Four Ways Twitter Can Improve

Twitter

I like Twitter. A lot. It has become my favorite social network to interact with people, share my thoughts, stay up-to-date on news, and stay entertained.

However, Twitter has some catching up to do. With Facebook announcing its new Timeline feature (as well as emphasizing Lists again) and Google+ going public, it is time for Twitter to consider some minor changes that will greatly improve the experience of its users. The social media site, which has faced periodical criticism for seeming lack of long-term vision, has over 200 million users and is handling approximately 200 million tweets per day. The company underwent one major site design overhaul referred to as “New Twitter” that began rolling out to users in October 2010.

Here are just a few changes that I think Twitter should make in order to enhance the user experience and stay competitive (feel free to add your own in the “Comments” below): 

  1. Follower/Following Search- Have you ever wanted to find someone you are following to see their latest tweets? What about wanting to see if so-and-so is still your follower? I know I have wanted to both of those things. However, with Twitter’s current setup, these are both difficult (if not impossible to do). To find another user on Twitter, you have to use the “Search” box at the top of the page and then hope the person either a) has a somewhat uncommon name so that they make it to the top of the search results or b) has a Twitter handle that you can remember and spell. As for finding if that one user is still following you: good luck! A few third-party apps like Echofon can do this, but it isn’t common.One of the cornerstones of social networks is their ability to easily connect people. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ have all made this simple by auto-completing the names of your connections for you in the Search bar. So, since Twitter is one of the major social networks, you would think it would have had these basic functions before now, but apparently they haven’t thought to add it yet.  If Twitter wants to survive long-term and fend off encroachments by the other social networks (ie “Lists” & “Circles”), it must not only get users connected to each other, but make it easy for them to stay connected and interact with one another.
  2. Searchable Tweets- Do you ever wonder what you have tweeted about most or how many times you have tweeted with a certain hashtag? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to look back to when you first joined Twitter to see how your tweets and tweeting habits have changed? Unless you have the patience that it takes to watch paint dry and grass grow, you aren’t currently able to do this on Twitter.If Twitter were to add a feature similar to Facebook’s new “Timeline”, it could be a great tool to keep people on the site longer, increase engagement, and reinforce long-term loyalty. It could even be used to create something similar to Klout‘s “Influential About” and allow other Twitter users to see a two or three topics that you tweet about so that they have a better idea of what they will get by choosing to follow you. (Twitter could give users a say in this “influence” field too in order to balance out any algorithmic miscalculations).

    Klout’s “Influential About” Feature

  3. Retweet with a Comment“- Often people ask me what iPhone app I use for Twitter. My answer: Echofon. Why? Because of the “retweet with a comment” feature that allows me to add a comment to someone else’s tweet that I’m retweeting. (ie. “LawsonHembree: After you read the article, read the comments. RT @HannahShelburne: Why Tweeting during Church is a good thing: http://cot.ag/rpNDBf) If I want to add a comment on the regular Twitter site, I have to copy a tweet, paste it, erase some text, add “RT @” and then add my own comment. The addition of this feature would increase engagement with other Twitter users as well as create something on Twitter similar to comments on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.
  4. Scalable Backgrounds- This might only apply to a few of you with custom Twitter backgrounds like me, but it would be great if Twitter would have a way to scale your background so that it looks the same on every size/resolution of monitor. I tried to create a background, with some tips from Mashable, that would fit most screen sizes without the tweeting area covering it (especially the QR code) and for in most cases it has worked, but there are a few screens that it doesn’t work well on. Since I spent quite a bit of time making the background and want it to look professional, it would be convenient if Twitter could automatically scale it.

    My Twitter profile with custom background

These are just a few features that I think Twitter is lacking that would increase its value as a social network. I’m not saying that Twitter should try to be Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or any other network, but it does need to continue to innovate in order to compete for people’s time, engagement, and attention (which ultimately means more money from ad revenue for Twitter).

What do you think? Are these good ideas? Do you have others? Let me know in the comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

[header image credit: Scott Beale on Flickr]

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About Lawson Hembree
Lawson is an entrepreneur, ministry leader, and outdoors enthusiast who also enjoys blogging about business, ideas, and theology. Want to continue the discussion or write a guest post? Let's Connect!

2 Responses to Four Ways Twitter Can Improve

  1. benklar says:

    If I were to write a blog post in a similar vein, I would have included your top idea as my top idea as well. It is too hard to search for my followers and those I follow; Facebook has had improved drop-down search options for quite some time now. I don’t see as much value in #2 as you’ve given it, but the visual appeal and convenience of Timeline is certainly a smooth move by Facebook that Twitter needs to learn from. I think #3 should have been your #2. Interaction with other users is what makes social media “social” (DUH), so it makes very little sense that there are not simple ways to interact with other people’s content.

    By the way, I’d like to plug the iPhone app that I use, the official Twitter app. The comment feature on the Twitter app is labeled “Quote Tweet” but it’s the same idea. For whatever reason I’ve not had much luck with Echofon. Each time I’ve tried to switch over I’ve had one feature or another that drives me crazy and I end up back with the Twitter app. Maybe we were meant to be together.

  2. Ben,

    Thanks for your comment! I can see how #3 is definitely an important feature in making Twitter more social. It baffles me that Twitter hasn’t done #1 or #3 yet. Since much of the Twitter activity occurs on third party applications and websites (some estimates as high as 75%), you would think that Twitter would take the best of the most popular and integrate it onto their own site. If Twitter wants to be able to sell itself as a viable platform for advertisers, it has to have people on the site to begin with. By doing #1 & #3, that would help them move in that direction.

    #2 is more of a personal ascetic thing that I’d like to have. It’s been fun to look back on my Facebook Timeline to see what I was putting as my status back when the only verb option was “is.” It’d also be fun to see the phases I went through on Twitter (and see what I’ve tweeted about most).

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