Social media best practices are constantly changing, and the landscape of what to do and what not to do shifts more frequently than my hair color (a.k.a. a lot).
The social platforms themselves are hard enough to keep track of, with features and even entirely new platforms popping up every few months--and let’s not forget about the almost constant changes from Facebook.
Twitter doesn't launch new features or changes quite as often, which is why the mid-2012 launch of Twitter Cards stands out. In spite of the novelty of a new Twitter feature, they haven't exactly been thriving. Though there are still a few whispers about them in the marketing realm, Twitter Cards are mostly dead. But what killed them? That’s what I’m here to investigate!
First, what exactly are (were?) Twitter Cards?
Twitter Cards were implemented to enhance your tweets by providing more information (namely a photo or video), than a normal tweet can include, mostly due to character limits.
I like to think of this as one of two things. Either Twitter was writing a little love note to its users by giving us extra space to share information, or (more likely, and) this was Twitter’s answer to the Facebook preview feature.
Whichever it was, there was one very big catch. You'd better hope you have some web development experience, because Twitter Cards have some strings attached in the form of code snippets. If you add this code to a web page, any tweets sharing a link to that content will include a Twitter Card with media from the page.
There has been some development of software (plugins for those on WordPress) to help users add this code, but has it really helped with Twitter cards catching on? According to my research, nothing seems to have helped Twitter Cards reach the heights that Twitter had hoped.
Was It Suicide or MURDER?
By social media standards, Twitter Cards have died a very slow and miserable death since their 2012 launch. But could Twitter have been setting Twitter Cards up to fail? I think it's a possibility, given that the average Joe doesn't necessarily have the skill set to make them work.
I think you could argue that Twitter was just using Twitter cards as an open beta test for the current platform. Exactly how popular would tweets enriched with media and summaries be? Would users be more engaged with the posts? Would users actually want to include such things in their tweets? A quasi-beta-test would answer all of those questions and more.
Let's return to present-day Twitter. When using the Twitter website, we now have larger default image previews and videos that appear at preview size (and auto-play). We haven’t gotten the link preview feature that was available in Twitter Cards just yet, but Twitter's mobile site and app have.
The introduction of these features at this stage could suggest that Twitter added them to put a band-aid on the confusion surrounding Twitter Cards, or that Twitter Cards were their way of testing these features all along. Or does Twitter just want to be like Facebook, including previews and such?
I can’t help but think that with these new enhancements Twitter is trying to push users off third party apps and back onto Twitter's app. Like many hardcore users, I use Tweetdeck and Tweetbot because Twitter’s original app and website really lacked in usability.
It is my conclusion that Twitter Cards died by assisted suicide. More than likely, Twitter saw that Twitter Cards weren’t doing well, possibly due to the amount of programming required to make them work.
Simplifying the process (à la Facebook) would allow people to use the core functionality of the Twitter Cards service without the additional work. Automating the process would lead to increased engagement and richer content sharing among those who are using the website or the branded Twitter app. Case closed!