The word “engagement” gets thrown around a lot these days; it’s really a buzzword that indicates the relationship between ad effectiveness and your attention. Maximizing that metric is the slippery secret of the entire industry. For most advertisers, it starts with a simple, more visceral expectation: presence.
That’s precisely what’s behind Twitter’s announcement this morning of headers, a way for Twitter users to further customize — within a strict layout, of course — their pages. While the visual benefits to the average user are nice — look, pretty artwork! — the real upside of these is for businesses. In exchange for their dollars, businesses seek special attention. They want everything they touch to look, feel and sound like an extension of their message. (In the Ryan Seacrest example pictured above, the message is, “If famous people are present, I’m not far behind.”) Today’s Twitter changes relegate more screen space to the account owner, with the hope that customers — ahem, regular users — will be more willing to follow brands like they would a real person. (And yes, Mr. Seacrest is a brand.)
If you’re familiar with Facebook’s recent changes to its profile pages, you’ll notice the same motivational factors apply here, though that company came to this conclusion first. For both companies, the upgrade intends to improve the first impression of a potential customer. The more attractive the page, the more chance of a “follow” or “like,” propping open the door to future interaction between customer and brand.
Keep in mind that this change won’t fundamentally impact each social service’s business model — the burden remains on both companies to stoke engagement through continued interaction, which happens through a feed and not these profile pages. The headers (and new photo galleries, etc.) intend to merely give each business’ digital shop more curb appeal, to lure more customers inside. They won’t change whether passersby wander down that digital street in the first place.
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