Twitter is a wonderful communications tool and while it does many things really well, there are a few things it doesn’t do so well. One of those things is having discussions about specific topics with specific groups of people. This is often known as a TwitChat.
I participate in a number of weekly TwitChats. These TwitChats are often very educational and can be a lot of fun; that is, for the participants. For everyone else, they can be a real hassle.
The problem is that while you’re having a heated debate about the merits of origami (no offense to origami fans), you’re going to have followers who couldn’t care less. Moreover, if you fire off fifty or sixty tweets during an hour long TwiChat, you can really flood some of your follower’s streams. I’ve had plenty of people unfollow me because of this and if you participate in TwitChats, I’m sure you have too.
Now, you might say that Hash Tags (#) are the solution, but they’re not. The Hash Tag evolved as a way for Twitter users to more easily find tweets on a specific topic. TwitChats are dependent upon them (just add a #Topic to any tweet and set up a search to find them).
Unfortunately (as mentioned above), when people whom you follow are participating in TwitChats, if you don’t filter out those tweets, you’re going to see every single tweet they send. Also, while Twitter does nothing to help you filter out unwanted Hash Tags, TweetDeck does have a filter feature, but I’ve never bothered to use it. Have you?
Finally, while I find setting up searches in Twitter and TweetDeck easy, many people simply do not. However, even if they do set up searches, it still does nothing about a user’s stream being flooded with unwanted tweets. Fortunately, there is a solution that Twitter could implement, and that solution is creating Channels.
How Channels Can Benefit the User
A Channel would simply be a Twitter stream that is parallel to the main Twitter stream, but isolated from that stream just as one TV channel is isolated from other TV channels. A user would only see that Channel if they intentionally visited that Channel’s page or followed it.
When in a Channel, the user could dispense with adding a Hash Tag to each tweet as everything being tweeted in that Channel should be on topic. Alternately, the user could use a Hash Tag if they’re discussing a related subtopic, or they could create a new channel (a SubChannel) under a main topic Channel, and it could extend from there.
For example, a Directory of Channels might look like this:
- Main Channel: Medicine, or Healthcare (whatever)
- SubChannel: Diabetes
- Sub(Sub)Channel: Type 1 Diabetes
- Sub(Sub)Channel: Type 2 Diabetes
- Sub(Sub, Sub)Channel: Type 2 Diabetes Research
- SubChannel: Diabetes
We can figure out the nomenclature for SubChannels later, but I think the above structure is clear and simple enough.
A Few More Notes on Channels
- Channels would differ from Lists because while you can follow individual Lists, you still see every tweet of everyone on that list regardless of topic. Channels would create topic specific conversations.
- Users could set up Channels as being either Public or Private and invite participants.
How Channels can Benefit Twitter
While Channels could be setup by any Twitter user for any topic, they can also drive revenue for Twitter in two ways.
- Branded Channels: Companies and/or brands could setup their own channels and SubChannels and pay Twitter for the privilege. Perhaps Twitter could even charge different rates depending on Channel size. For example, $X for a Channel with 100 users following it and $XXX for a Channel with 100,000 users following it.
- Targeted Advertising: Since, by definition, Channels are topic specific, Twitter could charge much higher ad rates for Sponsored Tweets in those channels. Why? Because tweets in those Channels would be noticed by the target audience at much higher rates than on the main Twitter stream. Additionally, the Channel audience would be much more likely to respond to a Call to Action.
Btw, I know there are a lot of third-party services that enable groups in one fashion or another. In my experience, they don’t work all that well. Also, they tie you a specific third-party service and given Twitter’s recent history with their third-party developers, I would expect most of those services to disappear in the near future.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Neal Wiser is Vice President of Digital Strategy and Operations at The ODM Group where he leads teams in the creation and execution of digital marketing campaigns. You can follow Neal on Twitter (his handle is @NealWiser). Neal is also the Cofounder and Co-host of the Addicted to Social Media podcast. You can also read is blog at NealWiser.com.