New Twitter – Or Is It Tweibo?

Simon Kemp

The We Are Social team in London shared a fantastic update yesterday on the redesign of Twitter and its new functionality.

Following a closer look, though, and fuelled by this great post on Penn Olson, we came to the conclusion that many of Twitter’s ‘new’ features look quite familiar.

However, as Steven says in his Penn Olson report, we’re not trying to “call copycat” here; rather, we believe that exploring these similarities helps to illustrate how global social networking is fuelling some great innovations in the way we share things, and may point to other, future developments we might expect over the coming months.

In Twitter’s new re-design,

“Tweets can now expand to show more information such as replies, retweets and embedded photos and videos.”

These various capabilities are also present in Sina Weibo, but the major difference lies in visibility. The number of ‘retweets’ and comments are shown on every weibo on the user’s homepage, whereas Twitter users will have to click on specific tweets to see this information. As for photos, instead of having to click on ‘view photo’ before the embedded photo is revealed within a tweet, a thumbnail photo that can be expanded is embedded within a weibo itself.

You can now ‘see who follows you, retweets or favorites one of your Tweets, or adds you to a list’ in a single stream. More comprehensively, Sina Weibo features a comments thread that allows users to view all comments and ‘retweets’ of an original ‘tweet’, with the added functionality of either replying everyone on the thread, or replying comments individually.

What this allows is a conversation between seemingly un-connected individuals, and resembles a comments thread similar to Facebook, which does not seem to be present on Twitter even in its re-design. So instead of tracking your impact on Twitter across various @ replies, retweets and favourites, you can monitor these activities within each individual weibo with Sina Weibo.

On Twitter, you can now discover stories, activities, who to follow, find your friends and browse categories through the new ‘Discover’ function. Users might embrace ‘Discover Stories’ if they wish to discover news or information that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to via their followers. In a way, it’s like StumbleUpon for tweets, instead of websites.

Twitter’s ‘Browse Categories’ function under the ‘Discover’ tab allows users to browse for topic-specific information. Sina Weibo appears a little more sophisticated, as a weibo user can browse for topics of interest through his personal word cloud, which displays topics that the user himself has indicated before, or is aggregated through his weibo hashtags. The search function on Sina Weibo is also quite advanced in terms of scoping hashtag mentions from tweets, user profiles, Sina Weibo Groups, and in photos.

Brand pages
Brands who use Twitter as an important social media tool for engaging audiences would be impacted greatly by the new Brand Pages. There are customisable elements that would really differentiate between brand pages, one of which is the main overhead banner. Brands can use that to headline messages, taglines or welcome a visitor, much like a customisable Facebook welcome tab. Another addition would be ‘pinned tweets’, where brands can ‘pin’ a particular tweet that will appear at the top of their activity stream, This will be particularly apparent in tweets with embedded images or video, which can be set to remain open, and will definitely aid in engaging audiences visually.

Similarly for Sina Weibo, its brand page allows brands to host a video on its homepage, which is separated from the rest of its weibo activity.

[Image of JetBlue’s Twitter page taken from this Techcrunch article]

Try it for yourself
Regardless of these similarities, we think the new Twitter features look like they’ll make a great addition to a service we already love, so we’re looking forward to seeing how they influence people’s adoption and usage behaviour around the world.

Oh, and if you’d like to find out for yourself how these updates change the Twitter experience, you can download the latest versions of Twitter for iPhone or Android mobile devices:

iPhone: click here
Android: click here