Up Close With Twitter’s New “Timeline Widgets”

twitter-logo-2012-newWant to embed on a web page all the tweets from a particular Twitter account, favorites from an account, tweets by those on a Twitter list or Twitter search results for a topic? Twitter’s had individual widgets allowing this before, but now those have been replaced with a new, unified interactive timeline widget. Not only can people see tweets, but they can also respond to them, from any web page.

Account-Based Timeline

Here’s example of a new interactive timeline. In this case, I’ve made an account-based one, linked to our Marketing Land account on Twitter:

Search-Based Timeline For Hashtag

Here’s a timeline I made doing a search for the “#smx” hashtag, the name of our SMX search marketing conference series (and SMX East comes to New York next month, so be there or be square!):

Search-Based Timeline For Topic

Here’s another timeline for a search on “Lumia,” showing some of the tweets based on news coming out of today’s Nokia press conference:

Making A Timeline

As you can see by using the timelines above, unlike the old Twitter widgets, these will display photos inside a tweet plus offer the ability favorite, reply to or retweet any particular tweet.

Creating a widget is easy. When you’re logged in, go to the new Widgets area of your account. You can get to this by going to “Settings” when logged in to Twitter, then looking for the “Widgets” link along the left-side of the screen.

At first, your widgets page will be empty, but after you create some, they’ll appear for future editing. Here’s how it looks for me:

Selecting “Create New” takes you to a screen where you configure how your widget should operate:

In the example above, I chose to make a search-based timeline. That involves entering a search query, then I have options to control the height of the widget, select a “theme” for it (light or dark), choose whether to expand photos and even control the link colors.

There are even more options outlined within the developer documentation, such as the ability to control width (minimum is 220px and maximum is 520px). It’s disappointing width control isn’t part of the widget configuration tool itself, but at least it’s offered.

After you’re done, you get a short bit of code to insert into the web page or pages where you want the widget to be displayed.

Disappointingly, the search-based widgets don’t display “top tweets” by default, as is the case if you do a search on Twitter itself. With top tweets, searches show tweets that are deemed to have been particularly relevant or popular. Instead, the timeline defaults to a “first in, last out” order, as best I can tell. I can’t find any option to override this.

Why do you have to list a domain for your widget? Twitter told me this is to ensure that your widget is only running on sites you’ve selected for it. OK, but that’s still odd, given that anyone can make exactly the same widget you might create. At any rate, you can list up to five domains, though technically more if you use wildcards for subdomains.

Goodbye To The Old Widgets

As for previous widgets, Twitter used to offer separate tools to create profile, search, favorites and list widgets for your site, as well as a Facebook widget. You can still see these all showing up in a Google search:

Now, the main Twitter Widgets page that hosted these options is gone, replaced by the new Widgets area (and tool) that was announced today.

Widgets previously created with the old tools still work, Twitter tells me (and I can see myself, doing some checking). How long will they work? Twitter had no comment on that. I think it’s pretty clear the new interactive timelines are intended to be a replacement for the old widgets, so if you use the old widgets, I’d be planning to update to the new timeline-based ones.

Postscript: Twitter tells me there’s a FAQ page that explains that the old widgets will cease to work on March 5, 2013.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Features & Analysis | Top News | Twitter | Uncategorized


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://twitter.com/markzohar Mark Zohar

    Certainly an improvement over the previous Twitter search widgets.

    If you’re interested in a widget that displays top trending content for any search query (as opposed to a chronological list of tweets), check out TrendSpottr’s Widgets at: http://trendspottr.com/widgets.php.

    Enter any keyword, hashtag, @name, etc and TrendSpottr Widget will display top trends for that query and update on a regular basis. You can customize the widget and easily embed on any HTML page. A WordPress plug-in is coming soon too!

  • http://twitter.com/johnbeagle John Beagle

    I agree, this is a big improvement over what we had in the past.

  • http://twitter.com/Banburyshire Ian Gentles

    Thanks for the update Danny. What I’ve always wondered especially with the google changes – how does google view these interactive timeline widgets?

  • http://dragonsearchmarketing.com/ Ric Dragon

    Hi Danny,
    The biggest reason why I won’t be recommending to clients that we implement this is that the content isn’t showing IN the page’s HTML – but is embedded as script. As I wrote in this MarketingLand post about curation and Twitter
    http://marketingland.com/curating-twitter-8845 – there ARE tools that will allow you to embed tweets as HTML – thus helping your site’s SEO.
    I’m also not a little afraid of Twitter’s maintenance of content… will those tweets still show next year? or is this ONLY for showing tweets dynamically – in which case this Timeline thing might be JUST the thing.-Ric

  • http://www.bronsonharrington.com/ Bronson

    This is good news, I can think of many applications, but keeping tabs on important events or keywords just got easier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/devon.lovings Devon Jenkins Lovings

    I can’t seem to figure out how to remove the scroll bar from the “Search Widget”. Any ideas, I noticed in your screenshot yours were not there.

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