Today, #RIPtwitter is trending, on twitter. I’m sure the irony of that fact isn’t lost on most people.
The reason for the trend is the recent news that twitter is planning to introduce algorithmic prioritisation to the timeline.
In simple terms, artificial intelligence is going to decide which of the tweets in a timeline are more relevant, and put them at the top of your feed. The word timeline then is surely history, if you’ll excuse the pun.
The fact that #RIPtwitter has now been tweeted 500,000 times, accounting for about 0.14% of twitter’s active monthly user base, suggests that only a minute subset of people on twitter actually care about the change, but care they do. And with good reason.
I don’t like Facebook.
One of the reasons I love twitter so much is that it’s not Facebook, and that sentiment is echoed in lots of the #RIPtwitter tweets I’ve seen today.
I used to be an avid Facebook user. Every night out, every bike ride, every drunken fall and any event I attended was quickly posted to Facebook, but something changed.
Facebook grew up.
Facebook used to be a place for randomness, quirky pictures, out there statuses about inappropriate detritus that made us laugh out loud and then scroll down to the next nugget. But suddenly, it became something far more mature.
Everybody suddenly joined Facebook, you were suddenly friends with aunts and uncles, mums and dads, friends with babies and sickly couples who are renovating their dream house.
I don’t follow anybody I know on twitter. The simple reason is that I don’t want my timeline to become Facebook version 2.
My account is primarily focused on technology and individuals in the technology sector, I follow a few celebrities and a bunch of journalists too, as well as news outlets whose work I enjoy.
I treat my Twitter feed like a news feed for the subjects I’m interested in, and I treat it as a way to communicate with people ‘off the record’ about things that we’re both interested in without being ‘that guy’ on LinkedIn.
My other use for twitter is customer service interaction. If I have a problem and nothing is getting done, a tweet to the customer service team of Corporation X usually moves things along quickly.
When I went travelling in 2013, I tweeted Barclaycard to see if they would do me a deal for my travels. They did, I got a freeze on interest for the six months and they sent me a gift; a rucksack for my travels. The last generous touch fiercely reinforced my brand loyalty towards them.
Of course I tweeted to thank them, they replied, other people saw it and their brand continued to strengthen a result. What an easy win.
Everyone was happy.
This sort of thing doesn’t happen on Facebook, if I had done the same there my posting would have been ‘promoted’ to all of my friends and my mum would’ve worried that I was using a credit card to go travelling (sorry mum).
I don’t have that problem on twitter, and I don’t want it.
If there’s a chance that twitter’s algorithm is going to mean that my tweet to Barclaycard may be promoted to the tip of other people’s timeline, I wouldn’t bother sending it.
Twitter is amazing. Celebrities tweet like us normal folk, companies respond to queries even when they’re experiencing ‘exceptionally high call volumes’ in the real world, underground train services update us with line statuses, technology companies use it for service outages and most importantly, there are no baby photos.
Search too is amazing on twitter. If I see a traffic jam I search and find out from perfect strangers exactly what’s going on.
Helicopter over London? I search for helicopter and nearly always find out what’s going on and where.
Twitter needs to focus on these roots, it isn’t a tool I want to use to connect with my friends, where it could easily become just another social network that tries to monetise me, but that isn’t where it’s value resides.
Companies that use Twitter for customer service effectively pay *nothing* for the privilege.
Sure, they buy hootsuite and employ a social media specialist, but twitter doesn’t gain much besides recognition. It needs to monetise that relationship, build a customer service platform into the main site and sell solutions to companies large and small to use the service.
Twitter needs to focus on its news and search functions too. Twitter is the fastest source of news I use, it’s global, news comes from 350 million active reporters and I see numerous news outlets reporting both via twitter and from twitter to confirm and provide quotes for stories.
Twitter has given to news in a big way and it wouldn’t hurt the news industry to give a little something back. It needs to build a news platform and monetise that too, the users are already doing their bit.
I know I’m a little change averse, everybody is. Executives at twitter (I’m looking at you Jack Dorsey) must be groaning at #RIPtwitter and this type of article, the reality is that even small changes are always complained about by users and this one isn’t going to ruin twitter for anyone, but I’m still not convinced that twitter fully understands why it’s users love it so much, and I wanted to make sure that I spoke up and let them know.
Twitter, change whatever you want.
But please don’t change.