When it comes to social media platforms, Twitter has always been a competitor, but has never been the best or first at anything. Facebook commands more than three times as many users and has a far more robust system for business advertising. LinkedIn caters to a very specific demographic and offers just the right tools for those users to communicate and network effectively. Snapchat introduced a new, more private way of communicating. And Twitter, while still handling more than 300 million monthly active users and offering unique, well-designed communication functionality, hasn’t done anything to stand out in the past few years—until now.
With its new “Moments” system, debuting within the next year, Twitter could change the landscape of journalism—and content marketing—as we know it.
For several months now, Twitter has been talking about a mysterious “Project Lightning” that has been consuming most of the company’s time. Only last month did the company start doling out bits of information about the project, including its intentions and its scope. According to former CEO Dick Costolo, Project Lightning is a new way to see and use tweets, and will serve as an event-centric aggregated content platform. So what, exactly does that mean?
The details we have now are few and far between, but the intentions of Project Lightning (now known to be called Moments upon its debut) are quite clear. The algorithm will scour the maze of tweets and live updates from its users, from short messages to photos to real-time video from Twitter’s recent acquisition, Periscope. With this information, the program will be able to identify when a crucial event is taking place—it could be anything from a major professional sports title to some newsworthy military deployment. Twitter will gather up the most relevant tweets, pictures, and information, and aggregate them in a separate area of the app. This area would be accessible from any time in the app as an icon in the home row.
Theoretically, Twitter would create entire dedicated experiences for its users based on events as they unfold in real time. It’s a new way of connecting users together and a new way of storytelling—rather than relying on a single journalist’s delayed account of a major news event, people will be able to see that event occur in real time, gathering their own details and forming their own perspectives.
All this seems interesting, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to follow along with events as closely as possible, but how is this going to affect the content marketing world?
The first major consideration is that this is almost a form of robotic journalism, which is already starting to shape the journalistic community. In fact, chances are pretty good that you’ve already read an article that was written by a machine’s algorithm, and you didn’t even realize it. Algorithms are becoming so sophisticated that they can pull basic information from online sources and compile it in a generated article that is both accurate and semantically sensible.
Twitter’s “Moments” project seems like a different shade of this automated journalism. Rather than pulling raw information then compiling it into a readable article, it’s going to take user-generated information and compile it in a way that makes sense to an individual user.
Either way, this cuts out the need for writers, content marketers, and storytellers as an intermediary—at least when it comes to current events. Eventually, these same kind of algorithms may be able to write other, more sophisticated articles and craft other, more sophisticated experiences—meaning no content will need to be created except by users themselves.
This deployment could also increase user demand for more immediate, onsite information. Already, users are accustomed to learning about events mere moments after they happen. With Twitter’s technology, they’ll be learning about them exactly as they happen. This, in turn, will force a change in the content marketing industry. It will no longer be acceptable to publish an article about an event a week after it’s happened, or even a day after it’s happened. Everything will ratchet up in terms of immediacy to keep users happy.
As “Moments” begins to roll out, I doubt it will have much of an effect on content marketing in general. People will see it as a nice add-on for their social media experience, but ultimately, they’ll still consume other forms of content in much the same way that they used to. For the most part, “Moments” will only affect the consumption of current and live events, which few businesses focus on as part of their strategy.
“Moments” is only the most recent step in a long and complicated journey to full content and storytelling automation, as a contemporary of the robotic algorithms responsible for generating journalistic articles. It’s only a matter of time before this technology expands, in terms of sophistication, areas of expertise, and the number of platforms able to use it. When it hits that critical expansion point, typical forms of content generation will no longer be effective, and most content marketing strategies will begin to collapse.
Because this progression is unpredictable, yet far off, there’s no current need for concern. In the next few decades, we may see the demise of content marketing at the hands of an application similar to “Moments,” but “Moments” itself poses no immediate threat. For the foreseeable future, or at least for the next decade or so, conventional forms of content marketing will continue to be the cost-effective, practical brand building strategy it has been for the last several years.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.
Editor's note: This article was updated in 2019; some tools were removed, and others added, based on what I'm finding…
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