After spending the past couple years dealing with changes at the top of its organizational structure, as well as seemingly innumerable changes to its design and user interface, Twitter seems to be in a more stable position as 2012 begins.
Activity also seems to be growing — several of Twitter’s busiest days have happened just within the past couple months (as measured by the tweets-per-second metric).
I’m hoping this means the company can focus on several areas where there’s still room and need for improvement. I don’t claim to know what Twitter has on its 2012 to-do list, but here’s what I hope I’d find if a copy of it crossed my desk.
My 2012 Wish List For Twitter
1. Syncing across multiple clients/platforms.
You’re probably like me: You use Twitter on multiple clients and devices. For me, it’s Tweetdeck and the Twitter.com website on my desktop, the Twitter iPhone app (and Tweetbot at times) and Twitter’s fantastic iPad app. But when I switch from one client or device to another, I’m faced with seeing hundreds of tweets that I’ve already seen on the previous device.
This is a colossal waste of time. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Tweet Marker is a service that syncs reading position between multiple clients — but Twitter doesn’t support it in any of the official apps. The developer actually says his service isn’t capable of handling the official clients right now, which is why I’d like to see Twitter just buy Tweet Marker and make it a foundational feature of Twitter’s service.
2. Better filtering of tweet content.
Twitter is making a big effort to help users find interesting content; that’s what the new #Discover tab is all about. But part of finding great content is also being able to get rid of unwanted content. Sure, you can block users or report spam, and Twitter’s Tweetdeck client has some very limited filtering options, but it’s not enough.
Users should be able to filter out hashtags and individual words — that would be very helpful for avoiding TV show spoilers, for example, especially for those of us on the west coast (or anyone at work, anyone recording a show, etc.) We should be able to filter clients, too. In Tweetbot, for example, I can filter out any tweet that’s generated by the Paper.li service.
3. Basic analytics for all users.
There are some cool third-party Twitter services/tools out there. Twitsprout, for example, just came out of beta with its “Twitter dashboard” that offers a variety of basic statistics related to an account — historical growth of accounts you follow and that follow you, daily tweet activity and even what times of day you gain/lose followers.
It’s pretty cool, and there are numerous other services that also offer account analytics. There are also services and tools (like some URL shorteners) that provide stats about the links that you share on Twitter. Why doesn’t Twitter provide any of this? Sure, most non-power users won’t care. But Twitter is where the internet influencers hang out, not to mention an increasingly important communications tool for mass media, sports teams, the entertainment industry and business in general. Twitter should provide at least basic analytics to all users. (I’d love to get a weekly email like the one that Facebook sends out telling me how my pages have performed over the past seven days.)
4. More & better business pages.
Twitter’s recently announced business/brand profiles are a fine first step. But I’d like to see more brands/companies included in that product, and I’d also like to see it expand in 2012.
Twitter should combine it with the almost forgotten Twitter Places product that was launched 18 months ago. Remember that? It’s the feature that ties tweets to physical locations, like Twitter’s HQ in this tweet, for example:
There’s a real opportunity here for Twitter to give small/local businesses a better presence and a stronger reason to be active on Twitter. The basic address information is already there (see above). Show all the tweets and photos from/around a place, maybe have a link for driving directions and Twitter could very easily have a compelling offering for small/local businesses, especially ones that experience a lot of real-time traffic and activity, like restaurants, theaters, malls, stores, etc. (Twitter should also make its embeddable tweets tool show the Places info so that I wouldn’t need to do a screenshot above!)
5. Improved verification system.
Last time I checked, there are two other Matt McGees in the online marketing industry. Not too long ago, I was at a conference when a tweet mentioned my @mattmcgee username. The person who sent the tweet was basically asking what Matt McGee “did with all those girls last night.” Yikes! Wasn’t me. Very happily married, thanks very much. There’s also a Matt McGee who wrote an economics textbook. Last year I received a tweet with a minor threat: If I was the Matt McGee who wrote this person’s textbook, he was going to make my life miserable. Double yikes!
Point is: I’d like to be verified to help avoid situations like that in the future. But Twitter shut down its public-facing verification system and now only seems to verify advertisers and famous users when it can identify them correctly. (That’s apparently harder than it sounds.) Twitter’s verification system is a mess. They really need to fix this up in 2012.
6. Develop a plan for dealing with old, unused names.
This dates back almost two years now. In spring 2010, Twitter said it might release deleted usernames within a matter of weeks. To my knowledge, that never happened. At the same time, Twitter also said it was working on a plan to deal with inactive accounts, too. And Twitter’s help page continues to repeat that same message:
We are currently working to release all inactive usernames in bulk, but we do not have a set time frame for when this will take place.
C’mon, Twitter. Get this done in 2012.
7. Better photo gallery management.
Twitter’s photo galleries are a cool feature – they collect and display a user’s photos even if those photos have been uploaded across different photo platforms.
Last summer on Search Engine Land, I wrote a wish list of several ways to improve photo galleries, and those wishes still stand for 2012. Users should be able to control what images show up on our profile page. We should be able to choose if we want our gallery to include only our own images, or also images from other users that we retweet. It should also be easier to delete individual photos without having to go one-at-a-time through the gallery.
8. Improve lists.
I’ve reached a point where I can’t live without Twitter lists. I keep track of industry news in one list. I keep track of what’s happening in my hometown in another list. I used lists to track U2′s live setlists while they were on tour over the past couple years. Lists keep Twitter somewhat manageable for me. But they can be much better and easier to use.
For starters, when viewing a Twitter profile page, it should be easier to see if that account is in one of my lists. I can tell without clicking if I’m following an account, but to find out if I have the account in a list, it takes two clicks: first on the user icon next to the Following button, and then again on the “Add or remove from lists” option (see above).
Second, Twitter’s limit of 500 accounts per list is a hassle. The Help center says that the limit helps reduce strain on the back-end, but is that still a concern? With all that Twitter has invested in its infrastructure, I’d think/hope that limit isn’t needed anymore, or that it can be raised in 2012.
So that’s what I’m hoping I’d see on Twitter’s to-do list for 2012. Am I off my rocker? Do you have things you’d like to see Twitter do, or do better in 2012? Comments are open!