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Will Twitter’s flutter with ‘Fleets’ pay off?

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Posted: 09/03/2020 Written by: Matt Stott and Naomi Day

As a well-established social media platform, Twitter has enjoyed more than a decade of success through a careful blend of originality, consistency and innovation.

Twitter’s latest attempt to keep in line with current trends is to trial ‘Fleets’ – tweets which automatically disappear after 24 hours, never to be commented on, retweeted, or seen again – will it see the same success as similar social media platforms, or is it too late?  Or should Twitter even try to follow the crowd?

 

As a well-established social media platform, Twitter has enjoyed more than a decade of success through a careful blend of originality, consistency and innovation. It has stayed true to its roots while keeping abreast of rivals and emerging technology. Indeed, Facebook was forced into accepting ’trends’ and ‘pinned posts’ as features, whilst LinkedIn (eventually) incorporated hashtags.

 

But the news that Twitter is going to trial ‘Fleets’  is a marked shift towards following the crowd. The social media trendsetter appears to be inverting its own values. One wonders the thinking behind wanting to copy Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook with these ephemeral posts into the Twittersphere.

 

The trending ironic #RIPTwitter is therefore not a surprise with users questioning where the idea of Fleets originated.

 

However, it is worth remembering that it has staved off, survived and even thrived after similar controversy in the past. Think: doubling the tweet characters to 280, last year’s interface redesign, how Moments became vertical threads instead of horizontal timelines. Even Periscope, although less successful, has stood the test of time. Would it not just be easier to add a simple ‘edit’ button on tweets?

 

But these were largely original innovations or adaptations. Are Fleets really needed? What’s the appeal? Where’s the demand? Could this be appealing to the likes of James Gunn who was recently sacked by Disney for a historic tweet of his? It may even be a responsible move that tweets have less longevity, with the hope of reducing the social media impact on people’s lives.

 

Perhaps there are better ways for Twitter to innovate. How about a ‘breaking the bubble’ newsfeed option, where oft-criticised echo chambers that reinforce beliefs are replaced by different ideological views that may surprisingly resonate. How about incorporating Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Reality?

 

Whatever happens with Fleets, we’ll wait for the jury to return their verdict on the current trial in Brazil before judging. We’ll certainly look to experiment with the feature if it is rolled out in the UK and assess impact results. It will be interesting to see if the initial tide of criticism performs a U-turn. It may well yet become a cornerstone of our social media strategies – but we’re not holding our collective breath.

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