Here’s what people think about Twitter ‘likes’

It’s been a little over 24 hours since Twitter replaced its star-clad favorite button with a like button that flashes a congratulatory heart when pressed. In that time the social network has been abuzz with comparisons to Facebook, complaints about the implications of a digital heart over a virtual star, and tongue-in-cheek calls for people to use star emoji instead of the like button.
Ultimately, only one thing matters: Does this make Twitter a better service? Switching button labels could prompt people to click ‘like’ more often, thus boosting engagement. But perhaps hitting ‘like’ will also lead to fewer retweets, which, in turn, could have its own set of changes. It’s a little early to tell how the switch to “likes” instead of “favorites” might affect the social network. It’s clear what the company wants to happen, and the most vocal of its existing users have made their opinions known, too. (I asked Twitter about some of these issues, and whether or not there’s been a difference in usage in the day since the switch, but have yet to hear back.)
That said, one of the most common complaints I’ve seen is that changing “favorite” to “like” makes it harder to use the button to communicate different ideas. The veneer of positivity implied by the jovial red heart has proven anathema to Twitter users who rely on sardonic lingo to communicate with each other. That’s hogwash; “like” isn’t more overtly positive than “favorite” used to be.
Another frequent complaint might be more valid: The idea that replacing a simple star with a heart — which has symbolized romantic love longer than it’s been an interaction tool on social networking platforms — could make it easier for men to harass women on the service. Twitter already has a harassment problem, and according to the backlash against the change, hearts won’t help.
I haven’t noticed a change in how I’m using this button. Besides the novelty of a new animation (who isn’t a sucker for hearts that pop into being?) this seems like another change that people will whine about and promptly forget. And it doesn’t matter what Twitter’s existing users think about the hearts: This is all about helping people new to the service feel a little more welcome.
That might actually be the biggest problem with the new “like” button. Much like other changes that make Twitter more scrutable to newcomers, from the redesigned profile pages to the updated conversation view, this changeup has Twitter users scared their playground of self-involved witticisms might soon be filled by people who are sincere and kind to each other. Oh, the humanity!
Those people might be in for a surprise. UserTesting found that many people (74 percent of those polled) liked the new hearts, whether it’s because of the animation that accompanies it or because they think it’s more user-friendly than the stars used to be. Another 16 percent of respondents didn’t care; only 10 percent preferred the old way. Most people won’t mourn these dead stars.
Of course, those findings are based on a 50-person survey. Maybe a different batch of 50 people would have different feelings. But I suspect the most damning finding — which is that 72 percent of people didn’t even notice the change until it was pointed out to them — won’t vary across different groups. Twitter’s core users are upset about something most people won’t even see.
Not that all of this will matter in a few days anyway. It’s only a matter of time before Twitter users move on with their lives and forget that a small icon was switched to another small icon with a different name. Call it Twitter’s stages of grief: anger; humor; acceptance; and forgetting anything ever happened. Eventually the service’s updates always win over users’ hearts and minds.
(Pun intended.)

Report: You will start seeing more tweets in your Google searches

Google and Twitter have rekindled their friendship, according to a new report out from Bloomberg. Twitter will grant access to its tweets to Google, which will start displaying them in search results. Bloomberg says we can expect to see this happen in the first half of 2015.

Previously, Google would occasionally surface tweets but it had to trawl Twitter to pull them itself. Now, Twitter will directly feed the information to Google, automating the process. The tweets will display as soon as they’re posted. It’s similar to a partnership Twitter and Google struck between 2009-2011 that eventually ended after Twitter decided not to renew it.

The news comes on the precipice of Twitter’s fourth quarter earnings call tomorrow. The company has been pulling out all the stops to make itself look stronger prior to the call. It announced a host of new products, from new user instant timelines to direct group messaging, it acquired India-based notifications company ZipDial, and unrolled its new external advertising strategy.

Twitter left a lot unanswered with new ad strategy, but Wall Street didn’t mind

Twitter left a lot of questions unanswered about its new syndicated ad network, but it looks like Wall Street didn’t mind. The social company’s stock closed up six percent after it announced it would start powering promoted tweets on other sites. The tweets would look a lot like they do in Twitter.

A mockup of a promoted tweet that could appear outside Twitter

A mockup of a promoted tweet that could appear outside Twitter

It’s sort of a confusing premise, one that led Re/Code to call it a “concept” rather than a “full-blown product.” Would promoted tweets appear on the sidebars of websites? Would they pop up embedded in posts? Would they only show up in widgets that serve up a bunch of tweets? Twitter’s blog post on the news didn’t elaborate further, aside from saying they’d appear on Twitter’s first partners: Flipboard and eventually Yahoo Japan.

Flipboard is an obvious integration, since tweets are already part of the content. Flipping past a promoted tweet as you go through stories would feel natural. “Because Flipboard already integrates organic Tweets into the app, the Promoted Tweet will have the same look and feel that is native to the Flipboard experience,” the Twitter post said.

I was struggling to think of many other examples where there are streams of tweets on other websites. Most media companies embed or show one-off tweets, so a promoted tweet there would look jarring and might keep journalists in particular from embedding tweets. A few years ago, embedded widgets showing latest tweets by certain users were very popular, but I haven’t seen those in awhile. I asked Twitter for more examples of where they imagine these promoted tweets appearing, and I’ll update this if I hear back.

On the surface, Yahoo Japan is a weirder partner choice than Flipboard. Why would Twitter want to work with an Asian arm of a struggling media brand?

Turns out, Yahoo Japan is its own separate entity — the American Yahoo helped found it in conjunction with telecommunications company SoftBank. Yahoo Japan’s popularity has continued to soar even as Yahoo’s has plummeted. And Twitter is hugely popular in Japan as well. It’s an easy way to test the product before courting other companies.

A source familiar with the Twitter’s strategy told me they’re still developing this new promoted tweet strategy and will be releasing more information in the future. The person I spoke with said that we can expect to see promoted tweets both in feeds of tweets from the website, but also as standalone units. “The promoted tweet is a trusted and known unit and it looks and feel really easily digestible,” they said. “You need users to say, ‘This is content I’m ok with having here.'”

That’s key for Twitter’s new external ad strategy to succeed. Given the fact that the company is serving up promoted tweets, not newly designed ads, it has to hope people like that format.

No more Twitter FOMO: The “while you were away” feature is live

Twitter’s missed tweets product is now live on its iOS app. The feature will expand to Android and web browsers soon. When you’ve been gone from the service for awhile, you’ll be shown the top tweets that appeared during that time. From the most retweeted or most favorited, you’ll get a quick recap on the most important stuff. In the blog post announcing the news, Twitter was careful to say this isn’t the first step to algorithmic curation, “With a few improvements to the home timeline we think we can do a better job of delivering on that promise without compromising the real time nature of Twitter.”

Rumored Twitter-Foursquare partnership shows Yik Yak is a threat

Twitter is reportedly teaming up with Foursquare to power location-based tweets, according to Business Insider.  Location features are key to Twitter’s product roadmap, because the company believes such contextual information will make the service more useful for people.

But there’s lots of product changes that would make Twitter more useful to people, particularly new user onboarding tools. So why is Twitter focusing on location-based tweeting, arguably a departure from its core service, now?

It may have to do with new competitor Yik Yak. Yik Yak spread virally through colleges with a product that’s similar to Twitter, except your feed is composed of posts from people near your location. The app has had a stunning rise through the charts, and just raised $62 million in new funding from Sequoia (the main backer of WhatsApp). Although it’s frequently grouped in with the Secrets and Whispers of the world, Yik Yak sees Twitter as its big competitor. With Twitter now taking geolocation so seriously, it appears the feeling is mutual.

BI didn’t get the scoop on what, exactly, the Foursquare-enabled Twitter feature would look like, but sources told the publication we could see it as early as the first quarter of 2015.

We can look to Twitter’s recent Analyst Call for some idea. During that time, Twitter showcased a wide array of preview products — ones it was planning but hadn’t finished building. Location-based tweet organization was one such feature.

In the slides Twitter showed, people could navigate to micro tweet areas, seeing all the tweets coming out of, say, Grand Central Terminal or Olive Garden, Times Square. Yik Yak’s Peek Anywhere tool is similar, although it’s based on pin dropping, as you can see below:

Twitter's location curated timelines

Twitter’s location curated timelines


Screenshots of Yik Yak's location based post tool

Screenshots of Yik Yak’s location based post tool

It was hard to tell from the Analyst Call, where a ton of product previews were dumped, how much Twitter was prioritizing this feature. But if it’s working alongside Foursquare to introduce it as early as January – March 2015, it’s clear this matters. It will be one of the biggest changes to Twitter’s product since its inception. And if users adopt it, it could pose significant problems for Yik Yak.