Twitter has announced it will bring in functionality giving brands the control over who can view and reply to their tweets.
This control is much needed to stop the abusive and harassing behaviour on the platform, however it could encourage brands to broadcast messages without two-way communication.
Announced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January, Twitter is adding an additional setting – conversation dynamics – that allows brands and users to decide how people can reply. The four settings are:
- Global – anybody can reply
- Group – anyone you follow or mention can reply
- Panel – anyone you specifically mention in the tweet can reply
- Statement – no one can reply
Twitter says it wants “to help people to feel safe participating in conversation.”
The functionality is something which the microblog site has been under pressure to introduce for sometime to stop the bullying, harassment and toxic comments on the platform.
However the fourth option of statement throws up issues as it could encourage brands to post up broadcast messages that no one can reply to. It has also been suggested it could further spread fake news and controversial posts, that no one can challenge. During a crisis it is vital that brands are able to inform customers about the situation, with the customers knowing that this is the correct information.
Brands should be on social media because they want to interact with their followers and hear both good and bad experiences. Followers want to experience a genuine human interaction with a brand to feel they are being listened to and the brand shares the same values and beliefs as them. By using the statement feature, some brands and public figures could push out broadcast messages to its audience, without this right to reply. So what happens if customers disagree with the statement? Customers will post their comments anyway, creating a new conversation that other customers and prospects can join in, but the brand is not part of, but can still see.
While the bullying and harassment environment has to be stopped on Twitter, limiting who can respond to the post is not the way to stop the trolls.
It encourages the disingenuous brands to hide behind broadcast statements without the right to reply. The behaviour of users needs to be tackled to make them accountable for their responses, rather than limiting who can respond.
Brands should be able to turn off comments now and again. Sometimes there is a need to push out messages, but on the whole brands should be engaging in a two-way conversation with its customers. That’s why they are on social media!
Twitter tells us it is watching how tests go to ensure that brands and misinformation are not able to capitalise on this new functionality. Let’s hope Twitter is true to its word and thinks through the repercussions of including no right to reply. Twitter is testing this functionality and will roll it out globally later this year, so we shall see whether it listens to these concerns and does the right thing.