Perhaps an Algorithmic Twitter Feed Isn’t a Bad Idea After All

Despite the resistance to the idea of an algorithmic feed, there may be value in presenting content on Twitter in a more useful way.

algorithmic twitter

Not too long ago, I wrote about why an algorithmic Twitter feed was a bad idea. I was an early adopter, so perhaps I’m attached to the feed the way it is. However, it’s clear that even though Twitter went public last year, it’s still searching for the best revenue model that delivers value to both users and brands.

The challenge, according to Jim Anderson, CEO of social media optimization platform SocialFlow, is that the more popular the network, the more content flows into that network. And while the chronology of Twitter’s feed is part of what made it successful, these days there’s just too much content for most people to keep up with.

“It’s an arithmetic problem,” he says. “How does all this content compete for a fixed level of attention?”

This hearkens to a concept in a recent article from marketing analyst Bob Garfield, where he notes that there’s lots of great content, but in the absence of scarcity, “Content is not king. Attention is king.”

While Anderson is reticent about the idea of giving business advice to Twitter, he’s among those who believes an algorithmic feed could help users of popular social networks, like Twitter, harness the “raging river of content” in a more useful way. Likewise, an algorithmic feed will increase the likelihood that readers will actually see content when it’s posted.

Of course, he says, the devil is in the details of how the algorithm is implemented. Facebook uses EdgeRank to surface content based on user behavior. The other option is to let users configure their own feeds.

“It’s a distinction of preference vs actions,” he says. “People often say they prefer one thing, and then do something completely different.”

The third option is for Twitter to do nothing. Indeed, there’s a contingent of Twitter users who say they don’t want an algorithmic feed, that the chronology is what makes Twitter what it is. Users will often resist any change in their social media experience. The question is: Are the demands of this subset of users worth maintaining the status quo?

“Even doing nothing is a risk,” Anderson says. “Monetization is a risk.”