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The 2021 Twitter updates you need to know about

As it celebrates 15 years since the first tweet, Twitter continues to be an innovator in social media. It’s a rapid-fire source of news, jokes, viral trends, and so much more depending on who you follow and how you want to use the platform.

For marketers, it’s also one of many places to deliver top-notch customer service, and with the right strategy to increase Twitter engagement it can be a vital piece of the overall marketing puzzle.

As the social media landscape continues to change, Twitter adapts with the times and the requests of its users. There are new changes on the horizon, too, as we look at the updates and features that are being rolled out in 2021.

Previous updates:

Twitter Prepares to Relaunch Verification

A blue checkmark is a Twitter status symbol that’s highly sought-after by many users. And soon, those can get another chance to apply to have their accounts verified with that coveted blue checkmark.

But if you’re not sure that your account qualifies, don’t hold your breath. The requirements to get verified are rather strict, and the announcement of upcoming verification came after Twitter removed many blue checks from accounts that were either inactive or incomplete, per its updated verification policy.

To get verified, an account must be from one of these categories:

  1. Government

  2. Companies, brands and non-profit organizations

  3. News

  4. Entertainment

  5. Sports

  6. Activists, organizers, and other influential individuals

Most people who aren’t sure if their account qualifies would fall under “other influential individuals”, and to that end there are additional qualifications that Twitter has laid out:

So, if you’ve been waiting for another chance to get a blue checkmark, that opportunity may soon come. But if your account is on the fringe of those requirements, prepare to be disappointed.

Twitter acquires podcast app, plans to improve Clubhouse rival

Twitter is becoming more serious about audio based on a couple of recent moves.

At the end of 2020, Twitter debuted the beta version of its Spaces feature, which is an audio-only chat function created as an answer Clubhouse. Then, in early 2021, Twitter acquired podcast listening app Breaker, with the possible intent of incorporating Breaker’s functionalities to improve Spaces, which was reportedly buggy early on.

Breaker, which shut down as a standalone app in January, is meant as a more social way to listen to podcasts, including liking episodes and an updated feed of your connections’ podcast listening habits. The Breaker team is now expected to work on Spaces to bolster that feature and make it a true podcast listening destination and a potential rival to Clubhouse, which is a popular standalone audio-only chat app.

Tweet through it, with Twitter’s content strategy guide

In order to help marketers plan their content throughout the year, the company released a 2021 Twitter planner as an editable PDF.

It includes pages to create marketing personas and a calendar that helps plan for upcoming hashtag holidays and other national or international events. However, as a PDF it doesn’t integrate with the tools you’re already using.

For a social media holiday calendar that integrates with your current calendar, try Emplifi's social media holiday calendar.

New year, new look

After five years since its last rebrand, Twitter decided it was time for a change.

Twitter’s Leslie Berland announced that the brand no longer exemplified the complexity that makes up its users. With that in mind, the company debuted a slightly altered logo and typeface that’s meant to reflect the intentional imperfection of the brand.

Twitter removes Ads Transparency Center

A feature that was meant to help provide more clarity for those researching ad campaigns, Twitter has eliminated its Ads Transparency Center.

The feature, which was not heavily used, was primarily designed to provide transparency into political and issue-related ads. Since those types of ads were banned in October 2019, the feature lost much of its usefulness and the company decided to sunset it.

You can read more about gathering historical data on political ads on business.twitter.com.

Twitter acquires newsletter service Revue

In an effort to help writers “monetize their audience”, Twitter acquired Revue, a free newsletter service that allows anyone to create and publish editorial newsletters.

One of the goals of bringing Revue into the Twitter umbrella is to make it easier for writers to connect directly with, and grow, their audience.

Twitter updates 2020

Goodbye SMS accounts

Have you noticed a significant drop in followers recently? If so, it’s probably because Twitter has decided to switch off millions of accounts linked to SMS services. In fact, popular Twitter accounts with a million or more followers may see a drop of 8-10% in their total audience due to the ax of SMS service. 

In April, Twitter announced the vulnerabilities linked to SMS and has since decided to purge the accounts altogether. The privacy concern is linked to a method of swapping SIM cards and even the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, was hacked via an SMS-connected system. 

SMS tweets are not commonly used by the majority of Twitter users, therefore the impact is expected to be minimal. However, the implications for users in developing countries may prove to be much larger as SMS service is far more prevalent in these regions.

Keep track of your comments  

Searching for old comments on Twitter can be, well, impossible. Luckily, the platform has recognized this downfall and has implemented a listing specifically for ‘Retweets with Comments’ – on iOS at least. 

The newest listing feature no longer considers retweets with comments to be a unique tweet, which previously excluded comments from the total retweet count. Instead, listings now include two separate categories to make finding comments easier than ever before. 

Furthermore, the additional retweets added to the total tweet count may boost many users’ engagement status. If you’re an Android user, don’t worry! This listing feature is being tested on Android devices as well and should be rolled out before the end of the year. 

New and improved camera features 

If you’re an established Twitter user, you probably recall last year when the platform rolled out a larger image size and colorful caption panels for the platform’s native camera features. However, the 2019 update turned out to be a flop and Twitter is now withdrawing the previous changes and adding a few tweaks. 

For example, users can now add up to four images captured via the native camera, and reply and retweet with photos and videos. Additionally, the large image size and colorful captions are gone as the company focuses its attention on Fleets (the Twitter Story feature)

Although the camera changes aren’t so much new as they are improved, Twitter users now have more options when tweeting photos, videos, or using gifs. 

Limit who can reply

Gone are the days of unsolicited replies on Twitter as users can now choose who has the ability to reply to their updates. The platform now offers users three different privacy settings for replies, which include 'Everyone' (standard Twitter, and the default setting), 'Only people you follow', or 'Only people you mention'.

While the latter two settings will restrict those who can reply, it will not control others from being able to view, retweet, retweet with comment, and like these tweets. The latest addition to privacy control will give users greater control over unsolicited responses and encourage a more positive user experience. 

However, the feature will also extend to brand accounts, meaning that companies may have the ability to deflect criticism on the platform. To avoid openly biased feedback, Twitter has flagged all tweets where replies have been restricted to provide further transparency over the control. 

Schedule tweets on desktop 

Saving and scheduling tweets is one of the most convenient features of Twitter mobile – but did you know that you can now do it on a desktop? That’s right, the Twitter desktop app now allows users to draft unfinished tweets and schedule others. The pinnacle of convenience, if you ask me! 

However, there is a catch. The desktop version will only be accessible via desktop or mobile web. This means drafts created on mobile will not be available on the desktop app. Although the company hopes to eventually have both platforms drafts synchronized, it is not yet possible. 

Read it before you tweet it 

In a bid to slow the spread of misinformation, the Twitter platform has introduced a new feature on Android that prompts users to open an article link before retweeting it. This encourages users to actually read the content before sharing it with others. 

Many social media users get sucked into controversial headlines or provocative news coverage before even opening the link, often leading to heated and counterintuitive debates on the platform. To empower users to have informed discussions, Twitter is taking an extra step to promote reading content. 

Tweet your voice with audio clips

Want to share a story? Audio tweet it. Need to ask your followers a question? Audio tweet it. Have a burning desire to share your singing voice? Audio tweet it. You can see where we’re going with this. 

Twitter has just recently launched audio clips in Tweets for iOS, allowing users to share a 140-second voice recording on the platform. But don’t worry, if you need more time a new audio clip tweet starts automatically to create a thread once you’ve reached the time limit. 

Users can use this feature to share an entire monologue or explain ideas in detail without the fear of being cut off. Although some worry that audio clips may open up a can of worms for trolls on the platform, many users are excited to share not only their thoughts but voice with Twitter. 

Find more of what you love with lists 

Twitter rolled out a list search, which provides more options for users to follow topics and discover new content. Users can even search for list recommendations by searching for a topic or title related to the content. 

The list suggestions are comprised of accounts you follow, the things you and they tweet about, and the lists you are currently following. This way, users will be presented with relevant content while exploring what’s popular or trending. 

Hold that tweet and add another 

Users have long wanted an edit button for tweets, but for many reasons, including the implications of a politician going back and changing their stance, that won’t happen.

However, in February Twitter released a new feature allowing users to add tweets to preceding tweets. This tool encourages users to discuss complex topics and create longer threads.

Twitter announced that the addition of tweets is the closest they’ll get to allowing edits to be made to previous statements shared on the platform #accountability. 

Twitter stories – Fleets 

Twitter has finally jumped on the stories bandwagon and plans to unveil their own version, called Fleets, this year. Unlike tweets, users will not receive likes, replies, or retweets on shared Fleets.

Rather, the video will self-delete after 24 hours, the same as story functions on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. The new video-sharing feature is currently being tested in Brazil before being implemented worldwide.

The company hopes to eventually progress the tool to have categories such as ‘Close Friends’ or hashtag groups, but for now, users can look forward to simply using Twitter stories for their fleeting thoughts. 

Don't @ me 

That’s right, Twitter won’t allow users to mention you without your permission. This is a feature created to protect users from abuse or harassment on the platform.

It also enables users to keep a lower profile on Twitter without becoming entirely private. This provides more control over communication and saves users space, no longer requiring the infamous “don’t @ me” line.

This level of privacy and control that Twitter is striving for in 2020 is a major overhaul to the way we communicate on social media. 

Goodbye retweet 

Similar to the previous feature, users will soon have the option to decide if others can retweet their tweet. This gives users more control on who can see their post.

In an age where social media lacks privacy, this may be a refreshing feature for those who genuinely want to use the platform to keep certain things to close friends or a specific audience. 

Tweet to categories

Do you ever feel like your tweet isn’t reaching your intended audience? Twitter is striving to make tweets more relevant by implementing a feature that allows users to direct their tweet towards a certain hashtag, interest, or group of friends.

While this feature may drive more higher-performing conversations, it also poses the most risk for abuse. The semiprivate nature of tweeting only to particular categories resembles similar characteristics of private Facebook groups, in which it’s harder to penalize bad behavior like spreading misinformation.

Twitter Updates 2019

Hate-free zone

Against the backdrop of escalating violence towards religious minorities worldwide, Twitter announced that the platform would no longer tolerate dehumanizing speech against religious groups. 

The company took steps to protect the Twitter community by updating their safety guidelines to ban hateful speech on the basis of religion. Twitter insisted that previous tweets breaking the new rule would need to be taken down, however they would not lead to a user account suspension.  

Desktop revamp 

Finally, Twitter heard the cries of frustrated desktop users and gave Twitter.com a polished new look. The redesign of the website offers users simpler navigation with more features.

For example, desktop users now have access to an explore page, enabling dark mode, and creating bookmarks and lists. These new features allow users to more easily discover, share, and save personalized content. 

Follow a topic

Twitter is a crowded place for content. It’s often a challenge for both users and content creators to find each other.

Thankfully, Twitter noticed the struggle and took steps to correct it through a new feature called Topics. Just like trending topics, users can choose what they’re interested in and follow the thread, however this new feature has more options than solely what’s trending.

So if you’re not into viral cats or pop culture, there’s a topic for you. It’s similar to following an account, but when you follow a topic you’ll only see the top performing tweets about things you love. 

Out of sight, out of mind

Twitter released a new feature allowing users to hide replies to their tweets, giving users more control over conversations. This new tool was developed to ward off trolls and keep conversations uninterrupted.

Twitter is still working with a few developers on creating a faster, more efficient way of hiding replies automatically. Understandably, there has also been some user backlash as this new feature can be seen as a way to silence criticism.

The gift of gifs

Just in time for the 2019 holiday season, Twitter started supporting the conversion of iOS Live photos to gifs. While it’s not a major change to the platform, it does improve the convenience of easily posting and sharing gifs.

Sometimes it's the little things that count.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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