On February 5, Buzzfeed reported that Twitter was doing away with their chronological timeline in favor of an algorithmic one. Users would no longer see tweets as they were posted in real time, but rather in an order the algorithm thought users wanted to see them. Buzzfeed theorized that this would help manage spam links and adjust Twitter’s signal to noise ratio, but users remained skeptical.
Many users feared, myself included, that Twitter was downgrading everyone in order to sell priority placement tweets to power users, just as Facebook had done with status updates on its Fan Pages. Social media services were shifting stanchions onto their free dance floors, relabeling the spaces as their VIP sections. Twitter appeared to be doing the same; gutting the democracy of the service to benefit a monopoly held by power users, celebrities, and advertisers.
We feared that the algorithm would put an end to Hashtag Revolutions like the Arab Spring or Ferguson Protests, and that breaking news would get buried by Kardashian selfies. Twitter has been championed as the voice of the people. An algorithm would elevate posts based on predictions. It wouldn’t know the value of movements without a point a reference.
There was fear in the writing community that authors would no longer be able to build a following by making connections, not if our potential followers couldn’t see what we were doing. Authors would have to pay to play the game. Great content wouldn’t be enough to gain a following. Now authors would need a great budget to back it up.
These fears gave rise to the hashtag #RIPTwitter. The live newsfeed was Twitter’s defining feature. Users feared the platform was about to go the way of MySpace.
On February 6, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey addressed the backlash.
NBC new’s Josh Sternberg added:
On March 15 Twitter opted its users into the algorithmic timeline by default.
At the same time this happened Twitter started offering Tweet Engagement and Website clicks or conversations campaigns. These campaigns work just like Facebook’s Boost Post button. Users can pay to show up higher in followers timelines, leapfrogging real-time posts. Twitter charges these users for each retweet, like, or click-through until their budget is spent. They also label these tweets with a “Promoted by” label so everyone can know how authentic they are.
So is Twitter Dead?
First off, I’m happy to report Twitter has not limited the reach of my linked tweets to the extent that Facebook has for my Fan Page (which has decreased by 90% since Facebook launched its algorithm in 2014). Although, I have noticed a decline in pages views.
Content creators still have a home on Twitter, so I’d like to focus on what we can do to about this new situation. Tell your followers how to toggle the live timeline on and off to stay up to date with your latest posts.
With a tweet like:
This should be no more tacky than asking for the occasional retweet.
Start Using Twitter’s List Feature
Now is the perfect time for writers to start using Twitter’s lists. The Twitter algorithm is going to fill your home screen with the most popular tweets in your feed. If you follow a high profile author (who rarely responds to @replies) you could see a lot more of them than someone you know if you chose to leave Twitter’s algorithm on.
Click on your profile image. Scroll down to Lists and click the Create a new list button on the right. Make a list of people in your community you interact with the most. Make another for new people you’d like to interact with more. Make lists across all of your interests. This way you can still see the most popular Tweets but you’ll increase your odds of interactivity. I have a special list for big bibliography authors like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Chuck Wendig, and I have another list for up and comers like myself.
If you’re following a lot of users try to limit your lists to 150 people each. Why this magic number? University of Oxford anthropologist and psychologist Robin Dunbar suggests that 150 stable social relationships is the cognitive limit most people can manage at once. Most of the relationships we develop on Twitter won’t be as intense as those we forge in real life, but I find the limitation helps me keep track.
How Twitter can Fix Itself
Twitter should take a page from Apple’s playbook. Just look at what happens when a third party app developer brings amazing new features to the iPhone. Apple integrates those features into their next iOS update and renders the third party app irrelevant.
Twitter has a series of third party dashboard applications that charge subscription fees for features Twitter should be offering. Sites like Hootsuite allow users to schedule tweets in advance. They charge $9.99 a month for pro accounts. That’s money Twitter should be making by integrating scheduling features into their platform.
That’s how you monetize social media. You roll out new features to entice power users, you don’t fence off something you once gave away for free. Those bait and switch tactics betray your users’ trust. If Twitter keeps doing this users will flock to the first service that gives away what they now charge to promote.
I’d sign up for a premium Twitter account today if they gave me:
– More WordPress integration options like multiple preview images that cycle every time I share a link.
– The ability to set up a book sale within a Tweet so the customer never has to leave their timeline.
– Spam filters in DMs.
– The ability to schedule profile pic and banner changes to match seasons, holidays, and release dates
– Link buttons in my profile banner.
– Multiple pinned items, especially formatted to fit my profile
– An event calendar.
– Hashtag metrics so pro users can track which ones are getting the most engagement
– The ability to hide Sponsored Content
– And finally an EDIT Button to fix all my auto-correct embarrassment.
I want Twitter to turn a profit but there’s a more elegant way to do that than selling sponsored spam or forcing users to gamble on a tweet going viral. Baiting users to embrace a free format and then switching it to a paid one is a terrible business model. If there is a social media bubble this practice will burst it.
It’s great if Twitter becomes profitable selling Tweet Engagement, but I think they’d stand to make more money selling subscriptions for services they haven’t offered before.
This is my first collection of musical spoken word recordings. Each recording puts a satirical slant on self improvement, self medicating heartbreak with humor, and dropping the mic on depression. The recordings are scored with synth melodies, backing beats, and radio drama sound FX.