The first part of this article described why people microblog and the current problems with Twitter. There were two questions:
- How can you quickly find and engage in conversations around topics you are interested in?
- How can you identify which notifications are important and send/receive them in the appropriate method and frequency?
The answers: special interest and contact groups are discussed below.
Special Interest Groups
There’s a lot of people constantly engaging in dialogues I want to be a part of, but just don’t know about. I love that the advanced search is able to filter tweets based on words, people, places, dates, and attitudes, it allows me to, for instance, find all people within 15 miles of lower Manhattan talking positively about the Mets. The problem is once I have the results, what can I do with them? Sure I can subscribe to an RSS feed but that takes me out of the whole call and response flow that makes Twitter so engaging. Hashtags is a 3rd party service which allows you to create and track tags.
A couple of problems with hashtags:
- It’s a third party service and not integrated into Twitter.
- No way to subscribe to a specific hashtag and see it in my stream.
- There is a lot of redundancy (i.e. Barack, BarackObama, Obama, Obama08, Obama-President)
- There is no taxonomy (#family:genus:species)
Recently Twitter released a special strem for the elections. This is awesome and I hope a sign for whats to come. Here’s my wishlist for special interest groups on Twitter:
- Be able to subscribe to any advanced search result.
- Give a short name to the result and have a list appear underneath your followers.
- Be able to specify if tweets from a specific group appear in your stream.
- Be able to click on any of the groups and have a real-time, updated page of the results (like the Election Page):
- Allow for the custom insertion of dynamic filters within a group. (For instance if election is the main keyword you are searching, be able to add/delete dynamic filters like Obama, Biden)
Special interest groups would allow new users to quickly ramp up their involvement and allow long time users to filter all their messages into clearly discernible buckets by specifying a combination of people, topics and location. Some examples of what this could to do:
- Allow Obama to identify and address all people who were positively supporting Hillary in Virginia during the primaries.
- Allow Apple to follow the launch of their newest product. Combine this with trending topics within the group and identify most active complaints. Send a notifications to all those afflicted with a message that the most recent update solves their issue.
- Allow me to find all people who have discussed Twitter improvements in the last 2 weeks, and ask for their suggestions.
The premise here is that some users I really care about, and some I only care about if they have something really, really important to say (to me). Currently Twitter allows you to receive all messages, or messages directed to you via SMS. They also let you turn it off during certain hours:
This is nice but there’s a lot more that can be done. Here’s how I would structure contact groups:
- Allow users to create unlimited contact groups and easily add and remove users and special interest groups. These groups are private and cannot be seen by other users.
- For each contract group allow the following receive options:
- Delivery Method: Modify the settings for how you would like to receive different types of messages including: all messages, messages directed at you, and high priority messages (discussed below). The following options are: Twitter Stream, SMS, Email, IM (allows multiple select)
- Frequency : Modify how often you would like to receive messages from this group: Real-time, Daily, Weekly (daily and weekly would send aggregated list of all messages)
- For each contract group allow the following sending options:
- Private Messaging – Select which contact groups this message is sent to. Specify if messages to this group appear in your public stream (twhisper).
- Priority Alerts – Allow users/services to send messages they deem as critical (breaking news, emergency messages). There would need to be a system in place for people who abuse this (similar to flagging comments?), but this could be immensely powerful.
There are also (at least) 2 new revenue streams here:
- Give personal accounts a small number of priority messages, while offering more for pay
- Create customized reports of keyword trending for your particular market/product/campaign. (update: stumbled on this site: http://twist.flaptor.com/freq?gram=twitter%2C%20friendfeed%2C%20facebook)
In summary, special interest groups would allow anyone to identify and engage with user’s who are discussing a particular topic. Contact groups would allow full control (privacy and frequency) of how messages are sent and received. In combination, Twitter would much more attractive to business by being able to analyze the abundance of opinions being shared and individuals by customizing their Twitter experience to fit their schedules and habits.