How the Like Button Killed Twitter
Remember when Twitter was all about conversation? I do.
Twitter was once the internet’s Town Square where you could chat with friends and meet new people. There was a free exchange of ideas and information and a lively conversation which ran 24/7. So what happened to this simple mass text messaging application?
There are lots of theories. Umair Haque writing for the Harvard Business Review blames the decline of the platform on the negative content, abuse, and bullying that are on the rise. While that is true, this behavior exists on most other platforms, so why has Twitter declined more than other tools?
A significant contributing factor is Twitter’s loss of focus. In the struggle to keep up, they have copied features, buttons, and functions from competitors. They have added features no one has actually asked for, essentially as Umair said “turned what was an elegant platform into a flashing Las Vegas of GIFs and #trending #spam.”
What were the Twitter changes which decreased uniqueness?
The Like Button
Topping the list was the change from a favorite to a like button. Sounds simple right? Twitter had a “favorite function” almost since the launch. So why would the switch in the word from favorite to like be a big deal? The word “favorite” implies a higher level of respect for the content and people seemed to be reluctant to use it frequently. Instead, their first instinct was to retweet something they liked. That action kept the conversation going, introducing new people to ideas of others.
Once the “like” was introduced, it was a lazy way to acknowledge someone’s content. It made them feel good, but it didn’t expand the reach of the information. What can a user do? Actively engage in conversation. Browse through the feed and be deliberate in your intention to respond to comments. Seek out information in the timeline of new followers and retweet to introduce them to your community.
Photos and Gifs
I am a photographer, so I love photos. Yes, I really do, but they don’t belong on Twitter. The cool and unique thing about the Twitter timeline was the ability to scroll and speed read your way through hundreds of tweets in rapid succession. Suddenly there are images and even videos which interfere with the flow. It is like several adults trying to have a conversation with a two year old child in the room shouting “look at this, look at this.”
Unfortunately, there is no going back, Twitter isn’t going to be a text only platform ever again. The problem? The feed looks a lot more like Facebook then ever before so for many people, there is just no reason to stay engaged.
We have accepted that images and video are now a part of the time line, but we want to make sure that our community has a unique reason to follow us on Twitter.
We have addressed this on our Roundpeg Twitter feed by introducing content which is designed especially for the fast moving, interactive nature of Twitter. Our daily #JeopardyatthePeg is a good example. The daily question and the answer are only available on Twitter.
Not all Twitter changes are bad.
I don’t want to make it sound as if I hate everything about the platform. There are some changes which have improved the user experience. My favorite is the threaded comment which makes it easier to follow conversations. Sure it was fun to see out of context tweets and try to guess what they were referring to, but the threads improve the quality of the conversation.
It is really helpful during lively Twitter Chats, when there are multiple conversations going on at the same time.
Was Twitter Better Before the Changes?
See for yourself. Andy Baio the former CTO of Kickstarter, shared a link to show you what your timeline would have looked like a decade ago. See how quickly you can skim and find interesting information in this text only tool.
Even better, if you are going to use Twitter, make a pledge to actively be a part of the conversation. Don’t just like and retweet, retweet with comments and reply! Look for @lorraineball and @roundpeg. Say hello and tell me what you think has led to the decline and how we as active users can reverse the situation.