Twitter became the latest social media player to copy Snapchat’s popular format of disappearing stories. The company on Wednesday shared details on “Fleets,” which it describes as “a way to share your fleeting thoughts.”
People can view Fleets starting today, but must visit a user’s profile page to do so. Twitter is currently testing Fleets in Brazil only, but the company says it hopes to eventually bring the function to other countries.
Twitter says people are “more comfortable sharing everyday thoughts” when messages are set to disappear. “We hope that those people who are not usually comfortable with tweeting use Fleets to talk about the reflections that come to their head,” according to Twitter.
Posts won’t feature the "like," "retweet" or "embed" options, either, something the company may backpedal on in the future, says Joshua Lowcock, chief digital officer at Universal McCann (UM).
“Limiting replies makes sense because after a Fleet disappears the reply would lose context,” says Lowcock. “But the loss of likes and retweets limits the ability to drive organic platform reach.”
Lowcock, who is also UM’s global brand safety officer, sees other potential headwinds for Fleets. “There is a risk that the temporary nature will encourage bad behavior and inappropriate content on the platform,” Lowcock says. “It will be on Twitter to police Fleets and protect the health of its platform.”
Josh von Scheiner, chief experience officer and founder of agency Story Worldwide, doesn’t believe brand safety is the question for brands. “Twitter already suffers from that quite a bit,” he says. "This doesn't fix that, but it doesn't make it worse.”
Von Scheiner says big picture, Fleets is about increasing the amount of time users spend on the platform. “Twitter is late to the story game, but at this point it's become a standard format for successful social platforms,” von Scheiner says. “It will also lend itself well to Twitter—bite-sized pieces of content fired off quickly is Twitter’s raison d'être.”
Chris Erb, managing partner at Tripleclix, which is Microsoft Xbox’s agency of record for partnerships with brands such as Taco Bell, says Fleets will become an outlet for fun or creative content. “This should allow creators, streamers and gamers to quickly share and connect with their audiences more directly outside the public purview,” says Erb.
Mitchell Geller, associate connections director of social media at VMLY&R, says Twitter brings a clear differentiation to the table against other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
"Twitter’s speed, open dialogue and deep communities have historically been the platform’s strong suits, and their main points of differentiation from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram," says Geller. "Users who are plugged in, logged on and extremely online use Twitter in very different ways than they use other social platforms to communicate, connect and share points of view."