Goodbye, Twitter Fleets

Twitter Fleets

What seemed like a great way for Twitter to grow engagement between brands and businesses as well as attract more users to join the conversation, as seen with Instagram Stories, the social media platform’s latest Fleets feature could not catch on. Resharing customer content about your brand, asking questions to your audience, and sharing Fleet-specific content that appears for a limited time was not enough incentive to save the less-than-a year-old feature. After it failed to boost user engagement and give users a safe space to share their fleeting thoughts, Fleets flew home, far away from Twitter, on August 3.


What are (or for lack of a better word, were) Fleets?

Twitter’s Fleets feature took flight in November of 2020 and experienced an emergency crash landing less than a year after. In an effort to encourage more users to join in on the conversation, the Fleets feature was created to provide a space for those who might experience anxiety when creating tweets that are up for public display. 


The goal of Fleets was simple: to alleviate the reluctance users had toward sharing tweets out of the fear that their public content would be permanent and stay around for too long. Fleets removed any kind of social pressure to rack up retweets and likes. The Twitter feature also eliminated the awkwardness and anxieties around sharing comments within a thread to insert your two cents into users’ discourse, inviting any and all users to share their thoughts freely.


Similar to the widely used Instagram Stories, Fleets were showcased on top of the user’s timeline, easily identifiable and featured separately from the more permanent Twitter feed that fell below it. Fleets typically included photos and videos with a full-screen camera, text formatting options, and GIF stickers. Disappearing after 24 hours, users were able to reply to Fleets solely through Twitter direct messages. Resharing tweets using the late Fleets feature, users were able to add their own take on a tweet and continue the dialogue between users.


What led the Twitter feature to its demise?

As Fleets prepared for takeoff, Twitter conducted extensive research and testing to see how it went over with international audiences before its public launch in 2020. Preliminary research testing across international countries revealed that new and inactive users found Fleets as a simple way to add to the Twitter conversation. The positive increase in user engagement came from testing the feature on users in Italy, India, Brazil, and South Korea. However, as we all know now, those positive findings and feelings were temporary—much like the Fleets themselves. 


Since the initial announcement to the general public, Twitter found that users who utilized the Fleets feature were typically those who already tweeted directly and engaged in the public discourse. Research shows that the already active Twitter users used the feature to amplify their shared content. Time itself is fleeting, and Fleets did not age like the fine wine Twitter had hoped. As of January 2021, only 7.7 percent of users said they had posted a Fleet—which was a slight 1.7 percent increase from the time of the feature’s release. This limited-time feature did not have a significant increase in new users joining the conversation, which means there is still work to be done to motivate the users who do not feel comfortable sharing tweets to join in on the conversation. 


The purpose of attracting more Twitter users to become more active with the platform and feel encouraged to contribute to the growing conversation unfortunately backfired. However, Twitter was able to learn a lot over the course of the Fleets feature’s flight. With every success and every failure, there is always something that could’ve been improved or reevaluated, and Twitter understood that when analyzing users’ experiences with Fleets.


Twitter’s main takeaways from the fleeting feature –

Not every feature, no matter how great the intentions, strategies, and objectives of the launch might have been, can be successful. Twitter looks forward to continue to evaluate the pitfalls of Fleets and explore opportunities to enhance the Twitter experience for all users. By listening to feedback and ridding of features that aren’t working, Twitter reinforces that the user experience is of the utmost importance, even if that means failure is inevitable. 


This isn’t the first time Twitter rolled out a strategic feature that didn’t promote the success they anticipated. In 2015, Twitter signed on Periscope, a live-streaming service directly linked to Twitter, which shut down after six years due to lack of use and unstable maintenance models.


“The decision to retire Fleets reflects the company’s ambitious approach to product development,” said Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter Product Lead. Twitter caters to what its users enjoy and want to see, so when one door closes, another one opens. With the removal of Fleets, Twitter will shift focus onto the audio Spaces feature. Located at the top of a user’s timeline in place of Fleets, Spaces is Twitter’s new way for users to have live audio conversations within the social media platform. Preliminary testing and research have provided positive feedback as the feature is still very early in its launch stage.


The feature that was forgotten within 24 hours, Fleets served as a great lesson for Twitter. Ilya Brown, Twitter Vice President of Product said it best, “If we’re not evolving our approach and winding down features everyone in a while — we’re not taking big enough chances.” While its time on Twitter was fleeting, the Fleets feature has inspired Twitter to work even harder to create user experiences that will maximize the conversation while welcoming any and all users to join in. As we say goodbye to Fleets, we cannot wait to see what the engaging, conversating experiences the next Twitter features may bring.