Remember how last week Twitter switched their favourite icon from a star to a heart? It was pretty hard to ignore in social media circles - the change sparked an outpouring of grief from seasoned Twitter users, most of them calling for the re-instatement of their beloved star. Because hearts are associated with love, and we don't love most of the things we star, right?
This seemed to be the core logic of the opposition to the change, and while a lot of people felt the backlash was a bit over the top, it underlined that Twitter users really do care about the product and the functionality within it. Which is a good thing for Twitter. Right?
Either way, the change wasn't made with regular users in mind, the switch was more focussed on new users and increasing Twitter's appeal to those not already regularly participating in the tweets. Twitter's logic is that the heart's a more universal symbol, one which resonates "across languages, cultures and time zones". And given the heart emoji is the most used on Twitter anyway, it seemed, in Twitter's eyes, like a logical progression.
So how's the change working out?
More Hearts, More Often
The question of how the switch has been received was put to Twitter's SVP of product Kevin Weil who spoke at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco earlier today. In a live interview session, conducted by Casey Newton from The Verge, Weil explained the logic behind Twitter's decision to switch to hearts, and they response they've seen thus far.
"It's a change that's been fantastic for the platform , and one that we were very confident in making - although, we knew that we'd get a lot of feedback in both directions," Weil said. "But, it's not something that we do lightly, we actually put a lot of thought into a change as fundamental replacing star with heart. We tested it in a number of different ways across a bunch of different countries, trying different icons, trying different words."
"What we found actually sort of backed up our own intuition which is that the heart is a very universal symbol, it's a much more inclusive symbol. You only have a few favorites - there are only a few things that are your favorites - but you can like lots of things, and the word 'like' is a word that applies across cultures, across time zones - people just understand it better. And so, our intuition was that it would actually create more engagement across the platform, and that's borne out."
Weil then detailed how the switch to hearts has resulted in more engagement, saying that since the change was implemented, people are using the heart/like function 6% more than they were using the favorite.
"When you think about the size and the scale of Twitter, there are a lot of favorites, so moving that number by 6% is huge."
Weil noted that among new users that figure is even higher, with 9% more new tweeters using with the heart than they were with the star. While those figures are from a very small sample size in the wider scheme, and are likely influenced by the novelty and trending discussion around the change, it'll be interesting to see if those engagement rates hold up and reinforce Twitter's logic in making such a significant change to the user experience.
Weil also discussed the reaction to the change, noting that the passion of their user base is a positive for the platform.
"If Twitter didn't mean as much to people as it does, they wouldn't care so much, they wouldn't spend their time telling us exactly what they think, exactly what they wish we would do, what they wish we wouldn't do. But Twitter means something to people, it impacts their lives, it impacts hundreds of millions of people's lives around the globe, and it's a privilege to work on problems like that."
Newton also asked Weil about Twitter's new Moments offering and the audience response to the new product.
"The feedback has been fantastic, everything we hear people saying, [particularly] people that are new is that it makes the product simpler - "I come to Twitter and I immediately get value", which has been the goal for us."
Weil talked about how he, personally, has been able to stay up to date with current events via Moments, getting access to insights and perspectives he'd never have even thought to look for otherwise.
"It makes me smarter, it plugs me into what's happening across the world, and I ultimately get more value out of Twitter as a result"
Twitter's Kevin Weil speaking with Casey Newton at Open Mobile Summit (via Periscope)
Weil also discussed Twitter's marketing campaign for Moments, part of a wider effort to get more users onto the platform and capitalize on Twitter's strong market presence.
"If you look across the world, Twitter has this amazing brand awareness - I think we have something north of 95% global brand awareness, which is incredible [...] because of the impact that Twitter has on the world. But there's a gap between brand awareness and usage".
Weil noted that part of the emphasis of the new marketing campaign, which includes TV ads, a first for the platform, is to get people to take another look at Twitter and maybe get some of those who've tried it before to come back and see how they've improved.
"If you look over the last 6, 12, 24 months, the product is massively better than it was the last time some of the people tried it out."
Newton also queried Weil about reports that Twitter may be looking to extend tweets beyond their current 140 character limits and whether there was any truth to that suggestion.
"Great product teams are always challenging their own assumptions, they're always questioning their own core beliefs, and we're doing that, we'll continue doing that," Weil said. "When it comes to the 140-character limit, the way I think about it is brevity is a key part of Twitter, it's part of what makes Twitter amazing, so the challenge and the opportunity for us is "can we make it easier to tweet, can we increase your ability to express yourself on Twitter?"
Weil also discussed Twitter's video products, in Periscope and Vine, recounting his experience of seeing the power of Vine celebrity first-hand at the recent Cannes advertising festival. As part of their delegation for the event, Twitter took over Vine star Cody Johns, and Johns put a call-out on Twitter, saying he'd be in the lobby of their hotel at a certain time. Seven thousand teenage girls showed up to welcome him.
"Teens today follow and idolize Vine stars," Weil said.
Weil also discussed Twitter's other new products and offerings, noting how different brands are using Twitter data to improve their service and outreach models. Weil recounted the story of how one company, which makes industrial French fry making machines, uses Twitter data to detect upselling opportunities.
"...it turns out when these machines get old and start to break down, they produce soggy fries. So they use Twitter data, they get the stream of tweets from us of anybody talking about 'soggy fries' and they use it as a signal of which restaurants and where they need to go to upsell new versions and sell service contracts - they're literally making more money by using Twitter data".
There was some interesting insights in Weil's discussion - nothing outlandish, no major secrets revealed, but always interesting to get an inside perspective on how Twitter's approaching things and what they view as the key indicators and questions.