Don’t Ruin The Timeline

My last post discussed Twitter’s timeline changes and how the Fave (Fav, Favorite) can have different meanings for different users or even the same users in different contexts.

If Twitter is only listening to investors and reading engagement data, then it has lost focus. It has forgotten why we come to Twitter.

Twitter is not Facebook. That’s why we are here. It might take a little while for new users to get Twitter (that could be fixed if Twitter understood its users), but getting it leads to a better social experience in my small opinion. The Twitter audience and conversation is focused, smart, interest driven, and fun.

Advertisers need to understand that users might be on both Twitter and Facebook, but Twitter is often the place that we come to relax and get away from the algorithms and silliness of Facebook. Advertisers can choose to bug us on Facebook or find a better way to reach us while chilling on Twitter. Twitter is about choice, the choice to select what we want to read or where we want to search for what’s happening now.

Twitter is an island of sorts – or better yet – the home timeline is like a wild animal preserve. Changes to the home timeline have to be made with great care so as not to upset the balance of what makes Twitter different than Facebook. The home timeline is where tweets run free and we select when and which ones we want to observe.

By adding noise to the home timeline, now with the faves of those we follow or those an algorithm defines as popular and noteworthy, Twitter is beginning to lose sight of the importance of their timeline preserve. Rather than preserving a good user experience, they are tampering with something that is already making users upset (hear the jungle calls and screams?). Do a Twitter search for Twitter Algorithm – yes, I suggested this to Dick Costolo – and see how users feel about introducing Facebook-like algorithms to Twitter. Besides, there’s already a place for that in the Discover tab.

Christina Warren discussed this pretty well too.

Yes, Twitter’s changes are suggesting that focus is being lost and there’s weakening product leadership.

When I was told that the data from engagement rate, user growth & retention, and time spent in Twitter apps make Twitter’s new timeline change a good decision, I asked, “What data?”

I’m sorry, but has anyone seen any data that supports this? Twitter is hoping that Faves and timeline algorithms will work out. It worked for Facebook, right? However, it wasn’t too long ago that Facebook users began to realize that Facebook wasn’t showing them everything in the newsfeed that they wanted to see. There has been growing sentiment in fact against Facebook’s algorithms by users and the businesses who have been affected by declining reach on Facebook. Some have very vocally left Facebook over this in fact.

So why introduce noise into the Twitter timeline when there are so many other things Twitter could do?

What things?

Some Free Suggestions, Twitter

  • Improve the new user on-boarding process.
  • Rethink suggested follows.
  • Continue to improve the UI – I don’t mean remove hashtags and @s.
  • Keep the home timeline a preserve – protect it and focus on other core features.
  • Invest in your Search feature. Why can’t we save searches in iOS?

Advertisers and Investors

  • Understand Twitter
  • Realize that the Twitter audience is different than Facebook, in many ways more influential. Sometimes, its the same people but in a different frame of mind.
  • Engagement is very different on Twitter. You might not have a conversation with a lion (or give it an ice bucket challenge), but you won’t forget (real reach) what you saw it do on Twitter. Talk to someone who can show you why and how to approach Twitter differently than Facebook.
  • Stop pressuring Twitter to be like Facebook. It just shows naivet√© akin to a big game poacher thrashing about without care.

I continue to hope that Twitter officially establishes a home timeline preserve – because preserving users is always a better product decision.

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