The New Twitter – some thoughts and observations

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Like most of the great-and-the-good of London’s digital community I stayed up and logged into Robert Scoble’s live feed of an important announcement from Twitter – too good apparently for a mere blog post.  After the press conference I felt deflated by the news.  So I wanted to leave it a little while in case I was channeling excess negativity before commenting on it.  Before I get into that I wanted you to have a look at this video which Twitter made to showcase bird-shaped breakfast pancakes the ‘new’ Twitter, this will save me having to describe it in text which is much more boring, trust me.

There were a few things that came out of the presentation that I found of interest:

First up, there was a good focus on consumers, by that Twitter didn’t mean we the people, but those of use who come to read the content, who are happy to be broadcast to.
hierarchyofsocialmediaengagementThis diagram is something that Bradley Horowitz used to present to when I was at Yahoo!, Forrester Research did their own slightly more complex version of it in Groundswell with five segments instead of three but the message is essentially the same. And the reason for Twitter that is quite compelling is because on a given social web property these ‘consumers’ constitute 90 per cent or so of the activity. Even the most ardent content provider is a consumer of some social media content. Until you comment, linkback, bookmark or recommend this blog post you are part of the 89 per cent or so.

Twitter is heading for the silent majority; this is a subtle difference in design philosophy to the likes of Facebook which is constantly demanding activity – like it, share it, join the group, send a message, write on their wall, poke them. Its like Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski versus an e-number addled teenager with ADD. I think that this is significant because Twitter has realised that there is value in consumers consuming content without having to be locked in as a registered user and offers significant potential over a competitor social media destination like a Facebook page.

Generally Twitter content is more discoverable through search than comparable Facebook content. Though Facebook haven’t done themselves any favours with the Community page which in many cases seems to be little better than spam, scraping the content from Wikipedia and vending adverts against it.

Having watched the video you will have seen the richer user experience where the audience can enjoy videos and pictures without going away from Twitter to Flickr, YouTube or TwitPic. This also engenders trust, as the audience sees what they are getting with linked content. I am sure that if Twitter started advertising it wouldn’t hurt either. An obvious question for some of the ‘embed‘ partners is how are they going to make money? But I’ll let other people concern themselves with that. It is no accident that the new Twitter looks like the news feed or wall of a Facebook page and I can see Twitter being used by brands in increasingly similar ways. Twitter has some additional advantages in that the limited customisation that it has do not require additional applications or the services of a Facebook developer. Twitter has WYSIWYG tools that allow you to alter the appearance of your page and upload a background of your choice.

I am curious to know how these changes to Twitter will affect the usage of existing company twitter accounts. One thing that struck me was the increased amount of real-estate on the screen that the activity part of twitter takes. This is likely to squeeze out brand messages that often appear on the sides of a Twitter pages background image. To see what I mean, have a look at this screen shot I have taken of Vodafone UK’s pre-sales Twitter page.

Vodafone twitter customer servicesIf the video is an accurate reflection of what most consumers would experience, you would lose the brand message and the profiles of the Vodafone employees, this would have an impact on the way Vodafone makes its service personal – you no longer have a feel for the individual with whom you are engaged in conversation and probably the conversational tone-of-voice that Vodafone currently uses.  It will provide a point of pressure making brand voices more impersonal.

Other stuff around the web worth having a look at regarding the New Twitter: