Twitter Fleets, Not So Fleeting

Digitas

Twitter Fleets, Not So Fleeting

Allie Wassum, Rebecca Bailey, Chelsea Hamilton, Baylor Tyrie

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • After months of testing, Twitter introduced “Fleets,” a version of Stories which lives at the top of users' feeds and disappears after 24 hours, with no ability for public commentary or sharing
  • In the first 24 hours, we’ve already seen an increase in DMs (in response to Fleets), a decrease in anonymity and a more positive vibe to the Twitter feed, so we’re likely to see this format stick

OVERVIEW

Twitter introduces Fleets with mixed reviews, but loads of early adoption

First introduced by Snapchat in 2013, copied by Instagram in 2016, and most recently duplicated by LinkedIn in 2020, Stories have now arrived in our mobile Twitter feeds. Twitter incorporated this new format for the same reasons as others, to lower the barrier to entry to participate and create, thereby increasing time spent on the platform.  

As with any change, Fleets was met first with haters, with the main criticisms being:

  1. People questioning why the user experience is exactly the same as other platforms
  2. Users wondering why GIFs, stickers, lenses, music and other staples of Stories on Snapchat / Instagram aren’t replicated in the Twitter experience
  3. People frustrated about how glitchy the launch was

…but we’re already seeing wide-spread adoption as more experienced Twitter users dive in to create more casual conversations. As such we expect Fleets to stick.

A tactfully facilitated change to increase participation

“Instead of Tweeting, [the majority of] people follow along silently or just lurk. We see people draft tweets and don’t send them, and Fleets will create a lower-pressure way for people to join the conversation,” said Joshua Harris, Twitter’s Director of Design. Twitter’s been testing this new format for months in Brazil, Italy, South Korea, and India and they found just that - users feel more comfortable sharing and joining conversations especially because the format is familiar -- users who have posted an Instagram story already know how to post a Fleet. Further, users with access to the beta version posted more often than those who did not.

Long term, the negativity inherent in our Twitter feeds is likely to decline as Fleets are adopted. Why?

  1. Tactically, when users respond to a Fleet it appears in the creator’s Direct Messages. Power users are already starting to see their DMs blow up and side conversations become more vibrant and less polarized. (It’s noteworthy that brands have the ability to turn off responses to Fleets, in accordance with their traditional direct messaging settings.)
  2. Long-term the visual nature of Fleets will breed personalization, making people less likely to hide behind the anonymity of text-only tweets.
  3. Ephemerality will provide an outlet for controversial content to live that doesn’t drive back and forth arguments in-feed.

Brands who embrace Fleets will succeed

For these reasons, brands that experiment with Fleets are likely to be met with positivity, making the risk of using them low. Given the ability to repurpose content from other platforms and share tweets in Fleets, the cost to entry is low. Early adopters tend to achieve the highest reach & accolades, making the potential impact high.

Brands have already used this as a chance to showcase the behind-the-scenes of their processes, like Morning Brew’s story.

While others have used it as a chance to feature tweets from in-feed or repurpose content from TikTok or Instagram Stories.

No matter how you cut it, Fleets will add personality to the feed and allow brands to connect in even more meaningful ways with users. For now, Fleets are an organic-only placement, with no indication yet of the platform’s plans to monetize. Though if we know anything from previous players, we can suspect paid Fleets at some point early 2021.

Fleets give brands another avenue to join trending social conversations and be there for customers. Imagine your brand Fleeting a frequently asked question from a user tweet and answering it in the subsequent Fleets. In this way, brands can help deepen personal connections with followers of the page. 

THE DETAILS

When to Fleet & when to Tweet

When considering the use of Fleets on a brand account, there are four key elements that will differentiate this format from in-feed Tweets: ephemerality, sequence, containment, and visual appeal.

Ephemerality: Lasting only 24 hours, Fleets provide the opportunity to share content without the weight of maintaining a lasting home on a brand page. This is prime for sharing timely content centered around a specific holiday, event, or trending topic.

Sequence: Fleets appear in the order they are posted at the top of user feeds. Brands should utilize this opportunity, as they do with Stories on other social platforms, to seize top of feed real estate that delivers their content in tandem with other users' Stories. 

Containment: In their infancy, Fleets are relatively stand-alone. When an account posts a Fleet, there is no option for other users to share or, as one may presume it would be called, re-Fleet. Additionally, Fleets remain free from public commentary, as private message replies are the only possible interaction, and even they can be disabled. This privacy can be used to a brand’s advantage, by sharing content, such as a question, that encourages private responses.

Visual appeal: Available on Mobile only, Fleets are the first full screen publishing option for Twitter, making them optimal for short form, vertical video pieces. Brands should also utilize in-platform features when publishing a Fleet, incorporating text and emojis in a manner that feels natural to the format and the viewers.

Ultimately, with all four of the above benefits considered, the goal of brand Fleets should be to drive awareness and favorability by sharing content that is lighthearted, timely, easily digestible, or all of the above.

Allie Wassum, Rebecca Bailey, Chelsea Hamilton, Baylor Tyrie

Allie Wassum is VP/Group Director, Social Strategy; Chelsea Hamilton is Senior Associate, Social Strategy; Rebecca Bailey & Baylor Tyrie  are Associates, Social Strategy. 

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