Everything you need to know about Twitter’s events-based feature Project Lightning

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It’s about time, Twitter! The microblogging network is finally diving deep into events-based curation after years of letting users run those kinds of engagement features.

The top-secret Project Lightning is not so secret today after Twitter unveiled details of this service via an interview with BuzzFeed. As Matt Honan of BuzzFeed writes, “Project Lightning will bring event-based curated content to the Twitter platform, complete with immersive and instant-load photos and videos and the ability to embed those experiences across the Web — and even in other apps.”

How will it work? And why should you care?

A new button in the centre of the app’s home row will link you various events people are tweeting about at the moment. Maybe it’s a sporting event or the Oscars or a press conference or a product launch. But it could also focus on Throwback Thursdays or season finales or breaking news such as earthquake crises.

“It’s a brand-new way to look at tweets,” says Kevin Weil, who runs product for the company, in the BuzzFeed report. “This is a bold change, not evolutionary.”

Go into one of those events listed and Twitter will display a visually-arrested collection of tweets related to the event. The article explains:

These collections are designed to take advantage of images and videos associated with a particular event, and to bring them to life. None of that media is presented in the standard Twitter timeline — each tweet, picture, or video will take up the entire screen of your phone. You’ll view them one at a time by swiping. Importantly, collections will include — and thus promote — not only pictures and videos posted to Twitter, but Vines and Periscope videos as well.

The Wall Street Journal points out the project complements Twitter’s existing media strategy to work with  TV networks. “By streaming these events, it could help a broadcaster draw the so-called Millennial generation back to TV—18-25 year olds that these days spend more time on their mobile devices and are the biggest demographic group on Twitter.”

Most interestingly, you can access Lightning without having to be logged into Twitter. You can view them on Twitter.com, on the mobile web, in its apps, and even as embeds on other webpages. If the curation is embedded off-site, the events will continue to update as more curated tweets are added.

What does this mean for brands and marketing firms? Trade shows and B2B conferences could best take advantage of Project Lightning, as we have all been overwhelmed by a flurry of hashtagged tweets relating to conferences we’re attending. If Twitter can surface the most alluring and engaging links and tweets and photos without external curation, the social experience of attending trade shows just became a lot more attractive.

Since you can “follow” an events to its conclusion, you can be on top of B2B events and breaking news in a way that makes the experience seamless and hassle-free. You might still see too much content to absorb in one sitting, but at least you’re not scrolling through a hashtag search without any guidance of what’s the most relevant to the event.

As real-time curation of live events continues to be a focus for Twitter, smart marketers and brand managers will find ways to take advantage of new tools to better engage with their audience. Project Lightning could be just the beginning of a whole new Twitter.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

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David Silverberg
David Silverberg is the former editor-in-chief of Digital Journal Inc. He helped pioneer Digital Journal's proprietary technology to leverage content from writers from across the world. He was the host of Digital Journal's annual Future of Media event. David has been published in various publications, writing on everything from technology trends to celebrity profiles.
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