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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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Social Media

Reactions to Twitter Blue from real subscribers, p.s. its not worth it

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter’s paid subscription service, Twitter Blue, gives more control over tweets and custom UI, but subscriber reception has been lukewarm.

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Twitter Blue Sign Up Page

Twitter Blue, a paid subscription service that gives users increased control over their tweets and the appearance of their interfaces, launched this summer. Subscriber reception has been lukewarm, foreshadowing some resistance to shifts away from advertising-based revenue models for social media platforms.

The allure of Twitter Blue isn’t immediately apparent; beyond a relatively low price tag and increased exclusivity on a platform that emphasizes individuality, the service doesn’t offer much to alter the Twitter experience. Twitter Blue’s main selling point – the ability to preview and alter tweets before sending them – may not be enough to convince users to shell out the requisite three dollars per month.

Other features include the option to change the theme color and icon appearances. Twitter Blue subscribers can also read some ad-supported news articles without having to view ads courtesy of Twitter’s acquisition of Scroll, a company that provides ad-free news browsing.

But even with this variety of small customization options and the promise of more to come, users are skeptical. Android Central’s Shruti Shekar is one such user, beginning her review with, “Right off the bat, this feature isn’t worth the money you’d be spending on it every month.”

Shekar posits that the majority of the features are wasted on long-term users. “I think a lot of my opinions come from a place of using Twitter for so long in a certain way that I’ve gotten used to it, and now I find it challenging to adapt to something that would theoretically make my life easier,” she explains.

One of those adaptations centers on Twitter Blue’s “Undo Tweet” feature – something that belies the notion of proofreading and using common sense before sending thoughts into the nether.

“For me, 95% of the time, I really do pay attention to my tweets before I send them out,” says Shekar.

Twitter Blue checking Tweets before sending.

Shekar does praise Twitter Blue’s “Reader Mode” feature that allows users to view threads as uninterrupted columns but argues that the feature would probably end up being underutilized despite being a cool concept.

The aforementioned color and theme customization was of little interest to Shekar. “I actually found it a bit challenging to get used to the other colors, not because they’re ugly, but again because I am just so used to the classic blue,” she says.

One problem here is that the options to change link and theme colors and put threads in reader mode seem more like accessibility features than premium content. Twitter might do well to make these available to all users, if for no other reason than to avoid criticism about locking quality of life updates behind a subscription paywall.

Shekar’s criticism hits on a crucial point for any social media company looking to emulate Twitter Blue’s subscription model: Even if the subscription price is low, companies have to be prepared to make actual meaningful changes to the user experience if they want satisfied subscribers. That includes building in options that don’t fundamentally alter the basic aspects (or appearance) of the platform.

For more on Twitter Blue, check out their blog post on it here.

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Social Media

Instagram flaunts new features, including a decked out desktop experience  

(SOCIAL MEDIA) It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram with additions of Collabs, fundraisers, and desktop posts on deck

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Instagram displayed on a desktop

It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram on both mobile and desktop.

Collabs Feature

“Collabs” allows up to 2 accounts to co-author a post or Reel, both sharing joint ownership of what is ultimately published. The post or Reel will show up equally on both users’ feeds with the same amount of engagement numbers, but combined, including comments, view numbers, and like counts. This is initiated through the tagging screen and the invited account will have to accept the offer before the collab can be complete.

Examples of adding a co-author in Instagram Collabs feature

Fundraiser & Reel Features

Instagram was quick to jump on the short-form content trends taking the social media world by storm. With the rise of TikTok, the Insta platform that was originally focused on static photos added Reels, along the same wavelength of short 15, 30, or 60-second videos, though the competitor has now expanded with the option of 3 minutes. Even so, Instagram is taking the time to improve music-related features within the Reels section of the app, adding “Superbeat” and “Dynamic.” The first adds effects to the video matching the beat of the chosen song, while the latter offers unique and interesting ways to display the song’s lyrics on screen. In addition, they are beginning to test the option to run fundraisers on a post by clicking the + button in the top right corner of the interface.

Examples of Dynamic for Reels feature

 Desktop Feature

FINALLY! Instagram is now realizing just how many users truly enjoy the desktop experience. If one were to compare the platform on the mobile app vs. desktop, they would see the slew of differences between the two with the desktop interface looking like the 1st year Instagram was even introduced. Functionality is no comparison; they only just added the ability to DM on desktop last year. As one can see, there is an extremely limited experience on desktop, but Instagram is now rolling out the ability for users to post from their browsers. Catch us enjoying posts on the big screen!

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Social Media

Truth Social: Trump’s long-standing battle against Big Tech backfires

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Truth Social is an example of how a new platform, though necessary to keep competition alive, can prove to be fallible before it succeeds.

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Man holding iPhone with Truth Social app download page up, as well as the stock market and Trump in the background on computer screens.

Former President Donald J. Trump announced a new social media platform, dubbed “Truth Social” last week. The platform has since been the recipient of cyber attacks by hacker collective Anonymous and the Software Freedom Conservancy has accused the Trump Media and Technology Group of violating the terms of their software agreement.

The circumstances plaguing Truth Social provide a small (if nuanced) look into the rigors of creating and sustaining new social media platforms in the modern-day. While expanding the number of social media platforms available creates more competition, this platform, in particular, raises some questions about the wisdom of investing in a service that creates an ideological echo chamber, as well as demonstrating that not just anyone can run a social media site.

There’s no denying that this new entry into the world of social media is off to a rocky start. Cyberattacks just hours after Truth Social’s test run left the site in disarray, with fake user accounts for Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump appearing at various stages of the launch. Truth Social’s hosts eventually took it offline, and the sign-up process is halted for the time being.

Woman holding iPhone showing Truth Social's feed.

Truth Social also has some interesting rules regarding user interactions on their platform, including a non-disparagement clause and the assertion that users can be sued for the content they post, Time reports.

“In addition to terminating or suspending your account, we reserve the right to take appropriate legal action, including without limitation pursuing civil, criminal, and injunctive redress,” says one section of the Truth Social terms of use.

This clause is in stark contrast to the ethos behind Truth Social – a platform that, according to the press release, was “founded with a mission to give a voice to all” and “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”

The disparity in messaging versus reality is an understandable mistake, as much of Trump’s mindset was most likely impacted by criticism levied against him on mainstream social media when he had his accounts – and anyone in the same position might reasonably make the same call. However, restricting users to agree with one set political ideology is a perilous precedent to set. Echo chambers aren’t particularly conducive to longevity.

iPhone showing Trump's suspended Twitter account.

The Trump Media and Technology Group also violated the terms of their open-source software of choice when they uploaded the pilot version of Truth Social. According to the licensing agreement associated with Mastodon – the software company TMTG used – users must have access to the source code for the product in question (in this case, Truth Social).

Since the initial users of Truth Social did not receive that access, the social media platform is at risk of permanently losing its rights to the code.

While some of these pitfalls feel proprietary to Trump insofar as his high-profile battle against social media is concerned, the truth is that any development of new social media entries will be messy and fraught with obstacles. Truth Social is just one example of how a new platform – something that is absolutely necessary to keep competition alive – can prove to be publicly fallible far before it ever succeeds.

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