I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter.
I was an early adopter of the platform, and I’ve been on it for 13 years. For breaking news, there’s nothing better. Following an important conversation in real time is fascinating.
I used to check Twitter every morning and read a dawn chorus of pleasant tweets waking me up to new voices, ideas and trends. Today, that choir feels as if it’s metastasized into a shrill cacophony of despair, division and narcissism.
So, on the one hand, I can see the appeal of fleets, Twitter’s new feature that allows tweets to disappear after 24-hours. fleets have a few benefits. You can’t retweet, like or reply to a fleet, which could help slow the spread of fake news on Twitter. Removing the rewards of viral engagement could also mitigate provocative conversations.
As a brand utility, fleets have potential. Brands participating in live events can use them to promote content without cluttering their timelines and user feeds. Fleets also offer a less risky way for brands to get closer to culture as it plays out in real time.
And from a branding perspective, I love the name “fleets.” It’s a clever, strategic cousin to "tweets" and it perfectly captures the idea of a passing thought.
But I also wonder whether fleets aren’t simply a copy-cat move to capitalize on the success of ephemeral content on platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram -- and whether that type of content can thrive on Twitter at all.
First of all, there’s the question of whether people will use fleets. As the platform of choice for journalists and politicians, Twitter has always been more about information sharing. That’s different from the social conversations happening on Snapchat and Instagram. Do Twitter’s users value visual content over text?
It’s also still unclear whether users are adopting fleets, and many reported a buggy roll-out.
If fleets are a genuine attempt at improvement, they still come with risks. Their disappearing nature could encourage users to be less thoughtful with their words and accelerate the spread of extreme views.
For these reasons, brands will likely be hesitant to go all-in on the new feature right away. But that’s not a reason not to test.
Brands embracing fleets would be wise not to copy and paste their Instagram stories strategy, and to include fleets as part of their overall comms strategy. Look at them as an opportunity to connect with Twitter users in a new way.
Whether fleets are here to stay or doomed to embody their name, time will tell. But brands should consider how to use them wisely before jumping in.
Rik Haslam is executive creative partner at Brandpie