Twitter: The GIF(t) that keeps on giving

Working in technology, you’d think I’d be difficult to surprise. On the TSG blog we’ve written about mind-blowing tech including the artificial intelligence (AI) that can beat humans at poker, as well as the future of AI and how threatening it will be to certain jobs.

And yet at iProspect’s Future Focus event, I was lost for words witnessing Google Duplex’s AI assistant place a call for a haircut and, later, try to reserve a table at a restaurant when the recipient was difficult. OK, so I wasn’t witnessing it live but rather via the medium of video, but I was still in total awe. Gone are the robotic, stilted tones of Siri, replaced by truly lifelike speech that can even mimic mannerisms like saying ‘um’ or ‘mmhmm’ in agreement. It’s my dream to place phone calls this way; I’ve got the standard millennial fear of phone calls.

Check out the video on my fellow delegate Kerry Liddell’s blog.

As a digital marketer in the technology sector, I devour events with content like this. The topics ranged from this incredible AI to chatbots, using targeted data to segment and personalise, Google AdWords and – arguably the most important to me – Twitter’s future focus.

I consider myself an early Twitter adopter. I remember discovering it while at Newcastle College 10 (TEN!) whole years ago, gleefully tweeting a friend from across the computer room. I remember when Twitter was text-only and couldn’t even handle URLs, because every character counted towards your 140-character limit.

Twitter has evolved from text-only musings and thoughts to a complete platform that can incorporate imagery, video and GIFs – my favourite feature – and has evolved into a breaking news platform. This shift was so huge that Twitter has moved from the ‘social media’ section of mobile app stores to the ‘news’ section. It still has its flaws, like its difficulty in managing abuse and its dogged refusal to add an ‘edit’ button to tweets – a feature users begged for that was overlooked for the controversial 280-character limit.

What interested me the most is the 48-hour natural interest window that Catherine Bennett of Twitter took us through. From a story – or, let’s face it, a great meme – ‘breaking’, its reach is often first widened by influencers. Then follows the ‘surge’, where the Twitter masses get talking about it, and finally the flow, where the initial excitement dies down and it becomes one of many conversational topics. 

As TSG’s social media editor, I found this fascinating. I trial tweeting at different times with different topics to gauge our best responses. For example, you might not want to read about our review of Dynamics NAV 2018 when you’re relaxing at 8pm at night, but you might be interested in one of our light-hearted blogs. We also jump onto a lot of breaking news stories in the technology world – for example our blog on the WannaCry attack that hit the NHS and thousands of businesses worldwide. I know that posting about this at peak times – when the attack broke, when the cause was identified, when the NHS was back up and running and at the time of the NHS-commissioned report into the breach – was likely to increase our impressions.

What’s really interesting is how Twitter is becoming something of a video-first medium too. it would have been inconceivable to share video content, be that embedded or hyperlinked, way back when Twitter started. And it arguably got into video slowly. First, YouTube links could be played natively in your tweet. Then it used external video providers like Periscope to allow you to share live video. Now it’s so sophisticated that users could watch 9 hours of TV-standard (i.e. not just a recording on Joe Bloggs’ iPhone) royal wedding coverage. This shift from external media sources like Twitpic and Periscope has set Twitter apart and allowed users to experience everything natively within Twitter.

We’ve embedded a few videos directly on Twitter, including our mannequin challenge…

Moments are also really valuable not only in keeping people on Twitter, but when it comes to our ever-decreasing attention spans. Why would you read a 1000-word article on a news topic when you could read 10 bite-sized tweets instead? I followed the football managerial merry-go-round of Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and Carlo Ancelotti via a Twitter Moment and trending topics. As a big football fan, I didn’t need to consume the long stories on all of their past clubs. That’s not to say that good journalism is going down the drain – I still thoroughly enjoy reading long think-pieces and interviews on football and beyond – but if you’re looking for the basics, Twitter moments have you covered for when you need easily consumable content.

I’m still an avid user of Twitter both professionally and personally, but there were features that even I wasn’t aware of, like clickable videos – instead of touching the video to play it, you touch it and go to a website, all while the video continues to play. We’ve also not dipped our toes into live video on Twitter yet at TSG. So follow us on Twitter and watch this space….