In a move that has sent ripples through the maketing and publishing worlds, the social media platform X (previously known as Twitter), has altered its approach to posts containing links, which will no longer automatically featuring headlines.

This adjustment has prompted publishers, like The New York Times and The Washington Post, to recalibrate their strategies for posting on the platform, ensuring their content remains accessible and engaging to their respective audiences.

The Washington Post’s deputy director of social and off-platform curation, Travis Lyles, sent a memo to the newsroom, advising journalists to summarise the full context of an article within the text of a link post. Lyles commented, “Your share text should now act like more of a headline. Don’t be afraid to over-explain and direct followers to read more by clicking the link.”  His memo underscored the importance of selecting the most pertinent image for link posts and noted that the main account of The Washington Post would refrain from retweeting posts that do not adhere to these guidelines.

Adapting to Platform Changes: A Closer Look at Strategies

Lyles highlighted the difficulty of creating a designed card for each X post due to the volume of tweets by the Post. Meanwhile, The New York Times’ social team reminded their newsroom of the importance of crafting social copy that can stand alone in conveying the essence of a story, especially on X. A spokesperson for the Times shared that their social team communicated with its newsroom via various channels, including Slack, to remind them of the internal style guidance for social media usage, which has been in place since 2020.

In light of the removal of headlines from linked posts, publishers have adopted varied approaches to maintain the efficacy of their posts on X. Some, like The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter, have had the text in X posts auto-populated with headlines, while others, such as USA Today, have incorporated shortened URLs into their tweets to underscore the presence of a link to an article. Reuters has opted for a different strategy, choosing to post an article’s lead image along with a URL instead of a direct link.   B2B Marketer has always incorporated the headline and site URL within the main image as well as a logo to enhance branding.

Practical Advice for B2B Marketers Amidst Platform Evolution

Andy Campbell, a senior editor at HuffPost, offered a pragmatic piece of advice: attach a photo to the post that displays the headline, outline, and byline, along with a link to the story and “alt text,” or a description of the image. This approach has also been adopted by publishers like the AP, who have utilised the alt text feature to spotlight their publication’s URL.

However, it’s worth noting that some publishing teams had already been gradually reducing their sharing of link posts due to a discernible dip in engagement on the platform this year. An executive from the publishing sector noted, “Traffic is not what it used to be,” albeit without providing specific figures. They added, “Since we were scaling back [on posting link posts] anyway, posts aren’t a huge priority for us.”

Unpacking the Motivation Behind X’s Shift in Strategy

The removal of headlines from linked posts on X is one of numerous changes to the platform since Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company last year. Musk has articulated that this recent update aligns with his broader objective to retain X users on the platform and not redirect them to external sites. He stated, “Our algorithm tries to optimize time spent on X, so links don’t get as much attention, because there is less time spent if people click away.”

However, this move has not been without criticism. A second publishing executive remarked, “What a bozo move,” seemingly encapsulating a collective response among publishers. Slate’s social team, for instance, adopted a humorous stance, tweeting a series of link posts with the simple text, “Whoa—you have GOT to read this.” A spokesperson for Slate described this as a temporary stunt and expressed that while they will continue to share their work on X, they will curtail the time and effort spent devising a strategy for what they perceive as a “broken platform” due to the diminishing returns.

The Implications for Referral Traffic and Future Strategies

The potential implications of these changes for referral traffic are substantial and multifaceted. The Washington Post’s newsroom memo cautioned that these alterations could precipitate further declines in referral traffic, stating, “Not only is this platform change likely to have an adverse effect on clickthrough rates, it also limits the information and context surrounding a feature image, presenting a larger opportunity for misinformation.”

Lyles expressed that it was “hard to tell” what kind of impact this update will have on referral traffic, while another publishing executive speculated that, paradoxically, the X update might initially lead to an increase in clicks to link posts in the short term.

Navigating through the evolving landscape of social media platforms like X necessitates a nimble and adaptive approach from B2B marketers. By closely observing the strategies adopted by publishers and remaining abreast of platform changes, marketers can continue to effectively engage their audiences amidst the shifting digital terrain.

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