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This article was published on April 7, 2011

Is Twitter’s new focus on ‘interests’ really the way to go?

Is Twitter’s new focus on ‘interests’ really the way to go?
Stefan Meeuws
Story by

Stefan Meeuws

Stefan Meeuws is a IT journalist from Nijmegen (NL) and works as an online producer and editor for ZB Communicatie & Media. He has a pe Stefan Meeuws is a IT journalist from Nijmegen (NL) and works as an online producer and editor for ZB Communicatie & Media. He has a personal website and spends too much time on social networks like Twitter .

Twitter recently “improved” its website by changing search to find people based on interest. Search a topic and related users will pop up. Twitter’s new homepage welcomes new visitors by encouraging them to “discover their interests”. But that’s not what Twitter is really about, is it?

By defining only one rule (140 characters is the limit), Twitter has allowed its users to go wild. Over the years, people have started posting pictures, found ways to post longer messages by linking to them and have started using Twitter in different ways. Now Twitter has the problem that the service isn’t easy to get into anymore. How many people immediately got the hang of Twitter when they first signed up? I didn’t. I made an account, tweeted twice and then went on with my life for a few months. And then I tried again. A lot of my Twitter friends followed a similar pattern.

It does make sense, that Twitter tries to find a way to make it easier for new members. But is “interest” the right way to go? I always prefer it when tweets – even from a company – appear to becoming from an actual human being. The Dutch Comedy Central twitter is a good example. Their tweets seemed to come from one person, one fun-loving pr person that organised competitions, replied to other users and announced new shows. Compare that to Dutch public transport company Veolia, who last January refused to reply to questions on Twitter – stubbornly tweeting some info on delays caused by snow chaos – and still doesn’t to this very day.

It’s the same with bands. It’s ok to follow a band’s account if the management updates it, it’s awesome when one or more band members use Twitter to tweet about their lives, their music and the things that happen to them. New Twitter users will quickly discover that just following some accounts related to your interests is boring. Nope, Twitter is only going to excite you if you find the right people. And this can be people who have your interest or represent your interest in some way. But for all you know you may get addicted because you get in touch with people totally different from you.

So, to me, the new Twitter.com (still not available for everyone yet) is somewhat misleading. In fact, when people start trying to follow their “interests”, they might even give up after a few days because it doesn’t work for them. Twitter is not about interests, it’s about people’s interest. And these people might be a bit easier to find now, that doesn’t make Twitter a service that new members will easily get the hang of.

So gather ’round, gather ’round, enthusiasts, how can we make Twitter easier for our new Twitter friends? How do you suggest people get into Twitter? What should Twitter focus on? What can we do? Be creative because, after all, Twitter has endless possibility. The only limit is 140 characters.

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