Twitter announced a new ‘custom timeline’ feature this November. It’s a way to create a collection of tweets surrounding a particular topic, or tweets by certain people, or tweets using a particular hashtag, etc. The point is that you can customize the timeline in almost any way you want, give it a title, and embed it on your website. Let’s explore how government might be able to use this feature.
First, you can create your custom timeline in Tweetdeck (that’s Twitter’s feed management product; basic accounts are free). Just drag and drop the tweets you want to appear in your timeline. Then, visit the public URL for your custom timeline on Twitter, and you’ll find a link to embed the timeline on your website. That’s what I did here, and it looks like this –
Twitter is excited to see what users do with custom timelines, and Government Social Media is excited to see what public agencies do with them!
Keep in mind that currently the tool is for tweets that you hand-pick for your custom timeline. Twitter is beta-testing a custom timeline API, which means tech-savvy agencies might be able to get more creative with auto-populating the timelines based on hashtags and other triggers.
You might consider displaying the best and most helpful tweets related to a particular event, such as a town hall meeting or just a general board/council meeting. However, you’d want to be cautious about your selectivity. Aka, don’t leave out tweets that voice opposition to the electeds or you might come under fire for censorship.
Emergencies and other #smem (social media emergency management) situations come to mind as possible good uses for a custom timeline. A custom timeline embedded on your agency’s website could be a great way to curate mentions of the primary hashtag you’re using to disseminate information to the public during the emergency. But without a little help from the API to rig a setup that will auto-populate the timeline, you’re better off using a tool that accommodates fast-paced communication (such as Tweetchat) in emergencies.
Read Twitter’s documentation about custom timelines for detailed setup information.
Can you think of any opportunities for public agencies with Twitter’s custom timeline? Please share your ideas in the Reply box below!