It took a week’s worth of bad news to make people talk about Twitter again. Today, you’re probably hearing a lot about the future of Twitter, and wondering whether it has one.

From the #RIPTwitter backlash to news that user growth has “come to a halt” – as a few media outlets put it – the company is fighting to prove it’s still relevant.

If you’re a marketer, you want to know what all of this might mean for your brand engagement on Twitter. Here’s what you need to know:

Twitter User Growth
Twitter released its fourth quarter earnings report late Wednesday. Not only has the company failed to increase new users since it went public, it has actually lost monthly active users from the previous quarter, according to news reports. Investors were clearly disappointed, as stocks fell in after-hours trading.

The timing couldn’t have been worse, as it arrived on the heels of the #RIPTwitter drama. The company’s fight is now two-fold: Proving itself to investors and preserving the loyalty of the angry users it desperately needs.

#RIPTwitter: What Does it Mean?
Twitter has been hinting for a year that an algorithm was in the works. On Friday, Buzzfeed broke the news that it would be introduced this week, sending the twittersphere into a frenzy. Enraged users created the #RIPTwitter hashtag to protest the change, officially announced Wednesday.

Why the revolt? Users say Twitter is copying the Facebook playbook. Until now, the real-time Twitter feed has been its key differentiator, setting it apart from other platforms. Now, users worry the algorithm will vet everything they see.

What is an Algorithmic Timeline?

  • How it works now: The feed appears in reverse chronological order. Users see the latest tweets from people they follow.
  • The problem: If you don’t log in for a while, your real-time feed keeps updating without you.
  • What changes: If you log in after a hiatus, the new algorithm will highlight the top missed tweets it thinks are most relevant to you, based on your activity and other factors. (Read more about the feature on Twitter’s blog.)
  • What stays the same: After these “top missed tweets,” users continue on to their normal feed.
  • Who has to use it: It’s an optional setting that’s rolling out in waves.

How Does the Twitter Algorithm Impact Brands?
So die-hard Twitterheads are upset. As a marketer, should you be, too? It doesn’t look that way.

Here’s what changes:

  • The algorithm will only pick tweets from a user’s followers. It will not select ads.
  • It will factor in organic engagement, so promoted tweets can’t cheat the algorithm.
  • The company promises it’s not moving toward a “pay to play” system for advertising, like what Facebook uses.
  • Your brand’s unpaid tweets are still equal to user tweets. They may appear as top highlights, if they get enough traction.

That means you should continue to invest in and distribute high-quality content. And who knows, maybe these changes will actually help you reach more people – that is, if Twitter makes good on its promise to Wall Street for user growth this winter.

Interested in learning more about social media trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles: