Why The New Twitter Design Requires Brands To Think

twitter-2010-03-20The “new” Twitter was rolled out only last month, and I’m sure this redesign reflects the fact that a majority of Twittererers out there don’t actually log in and use the Twitter site anymore. The more mainstream microblogging becomes, the more people prefer to use stand alone desktop clients and mobile apps like HootSuite or TweetDeck (or any others in a long line of concatenated social media management brand names) to do what they need to do as quickly as possible. 

Personally, while I am long over the jamming together of capitalized words without spaces to form brand names, I have to say that I’m a huge fan of the HootSuite application. This really is an awesome tool for managing multiple social media accounts, there is no doubt about it. It handles Twitter (which it was originally designed for), Facebook accounts, Facebook pages,  MySpace pages (does anybody still use MySpace?), LinkedIn profiles, Ping.fm accounts, WordPress blogs and Foursquare accounts. All from within one stand alone application. Without even opening your browser, you can post updates, monitor activity (for brands and social media professionals, this equates to an easy way to “grow bigger ears” as Chris Brogan puts it), comment, retweet/reply, view photos and links, and (the kicker) search across them all for companies, people hashtags and trends etc.

Not bad for a (basically) free app.

I manage at least half-dozen Twitter accounts, a handful of Facebook pages and my own LinkedIn, Foursquare and WordPress sites. I really couldn’t imagine getting all this done without HootSuite at the moment. When you add its ability to manage all of these accounts on the go with the HooSuite iPhone application, it becomes readily apparent that this is one of those pieces of software that you pay for. I use it every single day, and I rarely if ever log in to my Facebook profile anymore.

Now, I didn’t mean to go off on a glowing review of a piece of social media software. I don’t get paid for any of the reviews or comments on here (though, shameless plug, if you need social media or gadgetry-oriented editorial work, you can contact me here). I meant to talk about some things I learned about the new Twitter from my own recent redesign experiences (believe me, it takes a lot longer than you think for something so simple) and what it means for brands, because clearly the Twitter site itself has been redesigned to minimize branding. And if so, then why is it still important to create a customized Twitter background?

Old Twitter bg had plenty of room

Old Twitter bg had plenty of room

Why? Because it shows you care: about your own brand, about your customers and about your commitment to details. To the small things. And these small things are the things customers notice.

The new Twitter background presents some challenges for branding. There is not much space for logos on the left hand side before the Twitter stream (you only have about 40 px to play with) or above it on the top (the new Twitter band is a constant strip of black about 35 px from the top of your browser window). And since the new design is fluid, much of the background page will be hidden depending on your screen resolution and browser window. In almost all cases, if you created a custom Twitter background before the new roll-out, I bet dollars to donuts that most of your clever Photoshop design is now hidden behind the sidebars.

New Twitter = No Logo?

New Twitter = No Logo?

If you’ve done your homework—and by “homework” I mean created a brand strategy and profile—then you are already ahead of the curve, because this is really where your colour palette comes into play (you did create a colour palette, right?). This isn’t about splashing your logo everywhere and filling up the page with your myriad online channel URLs and tag lines. No, this is about subtly backing up your brand identity through your choice of colour, and more importantly, your style of communicating.

If you are engaging people (let’s face it—customers) via social media, the redesign of Twitter reinforces it as a means of communication, not advertising. It’s not about your logo, but your voice. It’s not about shouting slogans, it’s about sharing ideas and insights, whether they belong to you – or even better – somebody else. It still constitutes marketing, but it is marketing with, if not integrity, then at least a real voice.

It begs the question: How would you market yourself if you couldn’t use an emblem? How would existing and potential customers or partners relate to you if you weren’t hiding behind a shiny beveled, embossed and creatively drop shadowed logo?

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