Twitter’s recent design tweaks make users more active

Twitter might not be able to effectively monetize its off-platform influence, and its user growth may be slowing. But it has been able to extract more value from the users it does have, mostly due to a redesign it unleashed last fall.

When Twitter unveiled its new look last October, much of the media attention was around how photos and videos would be automatically displayed within users’ Twitter streams, whereas previously users had to click on a link and visit a separate webpage to see photos shared on Twitter. This change displayed them directly in users’ Twitter streams, allowing Twitter to sell de facto banner ads.

But a less conspicuous design tweak introduced at the same time seems to have had a large impact, as well: Twitter also brought to the forefront its favorite, follow, reply and retweet buttons — allowing users to click on those buttons without first clicking on the tweet — and the frequency of those actions has increased drastically since.

Data collected on more than 11,000 Twitter accounts by ad tech firm Socialbakers shows that the average number of interactions per month — favorites, replies, retweets — increased to 27,653 in June 2014 from 17,098 in June 2013, a 61.7 percent jump.

Brand accounts saw their number of interactions more than double — 1,801 to 3,961 — over this time period, while media companies saw their already high interaction rate, 19,541 last June, increase 159 percent to 50,701 interactions this June.

Interaction increases were considerably larger right after the redesign. From September to October 2013, media Twitter accounts increased their number of monthly interactions by only 421 and brand accounts by 215. Media and brand accounts respectively saw 3,360 and 519 more interactions in November than they did in October, however.

The redesign appears to have been the engagement catalyst Twitter thought it would be.

Engagement is more than just a buzzword for Twitter, too: Because promoted tweets are priced on a cost-per-engagement, they only generate revenue for Twitter when users click, favorite, reply or retweet them.

“Ad revenue growth also continues to be remarkably strong, and accelerating to 129 percent year-over-year. That growth is primarily driven by higher engagement, which translates into improved ROI for our marketers,” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said Tuesday during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

Twitter’s CFO Mike Gupta added that the company’s growth in total number of engagements (250 percent) outpaced its revenue growth of 129 percent.

The impact of increased engagement is that brands might actually be able to trust Twitter users to amplify their tweets for them, a compelling proposition in light of decreased reach on Facebook.

“The recent changes they’ve done to the platform make it more attractive to advertisers,” Juuso Myllyrinne, global strategy director for TBWA Digital Arts Network, told Digiday. “Each of those interactions creates a ripple for other people to see. Compared to Facebook likes, engagement is on the most valid end of vanity metrics.”

Image via Giphy