Why Your On-Site Twitter Feed Should Fly Away
There’s a great site out there that answers the question of whether you should have a carousel or slider on your homepage. I should probably do one for the oft-asked question, “Should I have a Twitter feed on my homepage?” because the answer is always the same:
Really, you don’t need to read any further. The truth has been told. Etch it in stone. But if you’re not convinced, allow me to provide some clear reasons why not.
Wrong Tool for the Job
How do you access Twitter, personally? On your phone using an app? Maybe on a desktop, visiting Twitter.com and signing in? Or do you browse from site to site, scrolling down the page to find the embedded Twitter feed?
I’m guessing one of the two former. In fact, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that 99 per cent of people log-in or use an app to access Twitter.
The first misconception is that people are regularly coming to your site for new content. That’s not what they’re looking for, nor is an expectation that they’ll find it. Instead, you want to use the right tool for the job and -- most importantly -- go where your audience is, as opposed to expecting them to act in a non-intuitive way.
Wrong Use of the Tool in the First Place
Most social media channels, Twitter included, are designed to draw people TO your content. You want to use your socials to put content options in front of your potential consumers’ faces -- and then provide them with an easy way click to key information pieces and transactional elements.
So don’t take people away from your site, when the goal of social is to draw people into your site by presenting them with relevant content in a way that best aligns with their expectations.
Is your primary audience even on Twitter? They could be. But sometimes not. Take for example, higher education. Are students following the Twitter feed of a school? Maybe. But are your prospective students even actually on Twitter?
We’ve done a lot of user research on this topic and Twitter and Facebook are seen as, to be blunt, old. The target audience for higher ed (right now) is on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. International students have told us that YouTube is one of their preferred sources of content.
You Can’t Control the Message
If you’re showing Tweets and Replies on your embedded feed, or including @ mentions, then you no longer control the message. If people are writing negative things about your organization, not only are you amplifying that messaging to your internal audience, but you’re providing tacit approval of that messaging by giving it a place of prominence on your home page.
You Lose Context
Limited interactivity on embedded Twitter widgets tends to only present the last few Tweets. It doesn’t allow for exploration of broader context of statements, responses, and interactions. So, outside of its native environment, it’s very easy to lose context of Tweets.
Twitter is not a great medium for context at the best of times, with 280 characters limiting what you can say and how. After all, you can’t say all that much in 56 words, but you certainly can misinterpret a lot with the absence of words.
You Highlight Your Inactivity
I follow approximately 750 people on my Twitter. I have about 860-ish friends (and “friends” -- you know, those colleagues, acquaintances, and business connections) on Facebook. Add in another 500-plus connections on LinkedIn and 180 people on Instagram -- not to mention all the others for the various business sites I manage in whole or in part -- and it’s safe to say I’m not going to notice right away if you take a break from posting. I’m not likely to form an opinion based on your lack of activity.
But if I come to your website and your Twitter stream is three weeks out of date, then I’m going to start making some judgements on your level of activity, your commitment to your engagement with your community, and your level of responsiveness. It may not be fair, but if you’re going to dedicate prime real estate to something, then I’m going to assume it’s an important part of your business. And if you take a break from that, what I am supposed to think about your dedication to other “key” items?
And if you employ a strategy wherein you’re posting similar messages multiple times over a day (understanding that the visible Twitter window for most users is very short), you run the risk of repetition appearing on your embedded feed. As bad as two weeks without a Tweet can be, seeing four or five of the same Tweets in sequence -- without the normal breaks that native Twitter apps allow by including other conversations -- is worse.
You’re Creating a Problem that Doesn’t Need to be Solved, As Opposed to Trying to Solve the Problem that Actually Exists
What are you really trying to solve? Do you want people to know you have Twitter? Then add social icons to your page (and include ones that your audience is actually using!). Are you trying to make it easy for people to share your content? Then embed social media sharing icons on your content in a way that allows them to quickly and easily one-click share relevant information.
If you’re trying to get people to see key content that you share on your Twitter feed, then understand two things: if people are interested in your Twitter feed, they’ll follow you on Twitter. And if the content is really that important, then it should be reflected not in an embedded feed, but rather through appropriate use of calls to action, news items, and other methods of distributing content (e.g. email newsletters).
Unless You’re a News Aggregator, No One’s Coming to Your Site for News
One of the great fallacies that organizations hold about homepages is that users regularly visit those pages. That’s generally just not the case. Instead, your homepage is often a first entry for naive users. And that’s if they get to the homepage at all.
Most people (around 70 per cent if you believe in statistics) access content through Search -- primarily Google. They may never even get to your homepage and, often, shouldn’t go to your homepage. Instead, a well optimized site will drive users to the content areas they need that align with the problems they’re trying to solve and the information they want.
In our experience, it’s safe to say the only people who are coming to the homepage and looking for updates are those who work at the organization. And even then, it’s usually only the people tasked with updating content and their managers. The average person doesn’t interact with content that way.
All Risk; No Reward
In all our years of discussing Twitter feed embeds, we’ve yet to have one argument that provides significant benefit to the end user. In fact, as outlined above, embedding a Twitter feed contains significant risk to your organization (from uncontrolled messaging, to taking people off your page, to the not insignificant appropriation of valuable real estate that could be better used by other, more relevant to your audience, calls to action).
All risk, no reward? It doesn’t seem like something I’d want on my site.
Twitter feeds on your business or organization’s site? To quote Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “don’t do it.”
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