Twitter Turns to the Humans

Big news in Twitter land. At long last Twitter has decided to take control of our chaotic streams. Within the next few months Twitter will be unveiling “Project Lightning” – a human-powered curated feed by Twitter’s editorial team dedicated to providing useful information in real time based on what it considered to be the big stories of the day. From Wired: “The curated feeds will be separate from your Twitter timeline, access via a new button in its mobile app. The new screen will feature a list of seven to ten events taking place on any given day— ranging from scheduled events to breaking news to popular memes— featuring tweets, photos, and videos related to the event.”

This isn’t really a surprise-we all knew something had to give and it sounds like at long last Twitter has made it’s move. Over the past few months there has been speculation within the Tech and Social media circles about which way Twitter would go- whether it would move towards the pattern of Facebook or perhaps even get bought out by Google.

Turns out Twitter had something else up it’s sleeve. It decided to get back to it’s fundamental roots. As David Pierce wrote, “Twitter isn’t about a 140-character limit… It’s about a single question, the one you see when you first load “What’s happening?” And that’s true. Twitter usage always surges during events- from tragedy such as the Boston Bombing to global events such as the World Cup. As I mentioned in my earlier post Twitter is where we came together to have difficult conversations about race and gender following two horrible events. It’s that question “What’s happening?” And that’s a very human question. It’s one that we get irritated with Facebook for not answering. The every shifting algorithm is known for delivering old news to timelines. Sure that old news might be “quality content” but it’s still old.

As thousands of blogs have stated over the past few years, humans are social creatures, but what a lot of these posts don’t explore is that part of being social is having realtime conversations. Because let’s face it, conversations take place in realtime. Facebook existed way before Twitter, but it was the latter that gave rise to Tweet-ups and then TweetChats. How many times have you said “We’ve been friends on Facebook for years and now that we meet in person I feel like I know you?”. Yeah, try never. Twitter conversations and interactions foster that sense of creating new relationships.

It makes sense that Jack Dorsey is back to oversee this transition. Jack very much about this human element and opportunities of Twitter. Let’s not forget that Jack, a native of St. Louis, headed down to Ferguson during the height of the protests using Vine to document the on-the-ground events. His justification was simple-he want to be there to share it with the world. From Business Insider: “People were just bringing out their phones and recording everything,” Dorsey said. “That was so important to people on the ground. It felt like the whole world was watching. It’s so critical to make this world feel smaller, that is the power of Twitter.”

And that’s the vision behind Twitter and that’s the direction in which it sounds like they’re moving.

As a social strategist of course I’m thinking about what this means for the human-to-human element of brand strategy. At the moment I’m not sure what this is going to mean. We’ll have to see what the actual layout looks like and how it gets implemented. As several articles point out, Twitter has tried various forms of this model to no avail (think “Discover”). But my hunch is that whatever form Project Lightening ultimately takes, this is going to be a watershed moment. And I, for one, am excited to see where this goes.

I drew upon two Wired articles for this post, Twitter is Killing Twitter to Save Twitter and Twitter is Now Going to Decide What Should Matter to You both of which have great point of views that I highly suggest you check out for some additional insight.

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