The biggest issue with technology companies these days is that, they can’t seem to learn their lesson. For large companies, that are supposedly run by specialists and people with masters or doctorate degrees, they can’t seem to grasp the simple notion that if you make your users unhappy your business will suffer. Sure, they want to make money to stay alive, so they introduce functionalities that attracts revenue generating activities – i.e. embedded advertisement, but why needlessly annihilate users in the process?
Since social media is a free platform, they can’t really charge membership fees or subscriptions – gods forbid. Twitter’s promoted tweets are so far the best implementation of embedded ads. It’s not distracting, it’s obvious, and undeceiving. One social media revenue generating function that I truly hate and loath is Facebook’s pay for “Boost” option. Facebook clearly suppress reach of a page’s post until you pay them. Regardless if you have hundreds or thousands of followers/subscribers, the initial reach is between 0%-2%. You have a better chance of reaching your audience if it’s on Twitter, Instagram, or Google search via blog post. Anyway, Facebook is the wrong platform to promote anything. Why? Read Twitter below.
History Not Learned
There was a time when MySpace was the best place to connect and interact with people on the web. Then MySpace started to introduce changes and restrictions that were more business-friendly at the expense of user experience. It didn’t took too long for users to start an exodus to Facebook. And whatever was left of its users base were decimated when, after the site was sold to Specific Media Group and Justin Timberlake in 2011, they shutdown the site only to re-launch with user content recklessly discarded – case in point, lost Inbox messages. Some users pleaded, and some threatened to sue. User Inboxes contained valuable life stories, like a mother whose Inbox contained conversations of her daughter and her, then, recently deceased husband, all of it lost. MySpace’s response was very unprofessional, arrogant, and cold. MySpace re-branded and relaunched as a place for musicians, that’s nice … but irrelevant.
Yahoo! Message Groups, like MySpace, was also once a thriving place for connecting with people. Particularly, user-created chat rooms, was the “it” thing in the early 2000s. But Yahoo!’s inability to properly regulate its chat rooms, resulted in user complaints, which eventually forced it to disable the feature. Soon their desktop messenger application became unpopular and obsolete. Their web portal, newsgroups, and e-mail service slowly withered away as users flock to other portals. It was such a waste. I was rooting for Yahoo! to relaunch and reclaim its place on the web a couple of years ago, but I suppose that sun has set completely.
A decade ago, Facebook was a very sound platform to connect with people online. But then its popularity, thanks to the persistent free media coverage and hype, got over its head. The company rolled out changes that eroded user trust and user experience, and it still continues today – for instance, public searchable timelines, amendment of user privacy that threatens user privacy, page and post Boost for a fee, endless private information nags, utopian user identity policy, inconsistent functionality across platforms, culture ignorance, and functionality that encourages people to become attention whores – it’s tiresome and exhausting. Luckily for Facebook, its vast user-base and huge capital will keep it afloat for some time, but it doesn’t mean it will continue to stay relevant, not in its current direction anyway.
Then there’s Twitter. One way to look at Twitter is, it’s like going to a house party where you meet your old friends or people of interest, discover new people through your connections or on your own, engage in conversations, voice your opinions, or simply listen to other people’s public conversations or monologue. And it works because it mimics how people naturally connects in real life. Facebook on the other hand is like going to a convention, where each individual is running a booth, drawing attention to themselves as much as possible, without really caring so much about what the other person in the other booth is doing, it’s a me me me me me platform! Its’ tools and features encourage this behavior. And this mentality is probably the main reason why die-hard Facebook users have a hard time using Twitter, like Generation Z and late Millennials, or the selfie generation, because they are more comfortable hosting their own parties, where they’re the star, rather than going to a venue where everyone are simply attendees.
Twitter’s simple, concise, and clear-cut features and privacy rules makes it easy to use and trustworthy. There are no hidden agendas, your account is either public or private. It’s a level playing field for everyone, your tweet is no more important than the President of The United States or Associated Press. Everyone’s tweet are equally searchable, no need to pay to “Boost” your post, just go and tweet it. And people who follows you, or search a hash tag you tweeted, will find you. And that’s how it should be.
The 140 character tweet limit forces people to be more direct. The last thing Tweeps (twitter users) need is read a long blog on their feed. Tweets are time saver, and it allows people to process other information instead of getting stuck reading a long tweet. If people want to say something long, go write a blog … or a book.
So far, Twitter has rolled out useful enhancements, like the ability to embed a tweet in a reply without having to quote the original tweet, embedded video with an auto-play option, seamless promoted tweet integration, the ability to mute users, and block / mute account management. Twitter has also rolled out changes that are not so desirable, but it affects the “desktop” user interface more, not so much with the mobile app. For instance the new Facebook-like profile page eats up almost half a “desktop” screen’s vertical real estate (seriously, wtf?), huge tiled followers grid is an overkill (an avatar and handle in a compact list is enough), enlarge tweet fonts for emphasis makes reading confusing, and the removal of the photo collapse feature can sometimes make reading tweets a tricky business, not to mention bandwidth hog.
Which finally leads us to this new update, the algorithmic timeline. If you take away the feature spin, it’s nothing more than an advertisement pin, just like Facebook’s pin post. The only difference is it’s automatic and Twitter decides what to bubble up in your timeline. It’s a tool to help promote certain tweets to make sure you read it. Forget the “missed tweets” excuse, that’s baloney. If I’m following someone important, I would go to their Twitter profile and read their tweets. And if I really want to make sure I pay attention only to a particular group of Tweeps, I’d create a Twitter list and add them there. And at home, I use TweetDeck desktop application with the lists I previously created loaded in columns. So this algorithmic timeline is redundant and pointless. The downside of this functionality is, it will create a timeline bottleneck in the Twitter mobile app. Where tweets that Twitter deems as “important” to you are stacked up in the visible timeline, discriminating other tweets that you may find more important, contrary to what their new algorithm predetermined. And we all are familiar about predictions, case in point, mobile input’s auto-correct and Facebook’s “face recognition.”
“Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your Home timeline even more relevant and interesting.” – Twitter.
“The best judge of an individual’s taste is the individual in question, not some artificial intelligence, not some program.” – Me.
How To Opt Out?
So far, Twitter is more logical than Facebook. The Algorithmic Timeline maybe out, but at least you can opt out! Go to your Twitter Settings, select Timeline, and uncheck the “Show me the best Tweet first.”
I’ll be the judge of “tweet I’ll be likely to care.” I mean, basically the time I spend on twitter is when I go over the tweets and post my own. I don’t need some “virtual personal assistant” telling me what I may like and what I want to read, thank you very much.
Lastly, if twitter values its’ users, which is really what is driving most social media platform, then it should try to be more mindful about how its users use its’ services before it implements features to please its shareholders. Perhaps the decline in active users is a testament to Twitter’s missteps. One thing they could really improve is their user verification process, so it verifies ordinary people too, not just celebrities and prominent people. It’s irritating to think that an account for a movie, television show, or a company gets verified in a jiffy while real people won’t have a chance unless you’re in the media, politics, or show business. And twitter wonders why their active users are declining, maybe they should ask @SpiderManMovie, “Wassup?”
Twitter, don’t become Facebook, you’re better than that. One social media douche bag is enough.