But everyone knows the Facebook tragicomedy by heart at this point, so what’s the point? Well, it looks like our last refuge may be starting a slow (and I do mean slow) creep towards the same attitude. Of course, Twitter was built with somewhat different purposes in mind that, in my opinion, have given it a level of staying power and cultural significance that MySpace and Facebook can only dream of. Rather than the hollow purposes of seeing which kids from elementary school are still single, stalking people who you have no personal relationship with, and touting pictures of drunken lunacy, Twitter encourages the spouting of short ideas and thoughts.
It serves as a constant barometer of the public opinion, as well as a very effective means of personal networking, advertising, and sometimes strange conversations. I can tell you that I have no interest in what Ashton Kutcher has picked out of his nose on a minute-by-minute basis, but I do find the once a day musings of Conan O’Brien hysterical. I’ve made the conscientious decision to pay attention to one and not the other. Choice is a beautiful thing, but it goes deeper than that. I’ve been able to build for myself an all-killer, no-filler feed that puts my finger on the pulse of what’s going on (that’s important to me). Emotional teenage girls need not apply; Invitations to groups begging for phone numbers because an electronic device made its way into an aquatic device: gone. The service allows the person to keep their own individuality while still getting the effect of being in the middle of a public commons.
There was a catch though, I had to go and find what interested me. While seemingly unfortunate, it actually meant that the things popping up in my feed were things that I was genuinely interested in with almost no outside influence. There has been a shift in the last week, however, where the user based inertia is being joined by Twitter’s own thoughts about what people *may *be interested in. Introducing the “Who to Follow” feature.
Remember way back in the last paragraph how I placed emphasis on the word “may” in the sentiment ‘may be interested in’? My apologies, I should have said “This is who you will be interested in”. Now, I’m sure someone who I’m following may be interested in Jimmy Fallon and Jim Gaffigan. Besides the fact that I haven’t heard much out of either of them in the last 5 years, I just don’t care. This is what I presume to be an attempt to begin answering the seemingly eternal question of how Twitter plans to make money.
If the idea of ‘promoted tweets’ didn’t seem like a simplistic cop-out to you, then let me predict how the next phase of paying back those venture capitalists looks. Now that we’re told who to follow, I figure a somewhat conservative 30% will follow at least one of the suggestions at some point (or 70% if my decision to lose all faith in humanity turns out to be a good one). Do the math, at around 190 million users a month, you’re making nearly 60 million new connections based on external pressure. How far of a jump is it to say that “For $.10 a user, we will plant you in their who to follow feed for a month”? To reach the official XBox Twitter’s 13,000 followers, it would cost a measly $1300. That’s a hell of an ad campaign to an already targeted audience. Nervous yet?