Twitter rolled out a significant design change to profile pages today that 's intended to allow greater personalization of accounts by letting users -- including brands -- upload large "header" images and make their photostreams more prominent.
The launch of the new design was announced early this morning on NBC's "The Today Show," which was the first to show off its new Twitter look.
It's a tweak that seems awfully similar to Facebook's introduction of "cover" photos on profile pages, unveiled as part of its timeline format last year. (Google+ later introduced one, too.) Twitter's header images aren't quite as wide, though, and existing user profile images will be superimposed over the center of the header rather than off on the bottom left, where they appear on Facebook.
Header images are available free of charge to people and brands alike starting today, and can be uploaded on the web as well as on mobile devices.
For advertisers who currently have Twitter brand pages, they'll supplant the existing customizable header images that currently appear above the tweet stream, once a brand opts in to the new format. (For an example of how the old header images could be used, see @BarackObama's account, where the header is swapped out daily to show the remaining days until Election Day.)
Brand pages -- or "enhanced profile pages" in Twitter parlance -- were rolled out late last year and had two main features: the customizable header and the ability to keep a particular tweet pinned to the top of the feed (often with photo or video content.) They were a product for paying advertisers and were made available to those who had committed a minimum of $25,000 on Twitter ad products
A Twitter spokeswoman told Ad Age that while the profile page changes will apply to all accounts, advertisers will still have the unique ability to keep certain tweets of their choosing pinned to the top of their page. Another bell and whistle still available to paying advertisers is verified status.
The PR strategy for the rollout of the revamped Twitter profile pages is telling. Choosing to debut the new design on "The Today Show" gave the social-media giant an opportunity to leverage the morning show's large audience to illustrate what profile pages can look like for both brands and people.
The show's official Twitter handle got a makeover, as did the personal accounts of talent including Matt Lauer, whose header shows news cameras trained on a stage with his profile photo hovering in between Matt Lauer; Al Roker, whose page shows a national weather map; and Ryan Seacrest, whose elaborately engineered photo shows him in a group of celebrity singers with his framed profile picture overlaying where his head would be.
For consumers especially, it appears to be an attempt to communicate that their Twitter presence can be more personal and expressive, and thus, more akin to what they're already used to on Facebook.
In addition to the header images, the visual orientation of the new profile look on Twitter.com is different, with bigger photo thumbnails in the left rail (where six are displayed in two rows instead of the previous four in a line). Meanwhile, the tabs on the left rail linking to user's followers, favorites and users they follow -- which are of more interest to Twitter's power users than they are to the average consumer -- are being given less prominent real estate, since they've been moved up somewhat and are no longer in the center of profile pages.
The company seems to be urging existing users to adopt the new design sooner rather than later, since user profiles on mobile devices are currently appearing with a black rectangle on top (where the header image would go) with profile photos in the center. Mobile users on iPhones, Android devices and iPads will now see photo streams directly beneath a user's tweet stream when they visit a profile page. Twitter also unveiled a new iPad app today in a nod to its growing mobile audience.