Twitter Carousels Pilot Broadens The Scope Of Newsrooms’ Tweets
Over the past several years, conversation about Twitter has generally centered around what its users can’t do on the platform. After becoming a bastion of both misinformation and disinformation, as well as bullying, the company was forced to respond in very public fashion, expanding its policies against harassment and banning users — most famously former President Donald Trump — for spreading falsehoods that could endanger people’s lives and Democracy itself.
Outside Twitter’s 2017 expansion of allowable characters in user tweets, company innovation has not been at the fore. But Twitter is working to change that, and tangible results are starting to turn up. One example: Twitter Carousel Ads, which launched in late 2020 as a paid feature for marketers looking to beef up engagement.
Like Facebook and Instagram before it, with Carousels, Twitter gave ad content generators the power to upload as many as six images and/or videos into a single tweet. The click-through option and media-hyperlinking capabilities are key to the ads’ engagement success.
Select newsrooms now have a chance to experiment with Carousels, as part of a pilot program that began just last week. For the program, Twitter has partnered with the Graham Media Group-owned Social News Desk, which provides social media management and audience acquisition tools to newsrooms. The social media giant has granted Social News Desk and its clients access to the API associated with the Carousel feature.
“This really changes the game for newsrooms on Twitter,” says Kim Wilson, founder and president of Social News Desk. “Instead of simply delivering a stream of one link at a time, we’re now talking about ways to mix it up with a creative, curated content experience. For years, this format was only possible if it was part of a Twitter ad, so to be able to deliver an organic tweet using Social News Desk, which contains that Twitter ‘Carousel’ look, is huge. And I think newsrooms will see a tangible increase in traffic from Twitter as a result.”
Social News Desk has posted a series of blog posts covering the ways in which newsrooms can use the Carousel feature throughout the pilot. Among them, Wilson says a team can tell a single story from multiple angles — via multiple reporters — in an all-in-one tweet setting. Users can scroll through the media that makes up the “carousel” and click through each piece, which can be linked up to an individual story webpage or whatever site the content creator desires.
Sports broadcasters can essentially produce, Wilson says, a “mini-telecast” — perhaps revealing all the day’s NBA final scores and highlights from a half-dozen games. They can then blast it out on social media with a single tweet.
There are obvious weather applications for the Carousel as well.
“Add multiple carousel items to highlight links directly to the latest radar images, severe weather watches and warnings and updates on storm damage,” a Social News Desk blog post instructs. “You can also include videos to showcase the storm’s path and a brief update from your meteorologists. Add a Twitter Carousel item to link directly to your app download page, so followers can stay ahead of the storm.”
News producers counted among Social News Desk’s clientele are already praising the Carousel feature.
“Twitter Carousels is a great tool for drawing in your Twitter audience with images or graphics and then driving traffic to your website for the full story/details,” says Donna Natosi, news engagement editor at WRAL Raleigh, N.C. “It’s especially beneficial when you’re preparing for a third round of weekend winter weather coverage (as we are) and can provide multiple weather forecast graphics with links in a single tweet.”
“This gives us the flexibility to showcase more of our content in a single tweet, which we hope will drive more engagement and website traffic,” says Doug Rogers, digital manager at Lily Broadcasting. “It’s also another opportunity to make our content stand out from the crowd as users scroll through their Twitter timelines. We’re looking forward to using it for weather coverage and resources, extended coverage of our big stories, news digests and more — and that’s just scratching the surface.”
Wilson could not comment on whether or not the Carousel feature will become more widely available. TVNewsCheck reached out to Twitter for comment and received no response, but it appears as though there’s at least a chance more newsrooms will be able to use Carousels in the future, given the resources the company has already invested in the infrastructure and promoting its use.
Wilson, for one, is bullish about the possibilities. “This is exciting for newsrooms who are looking to always diversify their distribution and stand out in a crowded social media space,” she says. “It’s just a rich media experience that hasn’t been there before, and it gives newsrooms a way to think outside the box and to do something that is going to be really different.”