Last week, Twitter confirmed that they will start injecting tweets from users you don’t follow into your timeline. The collective cry from their user base ranged from outrage to a solid “meh”. It seems that Twitter has stumbled onto the magic formula that Facebook has perfected: create a feature the users don’t care about and force it onto them. Why?
Twitter Doesn’t Care About Power Users
Twitter has an interesting mix of users. They reported earlier this year that 44% of their user base has never tweeted. That’s a lot of accounts that were created for the purpose of reserving a name or following people in read-only mode. That must concern Twitter. Because people that don’t tweet can’t be measure for things like advertising. They won’t push the message of a sponsored tweet. They won’t add their voice to the din. But what about those users that tweet regularly?
Power users are those that tweet frequently without a large follower base. Essentially, everyone that isn’t a celebrity with a million followers or a non-tweeting account. You know, the real users on Twitter. The people that make typos in their tweets and actually check to see who follows them. The ones that don’t have a “social media team” tweeting for them. Nothing wrong with a team tweeting for a brand, but when they’re tweeting for a person it’s a little disconcerting.
Power users keep getting screwed by Twitter. The API changes really hurt those that use clients other than the official ones. Given that Twitter has killed most of it’s “official” clients in favor of pushing people to use the web, it makes you wonder what their strategy might be. They are entirely beholden to their investors right now. That means user signups and ad revenue. And it means focusing on making the message widespread. Why worry about placating the relatively small user base that uses your product when you can create a method for reaching millions with a unicast sponsored hashtag? Or by injecting tweets from people you don’t follow into your timeline?
The tweet injection thing is like a popup ad. It serves the purpose of Twitter deciding to show you some tweets from other “users”. Anyone want to bet those users will quickly start becoming corporate accounts? Perhaps they pay Twitter to ensure their tweets show up in a the timelines of a specific demographic. It makes total sense when your users are nothing but a stream of revenue
Making Twitter Usable Again
I mentioned some things the other day that I think Twitter needs to do to make their service usable for power users again. I wanted to expand on them a bit here:
The Unfollow Bug – Twitter has a problem with keeping followers. For some reason, your account will randomly unfollow a user with no notification. You usually don’t figure it out until you want to send them a DM or notice that they’ve unfollowed you and mention it. It’s an irritating bug that’s been going on for years with no hope of resolution. Twitter needs to sort this one out quickly. As a side note, if you run a service that monitors people that have unfollowed you, consider adding a digest of users that I have unfollowed this week. if the list doesn’t match those that I purposely unfollow, at least you know when you’ve been hit by this bug.
Links in Direct Messages – Twitter disabled the ability to send a link in a direct message a few months ago. Their argument was that it cut down on spam. The real reason was Twitter’s attempt to turn DMs into a instant message platform. Twitter experimented with a setting that enabled DMs from users you don’t follow. They pulled it before it went live due to user feedback. One of the arguments was that spam accounts could bombard you with URLs that led to phishing attacks and other unsavory things. Twitter responded by disabling links in DMs even though they removed the feature it was intended to protect. It’s time for Twitter to give us this feature back.
Token Limits – This “feature” has to go. Restricting 3rd party clients because they exist destroys the capabilities of your power users. I use a client because it gives me easy access to features I use all the time, like conversation views and muting. I also don’t like sitting on the garish Twitter website and constantly refreshing to see new tweets. I’d rather use some other client. Twitter has a love/hate relationship with non-official clients. Mostly because those clients strip out ads and sponsored tweets. They don’t let Twitter earn money from them. Which is why Twitter is stamping them out for “replicating official client features” left and right. Curiously enough, I’ve never heard about HootSuite being hit with user token limits. But considering that a lot of Twitter’s favorite celebrities use it (or at least their social media teams do), I’m not shocked they’re on the exempt list.
I still find Twitter a very useful tool. It’s not something that can just be set into automatic and left alone. It takes curation and attention to make it work for you. But it also needs help from Twitter’s side. Instead of focusing on ways to make me see things I don’t care about from people I don’t want to follow, how about making your service work the way I want it to work. I’m more like to use (and suggest) a service that works. I barely check Facebook anymore because I’m constantly “fixing” their Top Posts algorithm. Don’t turn your service into something I spend most of my time fixing.