Twitter has decided to take your timeline into its own hands and show you tweets from accounts you don’t follow.
The social media giant, which has long been experimenting with our timelines by inserting promoted tweets and other suggestions into them, said in a blog post that it will soon be throwing in tweets from strangers.
Trevor O’Brien, of Twitter’s product team, writes:
One of our goals for experimentation is to continue improving your home timeline. After all, that’s the best way to keep up with everything happening in your world. Choosing who to follow is a great first step — in many cases, the best Tweets come from people you already know, or know of. But there are times when you might miss out on Tweets we think you’d enjoy. To help you keep up with what’s happening, we’ve been testing ways to include these Tweets in your timeline — ones we think you’ll find interesting or entertaining.
For example, we recently ran experiments that showed different types of content in your timeline: recommended Tweets, accounts and topics. Testing indicated that most people enjoy seeing Tweets from accounts they may not follow, based on signals such as activity from accounts you do follow, the popularity of the Tweets, and how people in your network interact with them. These experiments now inform the timeline you see today. (See our help center to learn more about what’s in your timeline.)
Some timeline experiments never make it to 100% of users. The ones that do aim to make the experience more interesting and relevant. As the timeline evolves, we will continue to show you Tweets you care about when they matter most.
But to be honest, this isn’t really all that shocking. Twitter has been messing with our timelines in the name of “helping us discover tweets or accounts” for a while, and back in August, one user spotted this new experiment when it was still supposed to be hush hush. It also introduced the “mute” button back in May to better tailor timelines, though users soon found out they couldn’t mute promoted content, sadly.
Speaking of promoted content, Twitter has also been tweaking our timelines by adding paid content such as promoted tweets and accounts, as well as content we might want to purchase from such as via the #AmazonCart hashtag or Twitter’s upcoming “Buy” button.
The idea of showing you tweets from accounts your network follows seems to be purely about increasing your engagement with the service. As the company itself said, while you can be pretty good at following the accounts you want to follow, you’re also likely to miss out on some that you’d benefit from following.
And obviously there are financial incentives for Twitter to want you to interact more with its service. It could, for example, leverage this free “promotion” to entice people or brands to shell out money to boost their reach — “look, so many more folks out there like your stuff, you should really consider spending some money with us!”
Higher engagement numbers could also mean more ad dollars.