Thursday, November 19, 2020

Fleets: Twitter’s New Feature Creating a Storm in the Social Media World

Among the many changes that characterize 2020, one of the biggest is the ones in social media features. With social media usage having skyrocketed, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, platforms are scrambling to get to the #1 position. Think Facebook’s redesign, TikTok taking the world by storm (even as lawsuits pile up), Instagram introducing ‘reels’ for short-form video, and LinkedIn introducing widespread live feature and stories. The latest wave is being created by Twitter with its ‘fleets’ rollout. Having rolled out in Japan in mid-November, the feature is now available all over the world on desktop, Android and iOS.

Much in line with the ‘stories’ feature available on Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, fleets allow Twitter users to create “temporary” posts in the form of images, videos, and/or text. Fleets can be of 3 types. The first is text fleets, which is basically text on a plain or colored background. The second is photo/video fleets, where users can post both recorded and third-party media. The third type is share tweets. As the name suggests, this allows users to share their own tweets or those of others that catch their eye.

In a way, it is much like stories. Fleets appear on the top of the Twitter news feed (in both the app and desktop versions). Additionally, fleets can be live for only as long as 24-hours, after which they will automatically be deleted. Last but not the least, those with open messaging that have their story viewers send their reactions, and then continue the conversation in the private messaging area. What is not the same, however, is the purpose for which these fleets are designed. According to Joshua Harris and Sam Haveson, Twitter’s Design Director and Product Manager respectively, unlike stories, the point of fleets is to take the steam off of general news feeds. 

The inspiration for the feature itself comes from the mounting Twitter post drafts, which they believe are due to the pressure of making statements that will stick, and having to deal with public replies. With features, these Tweet drafts, which have been “left in the dark” will get exposure through fleets, where the amount of self-consciousness will be significantly lower.

Another important element that is wildly different from stories is that Twitter allows users to work on collaborative fleets, which allow two posters to have a single tweet. These appear in the form on twin bubbles, instead of the standard single-bubble display. This particular element, however, is only available in specific regions thus far.

So far, Fleets have appeared to serve their purpose. The feature has been especially popular among general users, with many having increased activity on the social media platform. Many “lurkers” and passive users are also being seen posting their own fleets, or at least sharing others’ tweets through them. Yet others have been seen reducing their regular posting and focusing on Fleets. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. New features often end up attracting a lot of attention at the cost of regular ones, especially in the beginning of the rollout phase.

As a feature, Fleets do seem to have a very promising future. While the number of functionalities are low at the moment, that is soon to change. Many new features, such as AR integration, stickers, colors and customization, will soon be available for users to unleash their creativity through.