Twitter Is What You Make of It

TwitterThe end of Twitter? Nice title, but Twitter isn’t in trouble if it sticks to, and evolves on, what makes it essential.

Joshua Topolsky’s piece on the New Yorker triggered responses from various users pointing out why Twitter isn’t dead, what it could be, what it isn’t and some fact checking.

It really frustrates me that people keep comparing Twitter to Facebook, and that it’s failing because it’s business doesn’t look like Facebook’s. If everyone wants Twitter to be like Facebook, then Twitter has a long way to go and most likely is in trouble. But Twitter isn’t Facebook, and shouldn’t be Facebook.

That’s the fundamental problem with Twitter: it’s trying to be like other social networks.

Twitter is different, and that’s what makes it great. How so?

I can tell you that I’ve met the most interesting people I know through Twitter. It all happened through serendipity.

That’s power.

With that said, I don’t think Twitter is making it any easy for people (new and old) to find interesting people or content. It hasn’t asked themselves a fundamental question: understanding our core strength, how might we be more interesting?

Sure, it’s already interesting to power users. But how about taking it another level?

How to make Twitter more interesting

I think Twitter should look back at some of the “interesting” rituals users have created by themselves for inspiration…

At the beginning, Twitter’s own users created most of the features that are a constant in the core experience (Retweets and hashtags). Some even became weekly rituals; Follow Friday, for example.

If you don’t remember that ritual, every Friday people would recommend other people to follow. Some would take it another level and describe why you should follow said people.

It was great because people provided context for their recommendation. How about building this ritual into the core Twitter experience?

For context, right now Twitter places a “Who To Follow” feature on everyone’s profile. But these recommendations are not vetted by users, rather by Twitter’s algorithm.

Think about it, we all know people who are really interesting that others would benefit from knowing. How about Twitter let users create that list and make it more obvious? For example, when someone follows you they get a message from you letting them know who you recommend they follow next.

Your recommendee would then get a tweet back letting them know that you’ve recommended someone to meet them.

The on-boarding process, a dreadful experience for many new users, would benefit a lot from getting recommendations from interesting people; not from Twitter’s algorithm.

The same holds true for content, as value rises to the top.

The point is to create more structure around serendipity, much like in the physical world, and rely less on chance for it to happen.

I know lots and lots of people who are scared of jumping on Twitter because they just don’t get it. Of course, those of us who find value in it and have been at it for a while understand that there’s a direct correlation between the value you put into it and the value you get back. Yes, it takes work to build the structures for serendipity to happen; but that’s what’s fun about it.

Twitter is very much what you make of it.

As Dan Snow from The Guardian says of why Twitter matters:

Contrary to the enduring myth, Twitter is not for telling your imaginary friends that you have an itchy toe. It is a personalised news feed. You edit and curate your own newspaper and TV channel. You massively enrich your life by bringing new and varied experts into your orbit. The Mars rover reports to me directly, the Naval Records Society sends me hitherto unpublished primary sources, the cricket score updates before my eyes, Chris Addison sends me a joke.

We used to scan a newspaper for something interesting, now I’m mildly surprised to see something on my Twitter feed that is uninteresting. Twitter invented a beautifully simple way for everyone to talk to everyone, to follow an unsigned band, learn more from the world’s best scientists, philosophers and historians, track whale migration, connect and share. My life and that of millions of others is immeasurably richer.

Well, how about making it more interesting for everyone?

Twitter, call me. Let’s talk!