The most-requested feature on Twitter has to be the ability to edit a published tweet. Everyone who has ever posted something and realized that they used the wrong hashtag or forgot to @mention a friend, or noticed a typo just after hitting publish understands how helpful it would be to have the ability to go back and correct what you've written.

It's almost comical that you can't do this, considering other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn have had this feature for some time. Still, Twitter has resisted.

I'm sure there are good reasons, like the fact that some people would probably post things, generate a lot of likes or retweets, and then go back and edit the tweet to say something completely different that no one would have ever shared. Still, there has to be a way.

Instead, at CES on Wednesday, Twitter's Suzanne Xie, who is the head of platform for the social media company, unveiled a plan to give users more control over who can engage in conversations with their tweets. According to an article first published by TechCrunch, the company will test four options: blocking everyone from replying, allowing replies from accounts that are followed by the original author, allowing replies from accounts who are mentioned in a tweet, or allowing all replies. 

The goal is to reduce the impact of troll accounts and improve the overall quality and health of conversations happening on Twitter. Additionally, it appears that the company is looking to increase usage and engagement beyond simply mass tweeting an entire audience. Twitter has a DM feature, but there is no group conversation feature that isn't open to everyone by default unless you choose to protect your tweets.

"Right now, public conversation on Twitter is you tweet something everyone in the world will see and everyone can reply, or you can have a very private conversation in a DM. So there's an entire spectrum of conversations that we don't see on Twitter yet," said Xie. 

Still, it does feel like there's one option missing, which would be to enable replies in a manner similar to direct messages, where users you aren't following can request to send you a message. In this case, they could simply post a reply but it wouldn't appear unless you chose to make it visible. Otherwise, you could delete it, or turn it into a direct message conversation instead.

At the same time, the solution to this one problem--in this case toxic content--has unintended consequences. For example, it's hard to start a conversation or keep an audience engaged when you force everyone else to stay quiet.

One of the most interesting implications of this is how it affects brands, especially as they consider how your company will manage and engage with its social audience. I don't think anyone argues that Twitter hasn't become a toxic environment for both individuals and for brands. Even Twitter itself seems to agree. 

Turning off replies or limiting them to accounts you follow might eliminate trolling, but it also eliminates the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your audience. As a brand, that means you miss out on the chance to influence the way people feel about you or even help address issues and concerns they might have.

And, while there's certainly an abundance of unhealthy conversation found in replies, this solution seems like simply shouting into space (where no one can respond) instead of shouting at each other. It doesn't actually change the fact that there's a lot of shouting going on.

Published on: Jan 9, 2020
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