Twitter Engage Is Not for You, Unless You’re Obama or Bieber
Are you a thinkfluencer? Is your engagement through the roof? How’s your Klout score? If you can answer those questions, or even read them all without retching, you’re exactly the target audience for a new app from Twitter. It’s called Engage, and it’s meant to make it much easier to be super popular. Thank goodness.
The new app looks clean and simple—unlike, say, any other Twitter app on the planet. It has three tabs: One for your posts, one for analytics, and one for tracking the other influential people who are following you or engaging with your tweets. (There’s no Moments section, which might be the app’s best feature.) Anyone can download it, but Twitter Engage is not meant for you or me. It’s meant for Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, and the rest of the celebrities on Twitter who have really never been able to engage with the platform because for every interesting tweet there are 65,000 people just tweeting “dad.” Twitter seems to almost want to create a mini-Twitter for the one percent, so they can talk to and follow each other without the noise of the commoners. It’s very much like the Facebook Mentions app, which makes it easy for public figures to talk to their fans and see what’s being said about them on Facebook.
Today’s big news for the rest of us is in video. Twitter’s competing with Snapchat, Facebook, and a host of other platforms to be the place you upload video, and it’s now trying to make that both easier and more lucrative. Starting today, users can share 140-second videos (it was 30 seconds before), and there’s a new auto-generated playlist page that will drop you into a continuous stream of videos.
In case you forgot, Twitter already owns a video-first social network: Vine. Just like Twitter’s always been defined by its 140-character limit, Vine’s always been about the six-second videos. And just like Twitter, Vine’s blowing that up. Now, users can connect a Vine to a 140-second video, so six-second shenanigans become like a link or a trailer—you’ll see Vines as you scroll through the app, but you can easily click into something longer. (And thus more advertising-friendly.) Only a view Viners can do this so far, but it’ll be expanding to others soon.
All these changes are about the same thing: making it more compelling for celebrities and power users to stay on Twitter. Twitter has ceded ground to Instagram, Snapchat, and elsewhere in part because those platforms lend themselves so well to advertising (#sp), offer robust analytics, and offer more freedom than a few characters or seconds allow. Vines are just too short for real money-making, and Twitter is the same chaotic mess for Taylor Swift as it is for you—except Taylor has way more followers than you do. Homegrown stars are a core component of any social platform, the reason you stay there instead of going somewhere else. Twitter doesn’t have many of those.
Twitter also wants to be the place where content lives, not just the place where it spreads. (Every time someone changes their Twitter avatar to their Snapchat code, I imagine Jack Dorsey cries just a little.) And hey, if entire football games can live in a tweet, so can 140-second cat videos. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll get a few people out of Snapchat and off Facebook Live and back to sharing stuff on Twitter.