Twitter is a very powerful tool for businesses, co-workers, and friends. It is a place for you to produce content and for you to consume content. However, Twitter is not necessarily a place for you to interact on a normal occasion. The media wants us to believe that Twitter is a social media tool and seems to always mention Facebook in the same sentence. Twitter, unlike Facebook, promotes a follow-first methodology, meaning they want you to find people and interests to follow before going out there and tweeting yourself. I think what Twitter actually is and what we want it to be or believe it to be are vastly different.
Is Twitter REALLY social? I’ve found that Twitter has become a daily digest of one-way status updates, retweets, and news articles in which your followers hardly ever respond to. Why is that? Twitter has made it too easy to share content and follow others and too difficult to socialize. I often get discouraged when tweeting things about my life with absolutely no indication of whether someone has read it, what they thought of it, or even if they care! You’d think with 90 followers, there would be more interaction than with just my closest friends. Perhaps it’s an indication of how my followers are using Twitter. Or perhaps I just mumble a lot and spit out useless information. For confidence’s sake, I’ll agree with the former and tell you that my followers are just that, “followers,” and not “responders.” I want Twitter to be a tool to promote interaction, not exclusively consumption. More often than not, I just feel like I’m just wasting my time tweeting. Lets be honest, it’s never fun talking to yourself in front of an audience.
In addition, with a few exceptions, the only time I ever see my friends reply to anything is when they’re trying to get a celebrity’s attention or when they’re trying to win a contest. In face-to-face social interaction, you get that feeling of acknowledgement and response to what you are saying. If Twitter wants to claim that it is social, it needs to re-create that feeling.
What Twitter needs
Twitter needs a “like” button of some sort to at least give me an indication that people are reading my crap. Or how about a built-in text box for a response below status updates (which can be activated when a user hits “reply”). Twitter’s obscure reply feature leaves it up to the user to correctly formulate a response with its mention mechanism. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult for a user to respond to a tweet without Re-tweeting a portion of the original text–just so that the original author has some context to the response. This is what a built-in comment feature would do for you automatically. Twitter needs to make the user feel as though they are replying to an actual tweet and not just blurring out random text with a mention in hopes that the author will understand.
Twitter has set itself up for this sort of behavior with its promotion of following vs. socializing on its homepage. If you visit Twitter.com, you’ll see the words “Follow your interests” in big, bold letters. What does that tell you? Twitter wants you to focus on consumption before you socialize. Twitter has become a wide-scale news gateway in which industries have exploited and normal every-day users have fallen victim to. If you are on Twitter to update people on your life, you may be in the right place–although Twitter still has a small user base within many social circles. If you are on Twitter to share information and want people to reply or at least talk to you about it, it’s time to use Facebook exclusively.
Twitter needs to put itself back on the social map by incorporating a campaign to encourage people to interact. But it needs to architecturally construct itself to do so first. Lets hope it does before its elegance and hidden power become obsolete.