By Sebastian Herrera
Twitter Inc. is launching a new feature that will allow users to post text, audio and video that disappears after 24 hours, one of a number of steps the company is taking to increase engagement and compete with similar offerings on other platforms.
Called "Fleets," the feature is an attempt to encourage more users to share "fleeting thoughts" after the company found some users are at times too intimidated to post and join conversations, executives said.
"People new to Twitter found Fleets an easier way to share what's on their minds," Joshua Harris, Twitter's director of design, said on a call with reporters. The feature has been tested in India, South Korea, Brazil and Italy and those who had the ability to use Fleets shared more, the company said in a blog post.
Twitter is following Snap Inc. and Facebook Inc. allowing ephemeral posts, which were pioneered on Snap's Snapchat and have grown popular on various platforms, including on Facebook's Instagram, which launched its "Stories" feature in 2016. LinkedIn Corp. also added its own version in September.
A new "share in a Fleet" option will be available for tweets. After clicking to share, users can add commentary or emojis, for example, before posting. The Fleets appear at the top of a user's Twitter timeline. Each Fleet is customizable with various backgrounds and text options, the company said.
Short-form videos and posts have become popular and competitive features for user engagement on social media platforms, with companies funneling billions of dollars a year to online personalities--known as influencers--who pitch their products on social media and help keep users engaged.
The rise of TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance Ltd., accelerated the trend. TikTok's dominance among young users has threatened to chip away market share from other social media companies. In August, Instagram launched a short video feature called Reels in response to TikTok's growth and has made it a more front-facing part of the app. Instagram also made lucrative offers to some of TikTok's most popular creators to use its new service.
Twitter has long been defined by its power users, people who post frequently on the platform and share their views and perspectives with a wide audience. Analysts have long encouraged the company to improve its user base, including by retaining new or less experienced users.
Twitter found that some users find the prospect of engaging in a conversation "terrifying," Nikkia Reveillac, Twitter's head of research, said in the call with reporters. Last month, the company's shares fell by more than 20% after executives warned of ad spending uncertainty related to the election and said user growth was the slowest since 2017. The company added one million daily users from the previous quarter to end up at 187 million.
Twitter has recently built new tools aimed at improving retention, including recommending topics to users that are curated by employees. Twitter is also testing a new product that will allow users to set up an audio chat room where they can invite participants. The feature is being tested now with certain preselected users and is expected to be rolled out to all users before the end of the year, executives said.
The company has been engulfed in controversy in recent months as it has taken steps to reduce the amount of hateful and misleading content on its platform, steps senior executives have said are contributing to better retention. Twitter critics have seized on decisions that the company has made to take down or label some posts as misleading, including about the election.
For a few weeks before election day, Twitter put a limit on user retweeting. It also initially blocked users from tweeting links to New York Post articles dealing with allegations against Hunter Biden--the son of President-elect Joe Biden--before eventually reversing course.
Chief Executive Jack Dorsey faced sharp questions from Republican lawmakers last month about the company's attempts to police content and he is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is also scheduled to testify, and both are expected to face questions about how they moderated content during the election.
Georgia Wells contributed to this article.
Write to Sebastian Herrera at Sebastian.Herrera@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires