A few weeks back, Twitter announced that they’ll be making some significant changes to the their web interface by adding an “Activity” tab. This tab, which will replace the current “Retweet” tab, will show when people in your network have favorited tweets, which users they’ve followed, when they’ve edited their lists, and more.
I’m looking forward to having access for one major reason: favorites. The “favorite” button isn’t anything new, but Twitter has never given any clear indication as to how it should be used. After some quick research, it became clear that lots of different users favorite tweets for a few different reasons:
Read later: If you come across a tweet with a link and you can’t read the linked content immediately, favoring the tweet makes it easy to find later.
Sign of appreciation: If someone says something you like, favoring is like a hat-tip, or equivalent of a Facebook “Like.”
Reference/archive: Save the tweet if it’s information you know you’ll need later, or want to have saved.
Retweeting vs. favoriting
Retweeting content is a great syndication method for pushing content to your followers. When you retweet something, it helps other users “organically” discover interesting sources that they don’t follow, since these tweets will show up in their home feed (as if it was a tweet by you). Retweeting is a way to “vote” for interesting tweets since it helps promote the tweet, and is a way of helping the original author gauge how popular the tweet is.
However, retweeting is public. This is why favoriting tweets is useful: it lets you “vote” for content, but out of the public stream. Whether you favorite a tweet to indicate appreciation or want to save it and read later, you’re still indicating a level of interest in the linked content, which is also useful for the original author and people in your network.
Favorites and email
Twitter recently added a feature to send you an email when someone favorites any of your tweets. If you’re not a “thought leader” or main “content producer,” this isn’t a huge deal, but the notification is interesting. Just like seeing that someone liked or +1’ed one of your posts. (“SOMEBODY LOVES ME!”)
Basically, Twitter’s activity tab will make favorites more useful
The main problem with favorited tweets right now is that they’re buried in a user’s profile screen. For many, there’s also no clear value to how favorites tweets might be useful, who sees them, or how they can find them later.
By showing that other people are favoriting tweets in the Activity tab, it will hopefully demonstrate that the feature’s main utility is to show appreciation — a hat-tip to easily acknowledge something you like. This acknowledgement is personal but not secret; the action isn’t broadcast publicly to your followers, but will be easier to find. This will hopefully help get more people into the habit of regularly favoriting tweets that are interesting or have stuff to check out later.
As more users favorite tweets, it will help surface interesting and relevant content that you might not otherwise have found. Favoriting becomes an easy and unobtrusive way to vote for content, which will also make Twitter’s search and suggestions more powerful and accurate.
This could become a thing
I wanted to discuss that “state” of Twitter favorites before the new activity tab is available in order to note differences when it’s rolled out to everyone. Not many people in my immediate network favorite tweets, but I would guess this is because they don’t know why they would, or don’t even know the feature is available. Once it becomes a more prominent way to discover content outside of the main Twitter stream, favoring tweets will become a lot more common.
If done right, favorites could easy become one of Twitter’s most important features.