Personal Trends in Social Media

Getting More Relevant

I’ve been writing about how email might evolve in light of newer ways of communicating (IM / SMS and FaceBook):

In that email article, we saw some of the ways in which modern social tools, especially FaceBook, find the messages you want to read, helping senders (who don’t have to address their message so carefully, if at all) and receivers (who don’t have to sort through a large Inbox looking for relevant items).

While walking the dog yesterday – yes, life is tough for us might-do-it-again second-time founders – a related thought came to me.

How could we improve the relevance of the communications presented to a user?

Right now, these are the trends Twitter is showing for me:

I think it’s fair to say that the relevance of #youneedanewboyfriend to me (43-year-old heterosexual married man since you ask) is pretty limited. This list doesn’t seem to reflect the technology-related topics I mostly tweet about. What could we use to personalize the trending lists (i.e. find relevant topics)?

  1. Things I tweet about
  2. Tweets I click on
  3. Things the people I follow tweet about (best when following a significant number of people)
  4. Things the people who follow me tweet about (best when there are a significant number of followers)
  5. Second-degree-of-separation topics – tweets from the followers and followees of my followers and followees; tweets on topics from people who tweet on the topics that are already known to be relevant
  6. Local tweets (Twitter already trying this, see the “Worldwide change” button under trends, though it is not a great feature today)

How does this link back to Email? Right now, Twitter is more of a publication than a two-way-communication tool. Yet, by achieving better relevance, it could be something where your replies are as important as initiating a new thread. FaceBook is already part way there, in that they look for relevance by your interactions, but of course they can’t/don’t look across the whole universe of communications to pull in what’s relevant.

How might this be implemented in a startup? By producing a client or clients – probably a web-client + iPhone app + Android app – that delivered access to Twitter with relevant tracking, and which helped with the people- and topics-orientation that better relevance would produce.

Over time, this startup would want to avoid being purely dependent on Twitter – always a risk to be dependent on a single vendor, who could simply try and swallow your function – by also leveraging other forms of communication, perhaps FaceBook, perhaps email. As we previously discussed, it might be possible to radically simplify (consumer) email by making more use of relevance.

How does this rate as a startup idea? I like that it is simple at the start. I would worry that others have already done it / are doing it / could easily do it. I like the idea of starting with relevance work on something (Twitter) that is not email, and then backing into email, reducing the temptation to recreate email, or recreate FaceBook. A client-side integration makes it easier to link in to multiple systems (Email / FaceBook / Twitter / …). I must admit, I’m intrigued by this one.

Anyone aware of others working on this problem? What are they doing?



Filed under Tech

2 responses to “Personal Trends in Social Media

  1. mcale

    I completely agree with what you write about the “trends” in Twitter. I never find them relevant to me, and it increases my “what the heck is Twitter *for*?” exasperation. Sometimes I flip between different places to see the local trends, but they are no better. All pretty clunky.

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