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We are seeing the "Facebookification" of Twitter happening before our eyes. No longer will we see a nice, minimized feed of Tweets presented to us on our smartphones or computers with several Tweets lining top to bottom on the screen. We'll see pictures, ads, and videos taking up more space by themselves than three Tweets presented the old way.
We will see Facebook. Rather than comment, we will be able to reply. Rather than share, we will be able to retweet. Rather than like, we'll be able to favorite. These are not new interactions that you can have with your Twitter feed - they've been available all along. The difference is that now they're present in the stream under each new post, just like Facebook.
Any change like this will have good and bad associated with it. The good is that some, particularly those who have a properly vetted and tightly pruned list of people they follow, may find that this change makes it easier to experience Twitter, particularly on a smartphone. The need to push the little picture link in the Tweet has been replaced by the need to scroll further to see more. The need to open up a Tweet in order to interact with it has been put inline within the feed, again making for fewer Tweets per screen but an easier path to engagement.
The bad is that this will utterly destroy the Twitter feeds of anyone with a poor list of accounts they follow. Businesses are going to fall into a trap thanks to this new expansive Twitter feed. It's possible that things you would never want to see on Twitter are now exposed rather than hidden safely behind the wall of a necessary click.
Overall, this is a great move from Twitter's perspective pre-IPO. They will be catering now to the people checking out the service for the first time before investing rather than the experienced Twitter user who knows how to play the game. It makes sense - the old users will adapt and the new users will be able to figure it all out more easily. If they've been on Facebook, they'll probably recognize many of the functionalities that are now common between the two networks.
Now, about that business trap...
I'm already starting to see it. Businesses and marketers are seeing things in their feed and realizing that they can get their visual message out to people more readily. They don't have to click to see images, so why not put the messages in the images themselves, right?
Wrong. For some reason, the old ways of thinking with captive audience marketing have never been abandoned in free audience marketing. You can load people up with all of the ads and business messages that you want on television, print, or radio, but the moment you post something to social media that might turn the audience off, they can easily turn YOU off by unfollowing you. Some would say that the remote control and the car radio tuner have the same basic effect, but it's not true. They might turn the channel during commercials, but they will likely return to the station and give you a second, third, fourth, or tenth chance to reach them with a different commercial later, but in social media, when they "change the channel" by turning you off, you will likely never have another opportunity to reach them.
Businesses, this is a tremendous opportunity to truly participate within the Twitter community in ways that have eluded you since the beginning, but that's not a license to flood people's feeds with material that won't resonate with them. The example above isn't that bad. It's just an announcement that someone had joined the team, but it's enough to make me want to unfollow them. No offense to the person who joined the team but I don't want those things popping up on my smartphone.
Thankfully, I don't follow those who blatantly spam all the time, but I've seen other feeds with marketing messages embedded into images that will clearly turn people off.
Twitter is in a constant state of flux and this latest change is going to be embraced by some, panned by others, but eventually accepted as the norm for all. We've transitioned from the click to the scroll as the general method for seeing more. It was described best in the best article I've ever read on Buzzfeed:
What this Twitter update does, in that context, is lower the barriers for interacting with tweets, which in turn reduces the threshold for sharing and for virality. It turns Twitter into a more unstable, interactive, sensitive, and potentially explosive ecosystem, a place where you feel like you at least have a chance of breaking through.