What Should We Use Pinned Tweets For?

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What Should We Use Pinned Tweets For?

May 19, 2014

Leif Nordberg

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With a not-so-small and kinda-Facebook-like update that Twitter made to its profiles recently, the ephemeral micro-blogging service also released a new feature: Pinned Tweets.

From The Official Twitter Blog:

"Pinned Tweet: Pin one of your Tweets to the top of your page, so it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about."

It's a Tweet that stays at the top of your timeline, with new Tweets falling beneath it in the standard, reverse chronological order. It's a simple concept, but it's just not exactly clear what to use a Pinned Tweet for, or how to get the most out of it.

But first, does this even make sense?

Twitter has always been "in the moment". On your feed, Tweets move by quickly. There's no unread count to show you what's been missed. Tweet markers—essentially a Twitter bookmark that holds your spot—are handled purely by third-party developers, not Twitter itself.

Twitter's access to old Tweets is basically a joke. Your options to browse your own old Tweets are either: endless scrolling or a multi-step process wherein you request an archive of all your Tweets that eventually comes as a zip with a csv of Tweets, instructions in a README.txt, and an archive browsing tool that's just an html file you open in your browser. So, ya know, real user friendly.

Twitter's Advanced Search offers up date filters, but they don't really work. A search on Twitter—2009 to present—looking for the word "damn" among my Tweets returned only five Tweets. Trust me, there are a lot more. Twitter's own archive browser returned nearly 50 for the same period.

All of this is to say that while the lack of access to historical Tweets, even your own, is a problem, it's also a feature. Twitter's simplicity and the "focus on the moment" / "what's happening now?" dimension is part of the appeal and shapes the way the community interacts. You aren't expected to read every Tweet in your feed. You aren't able to go back and edit old Tweets (just delete them), and they're buried deep in everyone else's feeds too, so the need to see or manage a past Tweet is diminished. The focus is on now.

The Pinned Tweet is different. It's a Tweet out of time. It's also the first time you're able to say, "I think this Tweet is important". With a Pinned Tweet you're not answering "What's happening now?", but... but what?

The Welcome Message

The first use of Pinned Tweets that comes to mind is "The Welcome Message". I'm coming down firmly on this being the dumbest. I understand the urge—the Twitter Bio is limited in characters and its placement and size is diminished in the new layout. So, why not use it to display some welcome text and more information about you?

You're still working in the medium of a Tweet—it's going to be broadcast to everyone before you pin it. It looks hokey and feels disingenuous. The words "welcome", "hello", and "greetings" shouldn't ever appear. God help you if you say, "Hola" and you're not a Spanish speaker.

The "This Is My Best Tweet"

For a few folks, this is an opportunity to make sure that a visitor will always see a high-quality Tweet. Comedians command a huge presence on Twitter, and for similar groups, Pinned Tweets can be a tool to say, "See, there's good stuff in here," to first time visitors without worrying if the most recent Tweets are at-replies or promotional messages.

The Troll

It's new, but the artists will find their voice. I'm expecting great things.

My Pinned Tweet

The "This Is What's Important Now"

Particularly for readers of this blog, I think this is the most appropriate use. I'm thinking of it kinda like, "This our Tweet of the Week" (maybe month). If you're in campaign mode, this is the nicely written ask with a hashtag and a link to your donation page and an image. If you're holding a live event, this is a link to the conference schedule and map (and a hashtag).

With this approach, the Pinned Tweet is a semi-permanent fixture. It's used to put what you're currently talking about in context. Yes, that means it should be swapped out regularly, which also means it's probably a must-have on your content calendar.

Don't Forget

It all starts with a Tweet. Anything that can be in a Tweet can be pinned to the top of your profile. I'm talking Twitter Cards. With Twitter Cards, you can augment a Tweet with rich media (that doesn't count against the 140-characters): photos, mobile apps, embedded video and audio, and additional text from a blog or webpage are just a few of them.

(P.S. Twitter Cards are the bee's knees. If you haven't installed it on your website, check out this short guide on how to get Twitter Cards set up on Drupal using the Meta Tags module.)

Go forth. Tweet. Pin. Be merry.