A Preview of Twitter Cards

Earlier this week Twitter announced the rollout of Cards: their way of previewing linked content in a Tweet. Nothing much new to see here, as Twitter has had embedded media for select partners for awhile. Now they’re slowly opening the valve to everyone. (If you haven’t yet, read All Things D’s analysis The Future of Twitter’s Platform is all in the Cards.)

Those of you familiar with sharing content on Facebook (e.g., all of you), are familiar with how Facebook displays a preview of the article, funny cat photo or video you just shared.

This may seem like Twitter playing catch-up, but there are some key differences:

  1. A proprietary metadata schema. The Open Graph Protocol was designed specifically by and for Facebook. It’s used on almost any page you visit, and has become the go-to preview metadata, but doesn’t satisfy all of Twitter’s needs. Enforcing your own schema is risky, especially with this much overlap, but Twitter carries enough weight in earned media to make it worth it. Fortunately they’ve provided excellent documentation and will attempt to use OGP data if it’s there.
  2. Transparency about mobile. They know you want your content, photos and interactions to look great where people are most likely to see them. It just so happens to be where Twitter has tight OS integration. Their docs provide examples and cover this in detail, and provide plenty of information and tips for Player Cards.
  3. Player Cards.This is interesting. Twitter could have easily mandated video here, but it appears they’re going to allow iframes, which means you can get pretty creative in this space. Big advantage over Facebook allowing only Flash embedding. However tweets tend to be drastically more public than Facebook posts, and given the tight mobile OS integration, they’re playing it safe by controlling who can distribute a Player Card. Good move to ensure a solid user experience and security.

What Do I Need To Do About It?

But enough theorizing, let’s put it into practice:

First off, if they’re not already, your creative teams should be thinking about crafting the look and feel of your earned impressions per platform, beyond just keeping it under 140 characters. While you can share the same content everywhere, you have an opportunity to tailor your message for different audiences. Your imagery needs to work in a wide range of sizes as well. Pinterest isn’t Facebook isn’t Twitter.

Your project managers should be updating their content matrix template, if not building an entirely separate one for earned impressions. Ours is getting a bit unwieldy at this point, but we sleep better knowing we’ve gone through it and not missed anything.

Most importantly, if you have an evergreen site, your developers should be adding metadata now and applying for early access. Some of you are about to check the source on this page right now…really? (Twitter’s own documentation on Cards isn’t even whitelisted as of this writing.) Player Cards will probably be very exclusive for a while, but that shouldn’t stop you from envisioning what they are and how they’ll be handled on mobile.

What it Means For Marketers

So, what does this mean for marketers? We know that content on Facebook that can be consumed or played within the newsfeed earns far more engagement and views that content that has to be linked to. We also know that Facebook content with images performs far better than content without. Despite the fact that Twitter has had embedded media for select partners for a while, marketers with strategic editorial calendars could see a bump in content consumption and engagement with high-quality content via Twitter. This further puts the pressure on brands and agencies to consider their content creation models and strategies. Also, if Twitter hasn’t been part of your channel strategy for engaging via content, it may be time to look at it again.

But, one thing that’s noticeably missing: measurement. We may be risking the return of the fail whale by asking this, but the ability to add a Google Analytics ID or ping back url would be great. Previews should theoretically drive more traffic to your site, but sometimes the Tweet is more interesting than the article. Checking for the e-mail equivalent of ‘opens’ would be fantastic.

Check out their documentation here: https://dev.twitter.com/docs/cards

By Paul Colombo with contributions from Ian Schafer and Ken Kraemer.