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Is Change Good or Bad? What if the Change is on Twitter.com?

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twitter use in real estate and elsewhere

Oprah wasn’t always on Twitter…

A few years back, South By Southwest Interactive Festival attendees began using a little web app called Twitter.com which began simply as an aggregator of everyone’s away messages so people wouldn’t have to visit various sites to quickly review what their friends and contacts were doing.  At sxsw it was used to mobilize folks and thousands of people trying to figure out where the hot happy hour was, so much that the old fail whale resulted.

Now, Twitter is a household name- Oprah and my dad tweet, which is a far cry from us sxsw geeks back in the day.  For those of you new to Twitter, you may not realize that once upon a time, there wasn’t a standard culture and best practice for Twitter and as early adopters, we helped mold the culture.  Recently, Twitter has made a variety of changes to their terms of service and now to the design of their site and those of us who are immersed in the culture are watching closely- some object, some support and honestly, some don’t care, but change has not gone unnoticed.

What interests me most because I have an affinity for web design (although I don’t design anything, I’m more of a fangirl) is the tiny changes Twitter is rolling out that aren’t mentioned on their press releases.  So I ask those of you who have been around since BackInTheDay, is change good or bad?  Does it matter?  Let’s peep some of the changes and then I want you to opine…

Innovate or cling to the old for nostalgia?

all - CopyFirst up, the default avatar has been changed from the standard brown with blue eyes wonky person face to a variety of colors with a bird-ish figure… does this change your wardrobe?  Am I the only one with a now-vintage twitter avatar t-shirt?

Besides that, is Twitter getting further away from their logo of the standard bird?  Have you noticed there are like three versions of the Twitter bird now generated by Twitter themselves?  Does YOUR company have multiple logos?

Secondly, look below… Twitter has changed the font to a helvetica, check out the numbers on this picture… Does it matter?  Is it cleaner?  Is it an indication of a newer UI on the way?  Is this like mom trying to chop up carrots and sneak them into the meatloaf so we eat healthy crap?

helvetica use on twitter.com

Lastly, the overall community has designed a variety of “follow me” buttons and although I lean toward the polished icon and the Practika logo set, does it distort the “follow me” message your site is sending when a user doesn’t recognize the logo or are you showing you are creative and innovative?  Which of the below do you lean toward?

twitter follow me buttons

What are YOUR thoughts?  Are these hidden carrots or are they tiny changes that show Twitter is still a diamond in the rough and the polish is on the way?

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Stacey Harmon

    September 16, 2009 at 11:49 am

    @laniar

    Wow Lani – Sharp detail eye you have there! Impressive. Great post.

    Twitter never has been a beacon of design, so I’m happy to see some overall improvements to the UI (the home page redesign was certainly a step in the right direction), but I don’t think moving away from their core brand image of the blue bird is a smart move. I’m all for the blue bird evolving, but that change to a purple thing seems a dramatic departure. I think of the McDonalds logo…it always has the yellow M, but the application of the logo has been modernized over time and adapts to the current business environment. Twitter could do the same.

    I am perplexed by the change of the font to a serif font. Certainly not more readable. I don’t get it. Makes me wonder if there really is any graphic plan at all.

    In general, I belived that good design can make users/customers raving fans of your brand. Now, I love twitter (even w/o great design) but think the entire platform can gain broader acceptance and love with a strategic brand clean-up and redesign. Problem is, as your examples above point out, it doesn’t seem to have any greater standard behind it. At least not that we can see…yet.

  2. Matt Stigliano

    September 16, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    @LaniAR One of the things I’ve noticed about Twitter in the past is that they throw changes out there willy-nilly and then change them the next day. It’s as if Twitter is in constant beta. I’m all for some change to clean things up and make it look all nice and pretty, but remember when they kept switching what appeared in the left sidebar? Everyday I logged in it was different. It was confusing. Those sorts of changes can be more detrimental to your user stats than anything else. Although there will be those that complain that Twitter “sold out” (to use a music industry favorite) when they change a logo or graphic, I’m not too worried about these as long as it works. For branding purposes though, I have to say it’s a bad move to change too much too fast.

  3. Ian Greenleigh

    September 16, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    My dad was Apple’s go-to photographer back when few had heard of Steve Jobs or his Macs. He was asking me about twitter the other day, because he’s still not on it. He said, “Isn’t Guy Kawasaki on there?” Uhh, yeah Dad, he’s on there in a big way. “I know that guy. He came from Apple.” Well, Dad, maybe you should get your ass on twitter since you’ve got some inside guys.

    See, it’s hard for me to explain to otherwise tech-savvy people like him why they should be on twitter without sounding like I’m trying to literally sell it. When I tell people the things that have happened for me, things that all started on twitter, I understand why they don’t believe me. How can it be of value if it’s free? And fun? Well, you’ll just have to accept it as a new era.

    The other day on twitter I made the worst joke ever about a rain dance. Someone on the east coast read it and responded. We had a silly little conversation, nothing of substance. Then he asks me if I have time soon to talk about what I do. He checked out the site. I checked out his, and he’s a huge multifamily developer. From the stupidest little joke, I may get some business and an incredibly reference-able new customer. I wouldn’t believe it myself.

  4. Scott Allen

    September 16, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I like the default avatar change from an aesthetic point. On the flip side, seeing the brown wonky face was an easy way to pick out followers who aren’t really committed to Twitter, i.e., many are spam accounts. Of course, among the changes on Twitter are that any serious spammers now use a photo of some cute girl in a bikini or showing cleavage rather than the default avatar, so I don’t know that it matters so much any more.

    I do NOT like the new follow button and more generally the shift away from the blue bird. Twitter has encouraged the development of an ecosystem of related products, many of which play on the blue bird as a way of acknowledging the connection to Twitter. Personally, I love the fact that they have allowed, perhaps even tacitly encouraged, this practice, rather than sending out C&D letters for trademark violations.

    So what now if the Twitter bird is suddenly a white bird on a purple (or whatever) background? Does the entire Twitter ecosystem shift along with them?

    This isn’t just a matter of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Twitter bluebird is a well-recognized, well-established brand that has spawned a plethora of derivatives. Changing it isn’t just risky — it’s downright stupid.

    While we’re on the topic of UI changes, I hate the fact that all actions regarding a user are now in a drop menu rather than a simple link. Also, there’s no longer an easy way with Twitter to tell whether someone I’m following is following me back or not (you used to be able to tell by whether there was a DM link next to their name or not).

  5. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 16, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    “twitter”

    The other day I was in the geek section of my local Barnes n Noble. You know, the section with all the 4 inch thick SQL Server books.

    These two teen age girls come by, one leading in front of the other, walking pretty quickly through that aisle (I guess so no knowledge would actually stick).

    As they round the end of the aisle, the one in the front sees a twitter book (bet that’s a good read, btw) and says “oh cool, twitter.”

    With no delay, like it was one long choreographed sentence, the one in the back follows with, “that’s so stupid.”

    This is strange because the one in the back was the one texting while walking.

    But, regardless, apparently and officially, the verdict is still out on “twitter.”

    RM

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If you’re not on Clubhouse, you’re missing out – here’s why

(SOCIAL MEDIA) What exactly is Clubhouse, and why is it the quarantine app sensation? There’s a few reasons you should definitely be checking out right now!

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Clubhouse member hanging out on the app, on a couch with mask on their face.

The new exclusive app Clubhouse is challenging what social media can be – and it might possibly be the best thing to blow up during quarantine.

Developed by ex-Google employee Rohan Seth and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davison, Clubhouse has only been gaining in popularity since lockdown. Here’s why you need to join immediately:

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is like if subreddit pages were live podcasts. Or maybe if niche, topic-centric Zoom chatrooms could connect you with people from all over the world. But it’s ONLY audio, making it perfect for this period of lockdown where no one truly looks their best.

From networking events to heated debates about arts and culture to book clubs, you can truly find anything you want on Clubhouse. And if you don’t see a room that peaks your interest, you can make one yourself.

Why is it special?

Here’s my hot take: Clubhouse is democratizing the podcast process. When you enter a room for women entrepreneurs in [insert your industry], you not only hear from the established experts, but you’ll also have a chance to listen to up-and-coming users with great questions. And, if you want, you can request to speak as well.

If you click anyone’s icon, you can see their bio and links to their Instagram, Twitter, etc. For professionals looking to network in a deeper way, Clubhouse is making it easier to find up and coming creatives.

If you’re not necessarily looking to network, there’s still so much niche material to discover on the app. Recently, I spent an hour on Clubhouse listening to users discuss the differences in American and British street fashion. It got heated, but I learned A LOT.

The celebrities!

Did I mention there’s a TON of celebrities on the app? Tiffany Haddish, Virgil Abloh, and Lakeith Stanfield are regulars in rooms – and often host scheduled events. The proximity to all kinds of people, including the famous, is definitely a huge draw.

How do you get on?

Anyone with an iPhone can make an account, but as of now you need to be “nominated” by someone in your contacts who is already on the app. Think Google+ but cooler.

With lockdown giving us so much free time that our podcasts and shows can’t keep up with the demand, Clubhouse is a self-sustaining content mecca. Rooms often go on for days, as users in later time zones will pick up where others left off when they need to get some sleep. And the cycle continues.

Though I’m still wrapping my brain around it, I can say with fair certainty that Clubhouse is very, very exciting. If you have an hour (or 24) to spare, try it out for yourself – I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

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TikTok: A hotbed of cultural appropriation, and why it matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Gen Z’s favorite app TikTok is the modern epicenter for cultural appropriation – why you as a business owner should care.

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TikTok creator with a phone recording on a stand, but dances can be a sign of cultural appropriation.

Quarantine has been the catalyst for a sleuth of new cultural phenomena – Tiger King, Zoom, and baking addictions, to name a few. Perhaps most notably, TikTok has seen user numbers skyrocket since lockdown. And I don’t think those numbers are going down any time soon.

TikTok is a very special place. More so than any other social media apps I’ve engaged with, TikTok feels like a true community where total strangers can use the app’s duet or audio features to interact in creative, collaborative ways.

However, being able to use another user’s original audio or replicate their dance has highlighted the prevalence of cultural appropriation on TikTok: the app, as wholesome as it may be at times, has also become a hot bed for “virtual blackface”.

The most notable example of appropriation has to do with the Renegade dance and Charli D’Amelio – who is young, White, and arguably the most famous TikTok influencer (she is second only to Addison Rae, who is also White). The dance, originally created by 14-year-old Black user Jalaiah Harmon, essentially paved the way for D’Amelio’s fame and financial success (her net worth is estimated to be $8 million).

Only after Twitter backlash did D’Amelio credit Harmon as the original creator of the dance to which she owes her wealth – up until that point, the assumption was the dance was hers.

There is indeed a myriad of exploitative and appropriative examples of TikTok videos. Some of the most cringe-worthy include White users pantomiming black audio, in many cases affecting AAVE (African American Vernacular English). Styles of dance and music that were pioneered by Black artists have now been colonized by White users – and many TikTokers are not made aware of their cultural origins.

And what’s worse: TikTok’s algorithms favor White users, meaning White-washed iterations of videos tend to get more views, more engagement and, subsequently, more financial gains for the creator.

As you can imagine, TikTok’s Black community is up in arms. But don’t take it from me (a non-Black individual) – log onto the app and listen to what Black users have to say about cultural appropriation for yourself.

Still, the app is one of the fastest growing. Companies are finding creative ways to weave their paid ads and more subliminal marketing strategies into the fabric of the ‘For You’ page. In many ways, TikTok is the next frontier in social media marketing.

With a few relevant locational hashtags and some innovative approaches to advertising, your business could get some serious FREE attention on TikTok. In fact, it’s the future.

As aware and socially conscious small business owners, we need to make sure that while we are using the app to get ours, that the Black creators and artists who made the app what it is today are also getting theirs. Anything short of direct accountability for the platform and for caustic White users would be offensive.

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Promoted tweets getting over-promoted? Time for Twitter backlash

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter has enacted changes to how frequently Promoted Tweets – i.e., ads – are seen by users, and in true Twitter fashion, there’s mixed opinions.

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Smartphone open to Twitter with promoted tweets open on the top of the feed.

Did anyone else ever watch the Strong Bad Emails cartoons from Homestarrunner? One of the running gags there – and subsequently one of my favorite bits – was when he’d just delete a fan’s email outright while insulting the author. Strong Bad was great at laying down the delete hammer and had zero cares in the world about doing it.

The idea that you – as a user, person, entity – can reclaim a little bit of omniscient authority is powerful. Generally, we like being in control of our lives, and the ability to exercise that authority resonates deeply.

Digital companies are still coming to terms with the idea that their users maintain some ability to revolt against their new policies, trying to straddle the line between new features and improved tools while still keeping an existing audience happy. Typing “hate the new” into Google will show results solely around new interfaces and an endless string of abhorrence. The new Facebook layout is bad. The new Gmail is bad and here’s how to revert it.

I’m sure others exist for any widely used app or service. Sometimes even new logos incite rage. I’m not here to make a statement either way, but usually there’s some ground in between pure opinion and justifiable discussions about user interface and experience. Regardless, change can make users upset.

Twitter recently rolled out changes to how Promoted Tweets work. You should know first that a promoted tweet is just an ad, and were originally set to appear only once per timeline. However, recent updates to Twitter’s internal services has resulted in some users reporting the same ad being shown multiple times in rapid succession, and even repeatedly over and over.

Think about Google search results – there are definitely ads at the top of the first page, and they are usually relevant to the topic at hand and only show up in that area. A user can quickly scroll downward past this and look through other results. But imagine how frustrating it might be to have a first page riddled primarily with ads, effectively choking out other results.

Twitter maintains that, “we’re thoughtful in how we display Promoted Tweets, and are conservative about the number of Promoted Tweets that people see in a single day.” This has led some users to believing this behavior indicates some kind of issue with their internal systems. I like to think about the scene in Office Space where Michael Bolton (not the singer) mentions that he may have put a decimal in the wrong place; that is, there’s a configuration error at Twitter instead of some kind of sea change.

However, Twitter has said this is not a glitch. In fact, they stated it was intentional, and further clarified that, “We regularly experiment and deploy changes to our advertising experience. We are constantly innovating and testing, and will continue to adapt as we learn.” Despite worldwide complaints, Twitter has not officially acknowledged this situation as problematic.

As a result, many users have taken to blocking the advertisers involved with the Promoted Tweets. Much like Strong Bad exercising his ultimate authority over his domain, this means that companies are in danger of losing their ability to reach users entirely. As this number grows, the consequences could widespread, and it will be interesting to see if Twitter changes their outlook and/or has potential pressure from advertisers. Twitter has stated that this may simply be temporary to exhaust a surplus of ad inventory, and this remains to be seen.

As users continue to voice their complaints, it will be interesting to see how the situation ultimately resolves.

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