Learn the Keys to Understanding Twitter’s Algorithm
What Is the Twitter Algorithm and Its Changes Throughout History?
The Twitter algorithm is a set of rules and calculations used by the platform to determine the tweets displayed in a user’s home feed. This algorithm takes into account various factors to determine the relevance of tweets, such as activity, interests, popularity and the relationship of users, to maximize their experience on the social network.
Twitter’s algorithm has evolved over the years to achieve this ranking process. Twitter started by displaying the most recent tweets in reverse chronological order in 2006. Then, the company implemented the “Highlights” feature, which displayed the most popular and relevant tweets from the people you followed in 2009.
Years later, in 2014 Twitter introduced recommended topics, authors and tweets; a year later in 2015, it introduced the “While You Were Gone” algorithm, which showed users the most relevant tweets posted since their last visit. In 2016, Twitter completely changed its algorithm to show users the most relevant tweets in their timelines based on their interests and activity on the platform.
In 2019, Twitter introduced the “Topics” feature, allowing users to follow and participate in conversations on specific topics.
Elon Musk and Twitter's New 2023 Recommendation Algorithm
In 2023, current Twitter owner Elon Musk recently shared the code for Twitter’s recommendation algorithm via the GitHub portal. The reason for this action is mainly due to the criticism that the “For You” and “Following” tabs have received, as some considered irrelevant recommendations.
Twitter’s new algorithm analyzes the popularity of tweets based on several factors, such as user activity, interaction with other users and the popularity of the tweet.
With this latest update, before a tweet is displayed in people’s home feeds, the system evaluates the likelihood that the user will interact directly with the account that posted the tweet in the future. This is done to offer a more personalized and relevant user experience on Twitter.
Speaking of 2023, we recommend you read: What does the future hold for influencers on Twitter?
The Open Source Algorithm on GitHub, How Does It Work?
Open source and proprietary software are two different software distribution models. Proprietary software refers to software that is owned by a company or an individual and is protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. This is the case with platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, where no one knows how they work entirely.
In the case of open source, the code is publicly available, as did Elon Musk who released part of his source code on the GitHub platform, offering two repositories containing information about his “For You” section recommendation algorithm. This includes details on how the algorithm works and how the recommendation of posts in that section is generated. The information provided by Twitter on GitHub will enable developers, marketers and other interested parties to better understand how its recommendation algorithm works.
It is estimated that approximately 500m tweets are shared daily on Twitter, so leaving the code open source is a momentous decision for users and influencers who now have the exact tools to generate content that achieves maximum reach, both organic and paid, within the social network. However, even if the code is open and hosted in a repository, reading and understanding the code is a complex job that requires extensive programming knowledge.
Also read: 15 Twitter Statistics
What Is and How Is the Timeline Currently Built on Twitter?
To build the timeline or timeline of users on Twitter, the platform takes into account several factors, such as user interest, content relevance, “recency” of publications, user activity and account interactions. Twitter calls this timeline mechanism the “Home Mixer”.
User interest is determined through analysis of their behavior on the platform, such as bookmarked tweets, accounts followed, searches performed and overall activity. Content relevance is established from the analysis of keywords, content type (text, images, video, etc.), and the popularity and engagement of posts.
The recency of the posts is another important factor in determining the position of the tweet on the timeline. The most recent tweets are displayed at the top of the timeline, while the oldest ones are scrolled down.
User activity, such as retweets and replies, are also used to determine the position of the tweet on the timeline. If a tweet has a high rate of engagement and activity, it is more likely to show up on other users’ timelines.
According to Twitter, the entire process described above takes approximately 1.5 seconds to complete and is executed 5bn times a day.
Twitter Algorithm Ranking Signals
How to push Twitter into recommending your content? This is one of the most frequent doubts among users of the platform. According to Twitter, the main factor is related to the accounts with which a user interacts the most, however, the social network has shared four keys to help us better understand its ranking system:
1. Currentness or "Recency" of the Content
Recency refers to the newness of a tweet, i.e., the time when the tweet was published in relation to the time when a user is reviewing his or her timeline. Twitter prioritizes trends based on topics that are popular “now”.
All of these current events and topics may appear in a section at the top of the Home timeline called What’s Happening.
The recency or timeliness of content is important to Twitter’s algorithm ranking system because the platform wants to provide its users with fresh and relevant content in real-time. Users expect to see the most recent tweets on the topics they are interested in on their timelines.
2. Relevant Content
Relevance on Twitter refers to the importance and usefulness of the content for each user. Twitter will create a profile for you based on your previous actions, such as your tweets and those you have interacted with. It also takes into consideration the accounts you follow and the topics that most interest people on the social network.
Engagement is a fundamental piece to achieving greater visualization and reach of tweets because it directly affects Twitter’s recommendation algorithm. Twitter’s algorithm is designed to show the most relevant and interesting tweets for the user in its timeline.
Engagement, which includes actions such as retweets, likes, replies and mentions, is a way in which the algorithm measures the popularity and relevance of a tweet for a given user, leading it to understand that the content is attractive, and making the recommendations follow that line of information. In other words, if a tweet has a high level of engagement, it is more likely to show up on other users’ timelines and reach a wider audience.
In addition, if a user follows a certain topic, Twitter will observe how many people are interacting with related tweets on that topic, and in the Trending tab, the number of tweets related to that current trend will be displayed.
4. Rich Media Such as Videos, Photos, GIFs
Rich media, such as GIFs, videos and images, are elements that can enhance the user experience and increase interaction. Twitter uses multimedia content as an important factor in ranking tweets on the timeline, as they can be more engaging and relevant to users than text-only content.
GIFs and images can help highlight a tweet and make it more visually appealing, which in turn can increase the likelihood that users will view and share it. Meanwhile, videos can convey information more efficiently and emotionally, making them a powerful tool for storytelling and connecting with audiences.
In addition, Twitter has also implemented features such as previewing images and videos on the user’s timeline, allowing users to view multimedia content without having to click through.
How to Improve the Reach of a Tweet?
Our recommendation to achieve greater reach with your tweets is that you meet the parameters set out in the previous section on the ranking signals of the Twitter algorithm. It is necessary that your content is current and in line with trends; we suggest you publish at the right time, considering the time zone of the target audience, and the days and hours of greatest activity on Twitter.
Likewise, it is essential that you interact with the audience, this implies responding to comments, retweets and participating in relevant conversations. Use rich media content such as images, videos and GIFs, which can increase the visual appeal of the tweet and generate more interaction.
Don’t forget to use relevant and trending hashtags, this is another factor that can boost your content and allow the reach of new users interested in the topic.
How to Take Advantage of the Twitter Algorithm? 5 Practical Tips
1. Stay Active
Staying active on Twitter is important for the algorithm because every time a user makes a post, interacts with other users and participates in relevant conversations, it shows that their profile is relevant to the community that uses this platform. By being active, the algorithm can prioritize your content and make your profile’s reach increase.
2. Post at the Right Time and Follow Trends
Keeping in mind the best times to post will also make the algorithm highlight your tweets on Twitter. According to a Hootsuite analysis, the best time to post on Twitter is at 1:00 pm PST, as well as before 9 am Pacific time, as many young people take the time to surf this social network during this period.
3. Use Relevant Tags and Hashtags
Using relevant tags and hashtags is also necessary because they help the platform categorize and classify your content. When you use these resources, you make it easier for other users to find your content through searches or by clicking on tags and hashtags. In addition, tags and hashtags can be used to identify trending topics on the social network and Twitter can show your content to users who are interested in those topics. This can help increase the reach of your tweets and generate more engagement.
4. Integrate Rich Content
Adding elements such as videos, GIFs or images makes tweets much more attractive to users, increasing the chances of virality. Although Twitter previously limited the use of resources to a single piece per tweet, as of 2022, it announced that up to 4 pieces could be used.
5. Know Your Followers and Interact With Them
On Twitter, a large part of your strategy is focused on conversations and building a community. By interacting with your followers, you can create a sense of community and foster follower loyalty to your brand or profile. Responding to your followers’ comments and questions is a great way to increase the likelihood that they will share your content or mention your account in their own tweets, which can help amplify the reach of your content.
In addition, when you interact with your followers, you gain valuable information about what they are interested in and what they want to see on your account. This allows you to tailor your content to meet the needs of your audience and improve the quality of your posts.
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