There was also a sentiment among some Twitter users (and social media users in general) that allowing an algorithm to control a user's feed gives the social network a lot of control over what the user sees. This has led to claims of censorship and favoritism when some Twitter users get their posts prominently showcased while others never see any engagement. Giving users the option for a chronological feed lets Twitter keep everyone happy.
The return of a chronological posts option is also good news for business owners and marketers. Social networks have an incentive to reduce the organic reach of content from businesses. First, there are so many Tweets from businesses, users who see posts chronologically will be sifting through a lot of Tweets from businesses before they see content from family and friends. And Twitter also wants to sell promoted Tweets to businesses, so making advertising the best way to get content in front of a Twitter audience is in the company's interest. But with chronological feeds, marketers can be smart about their post timing to maximize viewership.
Choosing the best times to post on Twitter can be tricky. When the feed is determined by an algorithm, there's little that can be done to decide when posts are seen (other than buy ads). However, even when posts are displayed chronologically, if everyone is posting at the exact same time, then there's a good chance that the content will get lost in the mess. Try posting a little before the start or end the most popular times for your target audience to be on Twitter. This will put your content in feeds during the best times, but reduces the risk that it will be lost in a sea of posts from the same time.
It's also worthwhile to avoid posting at the exact hour or half hour marks. A lot of people schedule posts to go out exact at 12:00 or at 12:30, but if there are thousands of posts being created at those times, then many Tweets are likely to be lost in the mix. By posting at 12:10 or 12:39, there will be less content being shared at that exact moment, so there's less competition. It may not make a huge difference, but every little bit helps.
As marketers head into 2019, they should track their Twitter statistics to see how the return of a chronological option affects engagement. The "Show Latests Tweets" button could require a shift in strategy for social media marketers.
For more recent news about social media marketing, read this article on Facebook's latest test of search ads on the platform.