Twitter recently announced its new feature called “Fleets” which is quite similar to other platforms’ disappearing story features. After Snapchat first introduced “Stories” in October 2013, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and LinkedIn added a slightly tweaked version of “Stories” to their respective forums.
Stories are very popular among social media users. They are a quick and easy way to let your followers get a peek into your daily life. Today, about 500 million people use Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories have 300 million active users. Twitter’s recent jump on the “Stories” bandwagon is not having the kind of impact they were hoping for.
Before launching globally, Twitter had been testing the Fleets feature in several countries. Since its launch, Fleets has been facing backlash from Twitter users. Twitter added the feature to give users an easier and less permanent way to share their thoughts (Fleets disappear after 24 hours). However, the public is concerned about a potential increase in cases of harassment through Fleets, as there will be no public record of what was posted on these stories. On top of the lack of imagination, there are many pending issues with the platform that they should have addressed before launching a feature that is not what their users wanted.
Users are also complaining about various issues with Fleets. For instance, unlike Instagram, users are not notified if someone mentions their tweet in a Fleet. This is problematic. The original owner may not be aware of the context in which their tweet is being presented. Users have also reported a privacy loophole in direct messages, where blocked users can reach out to users through Fleets. A Twitter spokeswoman has mentioned that the company is aware of these issues and is trying to fix them.
Twitter users are using #FleetFeedback to share their thoughts on the new feature. Some have expressed their frustration, while others are bashing the platform for launching an absurd feature that they are not interested in using. Some users have suggested they would prefer the choice to opt-out of the feature so it doesn’t show up on the top of their feed.
Imagine if Twitter had put some thought into creating a new feature that would appeal to their users? The cool thing about Twitter is that unlike Facebook and Instagram—it never became the platform of choice for people who just want to share pictures of their grandkids… there has always been that “something special” that set Twitter apart from the other platforms. So why not innovate with your audience in mind? Create a feature that no one else has or give your users what they have been asking for… an edit button!
For years Twitter users have been requesting an edit feature. Currently, when you post a tweet, you cannot edit it. The only choices are to delete it or leave it as is. Twitter is well aware of this caveat. They recently published a playful Tweet stating that they would bring the edit feature if everyone wore a mask.
At a press event in San Francisco in 2019, Twitter’s product lead, Kayvon Beykpour talked about the edit feature—“Honestly, it’s a feature that I think we should build at some point, but it’s not anywhere near the top of our priorities.” Obviously not.
Social media’s criteria for new feature launches is usually based on the competitive edge. All platforms thrive through user traffic. The more engaged users are on the platforms, the more they will interact with advertisements and drive profits for these platforms. Social media giants are well aware of the consumer psyche and they use it to their advantage. If something is working for one platform, it has to work for another, right?
As platforms continue to steal features from one another in an effort to keep/gain users, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that social media has become stagnant. Why bother innovating when you already have a billion users? Social platforms no longer exist to connect us—they exist to make money from our attention, our clicks, and our data. With Fleets not becoming the hit they hoped, should we expect some innovation from Twitter in the near future? Possibly, but it won’t be for the sake of improving their platform. Unfortunately (as it is with all social media) it’s not about innovation it’s about making money, lots of money.