Moments - Twitter's last chance?

Almost a year ago Twitter announced an upcoming feature it was working on that could be the biggest rethink of how the platform works since it launched. It was known as Project Lightning. Yesterday, returning CEO Jack Dorsey released it to the world under then new moniker of “Moments”. One has to wonder whether even Twitter knew, 10 months ago, how important this would be for the survival of the social network itself.

What is Moments?

Moments was birthed out of Twitter’s hack week in January – where employees set aside their normal jobs to get creative. Two product designers, Alli Dryer and Wayne Fan, recognised a frustration that there was a certainty that some tweets out there were better than the ones you were seeing but that there was no way to find them. This was a problem they decided to solve.

After months of prototyping, Moments was created. A Moment is a collection of curated tweets (mostly of a visual nature) to help you catch up on trends and events. Twitter, and third party media partners such as Buzzfeed, are curating the moments themselves. On the new Moments tab (which will be rolled out to those outside the US over time) displays top stories, organised by editorial teams. Users here can view tweets/photos/videos that are most relevant and noteworthy, regardless of whether the user follows them or not.

Like a news app Moments offers a range of topics – news, sport, entertainment, and fun (see: World Beard and Moustache Championships). Each topic comprises of 10 or so tweets that fill you in. You can then swipe through each item, favouriting or sharing them at will.

There’s also the “temporary follow”. If you see an event that interests you then you can follow it and the curated tweets will appear in your timeline. Once the event is over these will disappear from your feed, leaving you clutter free.

Finally, there are "evergreen” stories – moments that take place over weeks or months around a certain topic, such as surfing or a sports season.

It’s important to note though that Twitter is positioning this as something that won’t interfere with users who like the good ol’ style. If you’re already a power user you probably won’t use Moments much at all. Instead this is for the casual, lapsed users.

Why is Twitter launching this now?

This is a critical time for Twitter. As I’ve written in the past, Twitter’s growth is stagnating. It’s failed to grow its user base beyond 300 million. It’s unclear how the platform will turn a profit without growing, and advertisers are indicating they may start moving more money back to Facebook or to Instagram.

The cause for this is just as Dryer and Fan identified – many users find Twitter overwhelming. The non-filtered approach to content means that many find “catching up” on just a day’s content a chore. On the other hand, there are many avid users who absolutely love this aspect of the platform. It’s an information overload that some are addicted to and some are put off by. The risk is that Twitter is already reaching its saturation point with that former audience group.

Moments is how Twitter hopes to appeal to the disillusioned and the bemused. It’s possibly the final hope for the brand to make itself useful and appealing to the other audience. To grow properly for the first time in years.

What does this mean for brands?

From a quality standpoint this puts the pressure on – brands, more than ever, will need to release standout and topical content to get on the radar of curators.

It also makes influencer engagement incredibly important. With media partners helping curate some of the moments, being on journalist radars will be essential if you plan on getting them to add your content in.

Lastly, advertising. Twitter is not launching Moments with adverts, but it’s in the pipeline. Twitter will have one promoted Moment a day – lasting for 24 hours. There are already a number of undisclosed brands signed up to this – each awaiting their slot. This means that if there is a brand launch or event that won’t, on its own merit, be curated already, a company can instead hire the slot for the day and ensure that they are seen by both power and casual users of the platform.

There’s no doubt that the launch of Moments is huge for the company, it will hopefully mark a turnaround that sees the platform rise back to its former glory. Twitter, investors and brands will be watching closely over the next few weeks.