Why We Should Embrace Twitter’s Experiments Instead Of Shooting Them Down

Why We Should Embrace Twitter’s Experiments Instead Of Shooting Them Down
SHARE
THIS



Edge’s Richard Parker says Twitter is going to change the way it delivers its timeline whether users like it or not so we may as well concede the tech platform has a point.

Apparently, Twitter’s chief financial officer (CFO) Anthony Noto, has been running his mouth off at the Citi Global Technology Conference in New York, about Twitter’s imminent timeline rejig. He was quoted as saying, somewhat undramatically, that the reverse chronological order of content that Twitter is known for “isn’t the most relevant experience for a user”.

Apparently Twitter tested the idea of surfacing content that people you follow have favourited in your timeline back in August – and it didn’t go down to well amongst Twitter users who didn’t take kindly to what they saw as Twitter forcing content on them that they hadn’t asked for.

So what exactly did Noto say? Well, according to the Washington Post:

It’s important to understand what Noto did and didn’t say. He pointed to the problem of important content disappearing quickly and said that Twitter might resurface tweets from people who the user already follows if the company deems those tweets important. How that would work is anybody’s guess. But Noto did not suggest that Twitter would start filtering or curating timelines (my emphasis). If all Twitter does is resurface a tweet from someone that a user follows, they’re not distorting what the user sees. That user already follows the person whose tweet they’re now seeing. They would have already seen the tweet if not for the fact that they were away from their timeline.

Hmm. Noto’s clearly got a point about content disappearing quickly on the newsfeed. It’s problematic in a number of ways.

Firstly, there’s a threshold – a function of the number of people a user follows and the frequency at which those users post – after which without being logged in all the time, users will miss a lot of posts. The user has a choice here – accept missing the posts, or follow less users.

And obviously, from a broadcast viewpoint – whether you’re a brand or an individual – it’s difficult to get content out to your entire follower base without tweeting the same content numerous times, which could alienate users who spend a lot of time on Facebook.

These are issues. But is resurfacing favourites-of-friends the answer? I’m not so sure about that.

For one thing, just because I follow someone doesn’t mean that I care what they favourite. I might, for example, follow a politician for their views on government – I don’t care that they favourite a brand or a musician or a place, and yet if they do, the content from that user will be surfaced to me. No thanks. It also affects my behaviour as a user. Am I more, or less likely to favourite something knowing that it might then show up in my friends’ feeds?

For another thing, not all of the people I follow are equal in terms of their influence on me – or to put it more succinctly, I give more of a shit about some users’ opinions than others. Twitter would need to do some serious work to make sure that they only resurface content from favourites of friends whose opinions I respect. And even then, they can only go on observed behaviour, and what I click on or favourite depends on what I see on my timeline at any given moment – which is a random, time-based sample of the users I follow, and not necessarily reflective of my rational preferences.

I wonder whether Twitter could take this opportunity to do something more interesting. It would be a shame to see them reduce the amount of content that users see, as Facebook has done, based on a bunch of assumptions. Rather than ape the algorithmic tinkering of Facebook, Twitter could allow their medium to become truly user-controlled by allowing people to prioritise the users they follow – a simple preferential indicator like ’ Trusted’ or ‘Respected’. Giving users this power would also be interesting from a brand viewpoint: only brands that consumers really want to hear from would get any kind of cut through.

This approach COULD help to negate the filter bubble effect, too. Sometimes our actual behaviour is different to the way we think we want to behave (that old thinking fast and slow thing), so an algorithm that shows us content based on observed behaviour could be reducing the breadth of opinions that our evolved brains want to see. But it would also reduce Twitter’s opportunities to eventually ape Facebook in gradually reducing organic exposure for brands, and helping to position Twitter as a paid platform.

Whatever happens, something is sure to change, whether users want it or not – and experience tells us that any tinkering with timelines and news feeds is greeted with initial uproar, gradual acceptance, and eventual amnesia that it was ever different.

Richard Parker is the joint managing partner of Edge.  

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Fairfax Appoints Philippa Walker As Head Of Travel
  • Media

Fairfax Appoints Philippa Walker As Head Of Travel

Following the recent restructure of its commercial division, Fairfax Media has appointed Philippa Walker to oversee the Travel vertical within Australian Metro Publishing (AMP) business which includes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review, Brisbane Times, WAtoday and more.  In late 2017, the commercial teams were reshaped with a vertical focus under […]

Australia’s OOH Industry Grows Revenue For Eighth Consecutive Year
  • Advertising
  • Media

Australia’s OOH Industry Grows Revenue For Eighth Consecutive Year

The local out-of-home (OOH) industry increased its net media revenue by 6.03 per cent in 2017 to $837.1 million, signifying its eighth consecutive year of growth. According to figures released by the Outdoor Media Association (OMA), net revenue for the OOH industry grew 4.5 per cent in the final quarter of 2017 to $252.7 million. Digital […]

SpotX Appoints Gavin Buxton As Asia MD
  • Advertising

SpotX Appoints Gavin Buxton As Asia MD

Video advertising platform SpotX has announced it has appointed Gavin Buxton as managing director of Asia to lead the company’s expansion in the region. Buxton has over 17 years’ global experience in the digital advertising space, having worked in leadership roles at tech and publishing companies, including Microsoft, Turner Broadcasting, and LinkedIn, with the last […]

Big Mobile Doubles Down On Ad Tech & Rebrands
  • Advertising
  • Technology

Big Mobile Doubles Down On Ad Tech & Rebrands

B&T Awards 2017 finalist Big Mobile has unveiled a fresh look to reflect its new ad tech credentials. The company successfully pivoted its business from ad network to mobile ad tech vendor when it announced a joint venture (JV) with Widespace in October last year. As a result of the business changes, Big Mobile wanted […]

March One Appoints New Senior Account Manager
  • Advertising

March One Appoints New Senior Account Manager

Independent ad agency March One has appointed a fresh face to the team, with Melanie Tozer to reinforce its mission to put humans first as a senior account manager. Tozer (pictured above), an up-and-coming talent from New Zealand, will align her extensive experience in FMCG marketing with March One, having worked on accounts for Bunnings […]

What To Expect From The App Economy In 2018
  • Opinion
  • Technology

What To Expect From The App Economy In 2018

Here's an insightful, authoritative synopsis of the app economy. So, you're right, it wasn't written by a B&T journo.

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine