Twitter is a useful place to follow the latest news and keep up to date, but its relative paucity of discovery features and lack of organized community spaces make it quite difficult to connect with anyone through active search.
The company is thinking about changing that. Twitter is in full swing with new features and its latest experiment, called Communities, is designed to make it easier to connect around shared interests. Users will be able to join these new social hubs and tweet directly to others with shared interests rather than to their usual group of followers. Those tweets will still be public, but replies will be limited to other members of the community.
Communities will be user-generated, though Twitter says they will be “limited,” for now, so most people will have to wait a few months before starting their own groups. The first communities will focus on popular and generally benign topics on Twitter, including “dogs, weather, sneakers, skin care and astrology.” Example Twitter images also include cryptocurrency and plant photographers.
The test will begin these days and will appear in a dedicated place at the bottom of the iOS app or in the side menu on Twitter.com. The company says Android users will also be able to read community tweets, though more features are on the way soon, presumably a dedicated app tab and the ability to join and participate in new groups.
The communities will be created and maintained by designated moderators, who will have the ability to invite other users to the group via direct messages and remove content posted within the group. Initially, invitations will be the only way to join a community, but it looks like Twitter has big plans for discovery features that make it easier for people to find places they might want to hang out.
“Some conversations aren’t for everyone, just for people who want to talk about what you want to talk about,” wrote Twitter’s staff product manager David Regan. “We want to continue to support public conversation and help people find communities that match their interests, while creating a more intimate space for conversation.”
With any user-driven community space on social networks, particularly one where algorithmic discovery is based on factors, moderation is the big concern. Twitter says anyone will be able to read, report and cite content posted in a community, so you don’t need to be a member of a community to flag harmful content as you would in a private Facebook group. The company says it is working on “new reporting streams and customized enforcement actions” to proactively identify problematic communities.
The introduction of Communities meshes well with Twitter’s recent efforts to court creator communities. The company launched Super Follows, its paid subscription tool, earlier this month and also recently invited some users to sell tickets to audio rooms with Ticketed Spaces. It is also testing one-time payments with a feature called Tip Jar that is currently only available to a subset of accounts.
Communities are a big change for Twitter, which is obviously on the verge of reinventing the platform as a more dynamic place. By creating substantial space for sub-communities on Twitter, the company seems to be slowly moving in the direction of a platform like Discord or Reddit, where everything revolves around interest-based communities that moderate themselves. Those platforms deal with their own moderation headaches, but specific, interest-driven communities invite users to dig deeper in a way that makes interactions on Twitter seem shallow by comparison.
The introduction of Communities is an interesting direction for a prominent social network that was largely unchanged for more than a decade at this point. If the test works, Communities could build a great connection between users and make the social network overall a more dynamic place to hang out, but that’s only possible if Twitter can strike the right balance between encouraging its newly imagined sub-communities to grow and keeping them safe.