Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Twitter has Changed - Did You Notice?

Last week twitter made a small change in the way RTs work which you may have seen reported, but it's impact on the character of the platform went generally unnoticed.

The change was in the way RTs (retweets) are handled: essentially now when you hit the RT button you can now RT or RT with a quote.

So what? 
Now people have two actions to choose from when they RT. The choices have different potential impacts for the potential virality of the original tweet. The two choices attribute the original content very differently.

That's made twitter a potentially less viral network.

When I tweeted "THE END" I was trying to explore how this cut in attribution by quotes could be creatively explored (backwards). That went largely unanswered: but the bigger question is how the changes impact the possible spread of content across twitter.

It's probably easier to visualise an example so I'll use this tweet from happening London which I shared earlier.

Traditional RT:

The tweet, at time of writing, had one (traditional) retweet.

Here's the traditional retweet in the users timeline ....

With a traditional retweet the original tweet takes lead attribution. It's simply the original tweet displayed to that users followers.

The action is counted on the original tweet. If that users followers retweet the retweet the attribution is carried on. The original tweet would simply appear in the new retweeter's timeline. This is how the original content can go a long way. This is how tweets go viral.

RT with a Quote: 
The original tweet was also picked up by the twitter handle I "mentioned" in the original happening London tweet. Shakespeare's Globe quoted, or "RT'd with a quote" the original tweet.

With a quote the original tweet is essentially attached, giving the user the "full" 140 character limit for their quote.

None of the user actions on a quoted tweet are exposed or counted on the original tweet.

I retweeted (traditionally) the quoted tweet by the Globe.

Which exposes the Globe's tweet (the RT with a quote).

People can still reach the original tweet directly, but the bulk of the attribution is for the quote, not the original tweet. The original content takes a step back.

A further "quote" would obviously have no (direct) connection to the original content.

So how does this change twitter? 

It's too early for me to say exactly how the RT Quote change has changed twitter, I'm still watching. But there's no doubt that as user behaviour accommodates the new choices that there has to be an impact on how content gains exposure across the platform, and at a guess I'd say the possibility for movement across the platform has been reduced.

The biggest immediate impact is that neither the RT which I made of the Globe's quote or the eight favourites that the Globe's tweet received are reflected on the original content. I would speculate that the favourites where for the Gif rather than the text: "Lovely gif of the Globe theatre in the sun."

Whether you hit the RT button twice to "traditionally" retweet, or once and then add a comment should depend on what you are trying to achieve. If you quote a tweet it's your tweet, with their content attached, and currently that interaction isn't visible to the audience on the original quoted content.

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