Twitter Moments: What the new feature means for comms professionals

We’ve been waiting many months for a small lightning bolt to appear in the menu for the Twitter app in the UK, and today Twitter Moments finally launched. If you work in social media or an associated comms discipline then the launch will come as no surprise, but the key will be how regular Twitter users take to the news curation service.

It’s early days, but here’s a few initial thoughts both on usage and what it means for comms professionals. Quick disclosure, I know Joanna Geary, who is the UK lead on Twitter Moments, although haven’t spoken to her about the feature of my thoughts (and she probably deserves a good lie-in tomorrow).

Does it feel like a game changer?

In all honesty, probably not. But it is a very neat solution to one of the biggest issues Twitter has, which is trying to make sense of a narrative around a breaking news event. The interface is relatively smooth, and the narrative is easy to follow. 

The experience doesn’t feel a million miles away from Snapchat’s Discover, which is a very engaging news platform. Moments is aimed at a much broader age demographic than Discover, but there’ll be a level of familiarity for Snapchat users, and it requires a little less attention. Once people get used to Moments, it should prove a useful feature. It won’t change people’s perception of Twitter, but it will make following an event a little easier. 

Funnily enough, I started playing with Moments while watching Channel 4 News and followed the International Space Station story across both platforms. Moments won’t necessarily give you a level of depth than TV News gives you, but it rounds up everything you need to know in a quarter of the time. The two platforms are definitely complementary and enable you to skim through stories you have a passing interest in. And while there's plenty to question, overall I really like the feel and functionality.

There’s a couple of questions that still come to mind. The first is by adding an element of human editorial curation, you’re immediately adding human news values and biases. How will Moments read when the top trending news is a politically divisive story, such as the vote to bomb Syria or Donald Trump’s latest missive? Even within a platform with as diverse a set of voices as Twitter, achieving a balance could prove tricky.

The second is a suggestion from my old colleague Ben Ayers regarding localised Moments. In an age when local media is struggling due to cutbacks and competition from the internet, could a localised version of Moments make a real impact? It’s an experiment I’d love to see.

What does this mean for comms professionals in PR or brand marketing?

The most obvious area to watch is promoted Moments, which the company has said it will introduce to the UK early next year. It potentially offers a deeper experience for brand engagement than a promoted trend, while also potentially offering a cheaper alternative to advertising within Snapchat’s Discover (although demographics are obviously a big call on your decision here). If initial numbers look good for brands, this could be a good earner for Twitter.

It also raises a question for PR professionals. If your brand becomes the centre of a negative story on Twitter, and is curated in Twitter moments, how do you manage this? Certainly it places even more pressure on your responses on Twitter during a crisis, and I’m sure Twitter’s editorial team on Moments can expect a few calls over the coming months from PR professionals.

Finally, it seems unlikely that the Moments editorial team would select brand content over that from journalists or independent sources (unless the brand is integral to the story). Trying to get your message condensed into something news organisations can easily put out in 140 characters has never been more vital