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The trouble with Twitter Moments

As someone who has been using Twitter since 2008, I was not particularly excited about its new product Moments. Advertised as a curated way to keep up with the best of Twitter organized by subject, my first thought was … why would I need that? I follow the accounts I want to and need to follow, and while I appreciate the offer I don’t need anyone to do my thing for me.

But I’m not the person Twitter is trying to reach with Moments, at least I don’t think I am. I believe Twitter is on a quest to attract new users, to get them to download Twitter and use this service even if they’ve never used Twitter. So whether they made an account years ago and tweeted 3 times or never set up an account, Moments is a way to bring them what’s happening without them having to lift a finger – except to swipe or scroll.

Generally, as far as that goes, I think that’s smart. Like I said, I understand Twitter, but I totally feel the pain of someone who signs up for an account and then wonders what they are supposed to do next. The regular version of Twitter isn’t difficult to use, it’s just not intuitive. And people have short attention spans. If something isn’t clear after a few minutes we’re going to go somewhere else.

scott-kleinberg-twitter-moments5Enter Moments, where there isn’t much to figure out. You’re presented with topics that are supposed to contain everything you need to know. Once you swipe or scroll through, depending on where you’re viewing from, you get a message saying you are “up to date.” You can follow an event and then when it’s over, the event disappears. That part is smart.

But as I’ve been asking people since Moments was released a few weeks ago: Would you download Twitter if you had never used it before just to use Moments? I can’t find anyone to say yes. And here’s why: While Twitter is trying to fix a problem that needs to be fixed – getting people into the ecosystem instead of using another service – it’s not doing it particularly well.

Twitter says it has editorial assistants who are curating content. These people are tasked with finding the stories people are talking about or will be talking about and getting them in and out quickly but in a way where they want to return.

And herein lies the problem. Look at the tweets accompanying this post from last night’s ALDS game between the Royals and the Astros. Only one of them is from a non-verified account. Of 35 tweets, only a handful are from non-verified sources. I understand Twitter wanting to use trusted accounts, but this is something I expect a person employed by Twitter to be able to work around. These people should be able to find the best of Twitter, blue checkmark or not. And look at how many tweets lean on the official accounts (@Astros, @Royals, etc.) That’s fine, as they are certainly going to cover the event, however why do I need Moments to do that? I can log into Twitter, follow those accounts and do the same thing. Yes, here Twitter is doing it for me, so score points for automation. But in terms of the best experience I can get, I don’t think this is it.

And while there are plenty of tweets with photos and gifs, these text only tweets on a blue background one after another are boring. I like the cover and the end, and while this is just a sample, it gives you a general feeling of what you’re going to see.

Same thing during the Democratic debate the other night. Plenty of tweets from Hilliary Clinton’s camp and Bernie Sanders – even Donald Trump, who was livetweeting (and not doing a very good job). But I really wanted to see what Joe Q. Public sitting on the couch thinks, because that’s what is most interesting. Tweets from CNN and the candidates are boring and available everywhere.

Moments is new. I’m sure they’re having daily meetings and talking about what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s way too early to declare it a failure or a success. But as someone who was looking forward to Moments, not because I wanted to be a user but because I get excited about new social media products in general, I was hoping to look at it and go “Wowwwwwww! This is cool.” Instead, each time I look at it, I say “ohhhhh. Look at that.” There’s a big difference. And I haven’t been checking my Moments daily because I feel like I’m going to be let down.

Again, I’m not the target. People who don’t use Twitter have to be the market. If Twitter thinks anyone like me is going to use Moments, I think they’re wrong. Yes, I can embed a moment into this website and make a cool presentation, but it takes more than looks to win.

The truth is I’ve been doing what Moments does since 2008. Journalists and social media editors everywhere have. I’ve been curating the best accounts and tweets by creating and sharing lists during major breaking events. I had the best Twitter list anywhere during Hurricane Sandy. I’ve been putting curated tweets into ScribbleLive or Storify. So Twitter and its staff of assistants can learn much more from me than I can from them, although I absolutely respect what they are doing.

But back to the new part. Moments is just finding its stride. The people at Twitter are reading critiques from everywhere and they know what needs to be improved and done.

I have lots of suggestions for Twitter in terms of reaching more people and doing it in a way where it’s memorable. I’m happy to discuss those in private, but I won’t do it publicly because Twitter would need to hire and pay me to help them make this a reality. Speaking of which, Twitter could learn a lot from relying on people who have been using Twitter for 8 years. Sure, it wants the perspective of the average user who never uses it, but it could learn more with experience.

Anyone have an opinion on Moments? I would love to hear about it in the comments. Or you can talk to me on Twitter and Facebook.

About Scott Kleinberg

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