What Twitter’s algorithm change means for marketers

Past advice can be dangerous in digital marketing. What was effective even a day ago can suddenly become ineffective or counterproductive overnight.

Why do things turn on a dime in digital marketing? Unlike human-based mental algorithms, machine algorithms change in a nanosecond and the change is absolute. Humans take a while to accept a new truth, such as the Earth being round or the planets revolving around the sun.

As marketers, when we find a tactic that works on humans, we know we’ve got some time before that tactic decays in effectiveness. For example, the lost sheep email marketing tactic – “can you point me to the right person that handles X in your organization” – is still moderately effective.

When a machine changes its algorithm, however, we lack the luxury of time. We must adapt to the new reality immediately. When Facebook changes its News Feed, when Google changes its search algorithm, we must change as quickly and completely as the machines do – and never go back to our old ways.

Twitter announced a new algorithm – opt-in for now – in which more popular or relevant tweets will appear in our timelines first. This differs from the chronological order shown now. What does this mean for past advice about our Twitter strategy, tactics, and execution?

Conventional wisdom says to tweet the same content over and over again to take advantage of the different times of day our audiences participate. Some popular social media consultants suggest repeating the same tweets every 8 hours.

When social networks use algorithms to decide what content we should see first, they base the set of metrics they use in their algorithms on engagement. Facebook tracks how many people click on a link in our posts, how many people like, comment, and share.

What might Twitter’s new algorithm use to make similar calculations? We don’t need to guess; Twitter tells us in their Twitter Analytics dashboard:

Twitter Analytics and Activity 2016 - cspenn.jpg

Twitter pays attention to – and wants US to pay attention to – link clicks, retweets, likes, and replies. These four actions make up Twitter’s engagement formula.

The strategy and tactic of putting your content on endless re-runs worked fine in a chronological timeline world. When the new stuff shows up first, the more new stuff we publish, the better we do.

The repetition strategy breaks in an engagement-optimized world. We are better off publishing one tweet about our blog post which garners 5 Likes on Twitter than publishing 5 tweets about our blog post which garner 1 Like each. We must concentrate engagement.

If you want to make the most of Twitter’s new algorithm, grow engagement on every tweet. Ask followers to share, to like, to respond to you. Create content worthy of engagement. If you’re unsure what drives Twitter’s four engagement metrics, I recommend watching this short video about how to use IBM Watson Analytics with social media data.

Twitter’s new algorithm favors engagement. Disregard old advice about repeating yourself often if you want the new algorithm to work for you, not against you.

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How to start your public speaking career

#MPB2B Photo by Steve Hall

David recently asked,

“Would you be able to share some advice on how I can get started speaking about digital marketing strategy?”

This is a great question with a clear, defined answer: leverage. Here’s the process.


First, we need to have something worth speaking about. If you or your organization can afford it, I strongly encourage you to take the Oratium presentation architecture intensive course offered by my friend and colleague Tamsen Webster. A great speaking career begins with a clear, powerful presentation.


Once you’ve built an excellent presentation, demonstrate your speaking abilities and capture record of them. I recommend hosting a webinar or live talk using a free service like Google Hangouts on Air. Show that you can speak clearly, lucidly, and powerfully about your topic. The video capture is vital: you need video evidence of your nascent speaking skills.

First Talks

Got video? Time to take your show on the road. Look for events locally asking for speakers, asking for papers or talks. Respond to these events; in the beginning of your speaking career, you will speak for free – even at your expense – to start building your reputation. I recommend local events to minimize personal expenses until you’ve established your reputation as a speaker.

Obvious Tips

  • Always show up.
  • Always be on time or early.
  • if you must cancel, cancel after finding a replacement.
  • Always promote your talk on your social media channels.
  • Always thank the conference organizers from the stage.
  • Always thank the conference organizers after the event, both privately and publicly.

Be sure to ask for video of your talk; if the event doesn’t capture video, ask permission to record your own talk.


As you perform, ask your audience to submit questions and followups by Twitter. Collect testimonials via social media.

Post them to your LinkedIn profile for each talk you give:


Speaking Page

You’ve spoken a few times. You’ve earned great reviews. You’ve collected testimonials, videos, and other third party evidence of your skills. I encourage you to set up a special page on your personal professional website exclusively for speaking content, such as topics, testimonials, videos, etc. Write a clear, powerful biography and take a decent headshot photo of yourself. These materials make conference organizers’ lives easier; the more you can give up front, the more confidence you’ll instill.

Asking for Pay

At this point, you should start asking for travel and expense reimbursement – your first step towards a paying speaking career. Establish a business PayPal account, get your taxes in order, and if your speaking career trajectory looks strong, consider establishing an LLC to provide additional legal protection. Once you start earning money, consult an attorney to develop a speaking contract for additional legal protection.


If you truly enjoy speaking and performing in the public eye, following these steps will speed your journey. Good luck!

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Publishers will never stop ad blockers

Publishers, in an attempt to recoup revenue losses, are trying to block the ad blockers. They are doomed to fail, not because ad blocking technology is superior, but because of content shock.

Since the Internet became public, we’ve been in a technological arms race. For every new advertising tool developed by marketers, enterprising technologists develop an effective counter.

  • Bad marketers created spam; technologists developed very good spam filters.
  • Bad marketers tried to hijack search engines; search engine companies developed artificial intelligence to defeat them.
  • Bad marketers flooded the web with terrible, irrelevant ads; technologists developed ad blocking software.

Today, publishers and advertisers try to block ad blockers:


Why is this doomed to fail? Ad blocking technology will eventually learn to detect the pixels detecting ad blockers and fool sites, but that’s not the reason publishers will fail.

The reason publishers will fail to stop ad blockers is because of content shock, the phenomenon described by Mark Schaefer in which content creators flood the world with far more content than audiences can ever consume. Let’s look at an example.

In 2013, Instagram users loaded 40 million photos per day to the service – 27,000 photos a minute. In late 2015, Instagram users loaded 90 million photos per day to the service – 62,500 photos a minute. Suppose, out of all the photos on Instagram, 5% are really great. 10% are good. Maybe 65% are mediocre. The last 20% are awful.

Types of Instagram Photos.png

In just three years, Instagram users are loading 2.25x more photos to the service. The number of great photos loaded in 2016 is greater than the number of good photos in 2013.

What does that mean for us? It means audiences don’t have to tolerate anything less than great. Good isn’t good enough when our options for great content explode by 225% in just 3 years.

For publishers and advertisers seeking to put up walls blocking ad blockers, the audience doesn’t have to tolerate the wall. Instead of complying, the audience will simply move onto a different source of great content. The publisher loses the ad revenue and the audience’s loyalty.

What’s the solution for marketers and advertisers? Create great ads. We know for certain that audiences will watch great ads. According to the official YouTube blog, audiences have watched Super Bowl 50 ads – yes, even Puppy Monkey Baby – more than 330 million times. Create ads people want, ads that are as good as the great content consumers will choose, and we won’t need ad blockers.

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