Twitter Announces Tailored “Who to Follow” Feature

Not to be outdone by Facebook’s IPO news, Twitter announced yesterday that they will be experimenting with a new feature that offers users a tailored list of whom to follow. On second thought, they were outdone by Facebook’s IPO news.

Notice how when you first signed up to Twitter, they recommended that you follow Justin Bieber even though you’re not a lonely 12-year-old girl? If you were happy because you actually are a “Belieber,” then I apologize for the lack of taste in your life. For you non-Beliebers out there, look for my mutilated body in lil’ Becky’s closet. Pronto. Anyway, when you first signed up to Twitter you were given a list of users whom you were recommended to follow, often for no rhyme or reason. Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Ashton Kutcher… you get the picture – just awful, awful celebrities.

But now, Twitter wants new users and old users alike to benefit from tailored suggestions. For instance, if you like rap music, Twitter may suggest you follow Kanye West or Jay-Z. If you like the Los Angeles Lakers, Twitter may suggest you follow Kobe Bryant or perhaps more helpfully, a psychiatrist. In other words, users are going to get suggestions that are relevant to them. Where to find these pertinent suggestions? New users will see their list of tailored suggestions of whom to follow along with a timeline of those users’ tweets upon creation of their account. Current users can find their tailored suggestions under “who to follow” on the left.

New users may see a list of tailored suggestions (left) and a timeline with Tweets from those accounts (right) as they sign up for an account. (from Twitter's blog)

So now is where you should be asking the question, “How does Twitter know who to suggest?” Uh oh. Maybe Twitter made their announcement during the rush of Facebook’s IPO news on purpose. Twitter tailors your suggestions by tracking which websites you’ve visited that have integrated Twitter buttons or widgets. They know where you’ve been online, and they’re going to use that knowledge to give you tailored suggestions. If other users who visited NMR followed Alan Van, for example, and they’ve seen that you’ve visited NMR in the last 10 days, then they’ll suggest you follow Alan Van too. Of course, you’ll promptly ignore this suggestion since I am Twitter follower repellant.

Current users may see tailored suggestions in “Who to follow”. (from Twitter's blog)

Once again, this is a case of another Internet giant tinkering with personalization versus privacy. Luckily, Twitter users have the option of opting in or out. For new users, they will be given the option to “Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits” when they first create an account. Current users can make the choice thorugh the new “Personalization” section in their account settings.


What do you think of Twitter’s new tailored suggestions feature?

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