Could Twitter’s “Fast Follow” service denigrate Twitter culture?
Once upon a time, Twitter was a small community of geeks (I can say that, I was there), and as more people came online, it changed a bit as people over 18 grasped at straws to figure out how to use the social network for business and as news outlets and celebrities discovered the magic of Twitter, the masses followed.
Twitter as a service has had its ups and downs and has added a tweak here and there over the years but hasn’t made quite the leaps and strides or redesigns as many anticipated given its massive funding. The culture has shifted from a seedy hole in the wall bar to a hustling and bustling metropolitan street while the service has mostly sat still.
One of Twitter’s few upgrades or updates has been the recent announcement of “Fast Follow” which allows anyone (whether they are on Twitter or not) to follow any user and receive text messages with that user’s updates, so if you wanted to be notified when we (@newmedialab) have updated our Twitter account, you would simply text follow newmedialab to 40404.
Some argue that it’s a futile attempt to garner new users to Twitter and others argue that it’s a wonderful opportunity for businesses. Blogs have covered this new service but Twitter users have not buzzed much about it, so I don’t believe it will change much of the culture of Twitter.
I think the upside to Fast Follow is for messages on an emergency basis rather than users connecting with a restaurant or their insurance agent (who wants to get a text in the middle of a meeting about switching to Geico and saving a bundle?). Who would I Fast Follow if I weren’t on Twitter (thus couldn’t just tell a specific users’ messages to go to my phone)? My kids’ schools for emergency updates live, my city’s services like Amber Alerts and such, or maybe a designer who doesn’t tweet anything other than when they are releasing new exclusive fabrics that I want to get to before others do (that’s just an example, I don’t actually care about fabrics but you get my point).
The downside to Fast Follow is non Twitter users that don’t understand why they are getting a slew of text messages about every move of someone or a company that they have followed and they don’t understand what “RT @mashable: something mundane happened today http://bit.ly/sdjfslerj” means or what “omg roflcopter” means or why the hell it’s coming to their phone, and I believe that the non-Twitter users will be even MORE turned off to Twitter because of this Fast Follow option, so the plan to garner marketshare will backfire.
Will there be a culture shift?
I don’t think Fast Follow will denigrate Twitter culture, but I think it will turn off the non-techie users that try to be hip for a second and will reinforce many peoples’ belief that Twitter is for geeks. Fast Follow doesn’t make the space noiser or more streamlined, in fact I don’t think it changes the landscape much at all, but it makes people funneling money into Twitter feel good that the service is actually doing something with those fancy offices. I will say however, that the one upside is for emergency notifications which could help parents and the like.
Photo courtesy of @jenndeeringdavis.