Two thousand and fifteen definitely wasn’t Twitter’s year and this year, 2016, isn’t shaping up any better. The troubled social network has experienced more lows than highs in recent months including the loss of its only black engineer, the return of Jack Dorsey as CEO, rumors of an increase in post length from 140 to a staggering 10,000 characters, and most recently, the loss of five members of its executive team.
TWITTER’S NEW ALGORITHM: ADAPT OR DIE
On Friday, Twitter was launched into the spotlight once again, this time over a big and unwelcome change – from the point of view of Twitter users. Buzzfeed reported that Twitter will be adding an algorithm that modifies and adjusts a user’s feed based on unique user interests, activity and needs. I find it hilarious that Buzzfeed chooses to write about Twitter, especially when it’s reported than 21% of its web traffic comes from Snapchat. Shouldn’t they be doing a story with 45 Snapchat reaction gifs or something?
ALGORITHM ANNOUNCEMENTS LEADS TO #RIPTwitter HASHTAG
Twitter users quickly responded and #RIPTwitter became a trending hashtag on the social network. Twitter users have strong ties to the social network and are responsible for the development of retweets or RTs and hashtags, which are used to organized and file tweets similar to the Dewey decimal system, but in this case users are responsible for self identifying and organizing their individual tweets.
I prefer to be “harassed” rather than being censored #RIPTwitter
— Yeyo (@YeyoZa) February 9, 2016
— John Cena (@WWEJohnCenaUSC) February 7, 2016
I just saw a “7m” ago tweet ABOVE a “3m” ago tweet so my life is basically over now I can’t possibly use this platform anymore. #RIPTwitter
— Greg Stevens (@gregstevens) February 7, 2016
In Twitter’s current form, users see tweets only from accounts they follow and in reverse chronological order except for the occasional Twitter card which, in my opinion, have been proliferating in number over the last few weeks. With the current Twitter cards, advertisers and individuals can pay to have their messages seen on targeted user feeds. These tweets stand out since most Twitter cards include a visual graphic and a call to action button as well as the option to go beyond the 140 character limit of a tweet. Twitter has 9 different cards including a job card at present, and they are one of my most effective ways of engaging new blog readers and promoting blogs from my site for little money.
While some think that Buzzfeed broke the news on Friday, Twitter has been hinting at an algorithm since 2014, following the success of Facebook’s page rank algorithm. It’s important to remember that both Facebook and Twitter are publicly traded companies. Investors and Wall Street are also increasingly concerned over the growth of their investment, and new users are weighed heavily in forecasting revenue growth. Unfortunately, Twitter new user growth has been on the decline for some time. The beauty of Twitter is that it’s not simple as it may seem. It requires work and has an in-built learning curve. This has been great for maintaining the small community feel of Twitter.
HUMAN VS. MACHINE
Algorithms aren’t new. We use them as recruiters in technologies like Entelo and Dice Open Web that help us search and we rely on these algorithms when Glassdoor shows us the most helpful company reviews. Machine learning has been an emerging tool in human resources, learning and recruitment for the last two years. It’s designed to help us do more in less time and be more productive. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way.
Twitter, while an effective source of news, information and networking for many is also extremely daunting for new users which makes growth challenging in comparison to Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. New users encounter a hazing period not unlike new college fraternity pledges who must struggle to fit in, understand the platform and prove to other users they are committed to the Twitter community.
Let’s face it, as much as many of us – including myself – despise Facebook’s algorithm, it has been a key component in the platform’s growth and new user adoption. But knowing that when I publish my own content to a Facebook Page, it’s limited in its distribution simply because Facebook wants me to pay to increase my post’s visibility, never gets any easier.
Twitter in its present form, even with Twitter cards, doesn’t discriminate like Facebook’s algorithm. And that’s exactly why Twitter excels at events. The beauty of Twitter is its real time engagement and conversation where individuals are responsible for influencing each other and creating social groundswells. Twitter allows for easy search. While Facebook is a somewhat closed network, Twitter’s organic nature is what makes it so effective.
Obviously, Twitter is feeling the pressure since it just announced today the newly created Twitter & Trust Safety Council. Whatever that means.
Twitter Shines at 2016 Super Bowl
Sunday’s Super Bowl is the perfect example. Twitter expands how we, as users, experience an event. We are able to interact with hundreds, or thousands or even millions of users in real time. And Twitter wants a bigger piece of that potential ad revenue, which is a business case for adding the algorithm to our feeds and timelines.
THE REALITY OF TWITTER’S NEW ALGORITHM
The reality of Twitter and its new proposed algorithm is that Twitter is a business where capitalism is king. It’s not a non-profit. Users will need to adapt to the changes or leave the social network. Twitter continues to struggle to generate measurable revenue and find its way. The new algorithm means that celebrities and those with large Twitter followings will likely be forced to pay for visibility. Maybe Twitter should spend its time developing a Kardashian algorithm. Now, there’s an algorithm I support wholeheartedly.
NOW, THE GOOD NEWS
- New Twitter Algorithm Has Opt Out. The Twitter algorithm is reported to include an option to “opt out” just as the Facebook once provided users with an opportunity to adjust to this major change.
- A Decrease in Twitter Spam. Another challenge on Twitter is the huge amount of spam. I’m excited about a decrease in sex and pornographic tweets in my favorite hashtags.
- Easier Access to Breaking News and Information. In theory, these algorithms learn our interests and preferences allowing them to identify and share with us articles and new stories and connecting us with persons we wouldn’t otherwise have engaged. That’s what I like about Facebook’s Paper App, which connects me to articles, news and stories.
- Twitter Remains the Third Most Powerful Search Engine. While new users on Twitter may be plateauing, keep in mind that Twitter is still the third most powerful search engine. Since tweets are public, you don’t have to be a Twitter users to take advantage of the information, knowledge and news shared on Twitter, which is key when you consider job seekers you might be targeting.
Twitter has been such an important social platform for me personally and professionally over the last eight years. Twitter’s like an old friend or my favorite winter sweater. I sincerely hope this new algorithm doesn’t ruin what makes Twitter unique. However, I want Twitter to evolve and grow so it is around for another 15 years. Twitter has given me so much, and I guess I can handle a small adjustment, just a teeny one, if it means that Twitter lives on and doesn’t go the way of Friendster, MySpace or Google Wave.