Twitter Says That it’s Exploring Ephemeral Tweets and the Capability to Share with Selected Audiences

Twitter Says That it’s Exploring Ephemeral Tweets and the Capability to Share with Selected Audiences


With the Stories format becoming a bigger consideration in social media circles, largely due to its ephemeral, temporary nature, all social platforms have seemingly investigated their own forms of the option, and where ephemerality might fit into their interactive process.

And logically, Twitter is where many people are looking – with Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn rolling out their own versions of the form, it makes sense for Twitter to also add in some kind of disappearing content option too, right?

That question was put to Twitter’s head of product Kayvon Beykpour in a recent interview on the Verge’s ‘Vergecast’ podcast, and Beykpour confirmed that ephemerality is indeed something Twitter is looking at, while it’s also considering new options to restrict the audience for your tweets.

As per Beykpour:

[Ephemerality] is really important for some specific sets of circumstances where you want to talk to people, but you’re not quite sure you want it to last forever yet. And so I think as a dimension to focus on, as a specific customer problem, absolutely, I’m very interested in exploring how we might give customers more control. Where ephemerality is just one of those dimensions, I think there are other dimensions that, while we can get excited and talk about ephemerality because there’s lots of other standards of how other apps do this, I think other dimensions, like control around who can see or control around who can participate, is really critical.”

Beykpour notes that conducting a focused conversation can be difficult on Twitter, because there are so many users seeking to have an input – Twitter’s ‘global town square’ approach to communications doesn’t necessarily facilitate more enclosed discussion.

But what if there was a way to control your tweet audience?

So say, for example, you wanted to have a real-time interview with a celebrity via tweets, but you only wanted to have a dedicated, specific audience for that discussion. Right now, this isn’t possible, because once you tweet, it’s public (dependent on your settings), and viewable via your profile. But maybe, if there were the equivalent of a private Twitter chat room, which separated your tweets into another, enclosed space, that could make it more useful in this respect.

As noted by Beykpour:

“It’s actually quite difficult to have a fireside chat when you have a billion people screaming into your ear. Like imagine we had tens of thousands of people in the studio with us right now, talking into our ear while we were talking to each other.”

Beykpour notes that Twitter’s looking at experiments on both fronts – ephemeral, disappearing tweets and restricted audiences for Twitter conversations.

That’s additionally supported by this tweet poll posted by Twitter product designer Brittany Forks

if you could *hypothetically* Tweet to a selected audience, who would you want to see ???? and reply ???? to your Tweet?

— brittany (@brittanyforks) October 15, 2019

The consideration of selected tweet viewers, and restricted capacity to ask questions, certainly raises some interesting questions around the possibilities of tweet interactions. There may well be a lot of use for such limitations in certain circumstances – but it also, in many ways, goes against what Twitter is all about, in giving everyone a voice and a means to participate. 

Should that be enough to stop Twitter trying it out? I would say no, but many traditionalists will be unhappy about the proposal, in any form. But then again, traditionalists are unhappy about any change, so that may not be the best measure for consideration.

In terms of ephemeral tweets, it does make a lot of sense for Twitter to look into its options in this regard. In recent times, we’ve seen several cases of celebrities being brought undone by their tweets from years past, and those high profile incidents are a significant part of what’s driven users towards the disappearing Stories format. As these cases have demonstrated, you need to be careful, at all times, with what you share on social, in consideration of your potential future opportunities, which you obviously can’t predict. 

Not tweeting controversial opinions is one way to avoid such concerns, but ephemeral content also solves the problem, and can make people more comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings.

Given that many of these incidents have come about as a result of past tweets, it makes sense to consider ephemeral tweets and Twitter Stories. Beykpour says that these are areas the company is investigating, but there’s nothing specific to share on such as yet.

They’re interesting considerations either way, and may point to the future development of Twitter’s platform, and how it’s used. 

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