Social 2.0: What Project Lightning and ‘See First’ Mean For Brands

Here’s what these upgrades will mean for brands — and what we could expect from these social giants down the line.

Even major social networks need a makeover every now and again. Believe it or not, it’s been 11 years since Facebook made its debut and nine since the first Tweet was composed. Since then, a number of new social mediums have entered the scene, expanding how brands engage with fans and motivating older platforms to innovate.

While both Facebook and Twitter have undergone many shifts, their latest announcements will have major implications on how brands interact with customers. After coming under fire for its less-than-generous algorithm, Facebook is testing its “See First” feature, which allows users to manually select the people or pages that appear at the top of their News Feed.

Meanwhile, Twitter has unveiled its events-based curation initiative Project Lightning. Here’s what these upgrades will mean for brands — and what we could expect from these social giants down the line.

See First: Opportunity for Timely Promotions

It’s no secret that Facebook’s algorithm has a rocky past. When brands first migrated to Facebook, they were urged to attract as many fans as possible, but retaining those fans has been an uphill battle as Facebook emphasized sponsored content and reduced brands’ organic newsfeed access.

Prior to See First, the only way brands’ Facebook content was guaranteed visibility was through promoted posts, triggering a mass migration to Instagram. See First aims to keep brands and consumers engaged on Facebook by letting consumers select the content they want to see, and allowing brands to ask for See First status among their fans. But, algorithms or no algorithms, brands must post timely content that resonates with users without being too self-promotional.

To motivate users to click “See First,” consider why consumers follow brands in the first place. Research shows that 85 percent of Twitter users and 66 percent of Facebook fans follow a brand to get coupons or discounts. See First is an opportunity for brands to leverage those incentives and create time-sensitive offers.

Posts promising a limited quantity of discounts spark a sense of urgency among followers and motivate them to subscribe as to not miss key offers. This tactic can be extended to limited-time chances to win, free trial offers, and giveaways, too. To further drive engagement, brands can create posts that tease recent offers and invite fans to click See First to be part of limited sweeps and promotions.

While See First doesn’t completely remedy the situation, it’s a step in the right direction, placing responsibility on brands to create impactful content and granting consumers the access they’ve been lacking.

Project Lightning: Enhancing Real-time Engagement

Project Lightning is Twitter’s foray into live events discovery, with tweets, photos and videos aggregated automatically in one place. The upcoming feature will allow brands to embed experiences across the web and further engage with fans in real time. Whether a festival or breaking news event, Project Lightning’s algorithm will determine when something significant is happening and begin gathering data on related tweets.

Using data from human engagers, Twitter will select which pieces are most important to the event and populate its homepage. Users will be able to view content one at a time by swiping. This means of discovery draws inspiration from Snapchat’s Story and Discover sections, as well as Instagram’s Explore functionality, which highlights trending events and hashtags.

Given these other networks’ features, Twitter is actually behind the curve when it comes to discovery. In a world where 68 percent of millennials turn to social media to consume the news, it’s more important than ever for platforms to allow users access to events as they happen.

Curation plays a huge role in this; if you look to traditional news outlets, citizen journalism (including Twitter feeds and Instagram photos) is a frequent fixture. While Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat are leading the pack in live streaming, there’s an invaluable opportunity for Twitter within the space.

Twitter is known for breaking news and Project Lightning can further tailor their offerings to showcase current events as they happen, immersing consumers in live experiences. This coupled with the recent acquisition of Periscope, adds to Twitter’s prowess in broadcasting real-time events.

Right now, events are curated by Twitter, but in the future Project Lightning may be opened up to brands and organizations, granting them even more visibility around events, sponsorship activations, and connections with timely topics.

All in all, competition drives innovation. The emergence of new social networks urges veteran platforms like Facebook and Twitter to make upgrades and continue delighting both brands and consumers. While See First and Project Lightning are just a drop in the proverbial bucket, they speak to era of increased engagement and the importance of timely content in a cluttered world.

Readers: What do you think of See First and Project Lightning?

Kim Smith is the senior vice president of product at HelloWorld.