Twitter has delayed it’s ‘Fleets’ feature. Now only some people have it. Why was it delayed? And is it useful?

Over the past couple of years, and especially on the more popular social media channels, short-lived content has been popular. Instagram and Facebook have both made it possible for you to create a ‘story’ that lasts for a short while before disappearing forever. It’s all about being ephemeral, or fleeting, even.

That word ‘fleeting’ has suddenly become more relevant. Twitter has created ‘Fleets’, which at first might seem a sign that it has moved into logistics. It hasn’t. Instead, it has focused its energies on allowing users to create short-lived tweets that disappear after 24 hours.

Except the roll-out has been staggered. In fact, it’s not actually that clear right now which countries and demographics can use Fleets. But we will discuss the problem with Fleets later. Let’s try and work out what Fleets is and why Twitter wants us to use it.

So what is Fleets?

Well, first up, let’s take a look at what Twitter itself has to say about it:

Twitter’s purpose is to serve the public conversation – it’s where you go to see what’s happening and talk about it. But some of you tell us that Tweeting is uncomfortable because it feels so public, so permanent, and like there’s so much pressure to rack up Retweets and Likes. That’s why, unfortunately, there are so many 🔥 Tweets left in drafts! To help people feel more comfortable, we’ve been working on a lower pressure way for people to talk about what’s happening.

The above comes from the press release about the new project, and it’s interesting to see that Twitter has actually addressed some apparent ‘discomfort’ that users feel. This feeds into the various issues that all social media channels (not just Twitter) have had in recent years with bullying and trolls online. Alongside that, it seems to be a push towards making people feel more confident about tweeting.

So far, according to Twitter on the 18th November, Fleets had been tested in Brazil, Italy, South Korea and India. Twitter found that they made people ‘more comfortable’ with being involved in a conversation. More to the point:

…we saw people with Fleets talk more on Twitter. Those new to Twitter found Fleets to be an easier way to share what’s on their mind. Because they disappear from view after a day, Fleets helped people feel more comfortable sharing personal and casual thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

So far, so good for Twitter. It seems that the new thing has a positive effect for Tweets in general. Fleets seem to boost engagement on the platform. Users simply ‘Fleet’ Tweets to make them last for just 24 hours by hovering over the Share button.

So what went wrong?

The delay

No one really knows why Fleets has been delayed. The platform has stated that it is due to ‘performance issues’, which could mean anything from typographical errors to it being the cause of more online trolling. However, people are using Fleets right now, just not everyone.

Frustratingly for those who want to get their hands on the new feature, Twitter has admitted that, if you don’t have it yet, it may be a while before you do.

And frustratingly for Twitter, a feature that seems to boost platform engagement isn’t quite ready to leave the factory yet.

What could Fleets mean for marketing?

Well, it’s quite obvious how Fleets could help brands with their social media marketing. We’re not entirely sure if the feature will be allowed to be used in this way (no one actually knows much at all about Fleets yet) but we can see brands jumping on Fleets for flash sales and so on. It makes perfect sense to make use of an ephemeral feature in this way. Generally speaking, if something is temporary, it fits short-term marketing blasts.

And in a strange way, it could change what happens on Twitter for marketing. Think about it. Using Fleets more than normal Tweets would actually bring a sense of fun and excitement to brand messages. It’s worth looking at, when it actually arrives.