Wednesday, May 13, 2009

If An @ Reply Is Tweeted and No One Is Following, Does It Make A Sound?

Funny meme, not so funny groundswell. As Twitter announced a change to the function of @ replies (I won't restate the change that has been detailed over and over again in the last 12 hours) the #fixreplies hashtag has exploded with negative outcries from Twitter users.

Once again a brand has failed to do a simple (and free) litmus test before implementing game-changing decisions. Understanding your target consumer audience requires data beyond metrics. From Twitter's official blog:

We've updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we've learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it's a good way to stay in the loop.

Regardless of the implications, Twitter failed to poll a significant number of users, and failed to take the simple step of asking its users, "How do you feel about this?". Note the fact that "usage patterns" are mentioned first - indicating traditional analytics was used as the prime decision tool.

The availability of free, easily accessible customer response data is essential to social business design, but none of that will do any good unless you actually use it.

I predict we will revert to the old @ replies format within 48 hours.

UPDATE 5/13/09 3:38PM CST

"We Learned A Lot"

Twitter has announced they will be bringing back some of the @ reply features, but not all of them. From the Twitter Blog:

This morning we received lots of great info about the replies setting we changed yesterday. Folks loved this feature because it allowed them to discover new people and participate serendipitously in various conversations. The problem with the setting was that it didn't scale and even if we rebuilt it, the feature was blunt. It was confusing and caused a sense of inconsistency. We felt we could do much better.

So here's what we're planning to do. First, we're making a change such that any updates beginning with @username (that are not explicitly created by clicking on the reply icon) will be seen by everyone following that account. This will bring back some serendipity and discovery and we can do this very soon.

Second, we've started designing a new feature which will give folks far more control over what they see from the accounts they follow. This will be a per-user setting and it will take a bit longer to put together but not too long and we're already working on it. Thanks for all the great feedback and thanks for helping us discover what's important!

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