Twitter’s latest offering, Twitter Communities, seems to be the microblogging platform’s answer to a question for its more casual users: how can you cultivate a real community around your interests without making your interests the sole focus. of your tweets? It can be difficult to create a real sense of community around your interests on Twitter while maintaining a social media identity that is still separate from it.
And it looks like Twitter Communities is the Bird app’s solution to this problem, making it easily the most exciting new service of Twitter’s future.
imagine an alternate timeline where everyone understands you
Say hello to Communities, the place to connect with people who tweet like you. test now on iOS and web, Android soon! pic.twitter.com/TJdKwUa4D2
— Twitter Communities (@HiCommunities) September 8, 2021
Twitter Communities is more than just a new feature, it’s a whole new way to discover and contribute to the conversations happening on Twitter. Most notably, this seems like a better choice for casual tweeters like me who want content curation. and a sense of community in our Twitter experience.
The new service allows you to create and join communities centered on a specific interest. Each community allows members to tweet about that community’s designated topic. These tweets must follow the rules set forth by a given community, and for many communities, the most important rules are to respect other members and make sure your tweets stay on topic.
So if it’s a fashion community, all tweets posted in the community must be about fashion. Community tweets generally do not appear in the main timeline, and each community has its own timeline of posts. You can view these posts by visiting a community or, after joining a community, Twitter will generate a tweet timeline consisting of tweets from all the communities you have joined. This timeline is also separate from the main timeline. The Twitter community timelines UI still resembles the main timeline (with a few key differences), but I’ll get to that later.
You might be wondering: isn’t that what hashtags are for? Well yes. But some of us are casual tweeters who want the space to tweet about all sorts of things, meet new people, and have the ability to tweet about something we like without that topic becoming our entire identity on the site. Sometimes you just want to connect with communities focused on your interests for a little while and then jump back into the main timeline. And Twitter Communities lets you do just that.
Twitter Communities are free to join and use, but currently appear to have limited availability as you must either be invited to join a community or receive a link to a community to see the service in action. I’ve been playing with it for a few days now, and I’m thrilled with how it could change Twitter for the positive.
A minimalist Reddit or a cooler Facebook group?
Each community allows its members to post tweets related to the topic the community is focused on. And in this way, Twitter communities look a lot like subreddit communities of Reddit and/or Facebook groups. Each community feels like its own little world within Twitter. A world away from the mess of the main timeline.
But there are ways that Twitter communities have distinguished themselves from Reddit and Facebook groups. Reddit is easy to use and navigate, but tends to be visually chaotic (more features, longer posts). In contrast, Twitter Communities’ user interface is a bit more streamlined, aesthetically pleasing, and easier to scroll through if you’re looking for more succinct content about your interests.
Facebook groups have a (deserved) reputation for being rowdy and messy online communities, even when they, like Twitter communities, have moderators and administrators to help keep discussions orderly and respectful. So far, trying out Twitter communities, I haven’t seen any drama like this unfold. And it’s much calmer and more relaxed than a Facebook group. And it certainly has less drama than the main Twitter feed.
But it’s still early days and Twitter Communities is a relatively new service in which the number of members is constantly growing and currently limited by the fact that you must be invited (or sent a link to a community) in order to join and have access to the service at all. So it’s always possible that the peace that members of Twitter communities currently enjoy won’t last once new people join.
But for now, it’s nice to have dedicated spaces on Twitter where you can get excited about your interests, meet new people, and not get yelled at.
Posting to a community means tweeting directly to it
Once you join a community, Twitter offers you two additional features to support your use of Twitter communities: A Communities tab on the left side of your screen (on the web) so you can visit the communities you have joined and have the ability to choose your desired audience for the tweets you post. Essentially, you can choose to tweet to everyone on Twitter or you can choose one of the communities you are a member of to tweet directly. If you choose to tweet directly in one of your communities, that tweet is not published on your profile — it only appears in the community you selected as your audience and nowhere else.
It’s pretty cool when you think about it. If you have a lot to say about a personal passion of yours, you don’t necessarily need to clutter the main timeline with those tweets. You can tweet your fandom or hobby-specific tweets directly to the people who will enjoy them the most. And you’ll likely receive a more enthusiastic and relevant response to your tweets in return.
If you don’t have a lot of Twitter followers (or aren’t a verified account), it can sometimes feel like you’re tweeting out of the blue. Sometimes you’ll get an answer and sometimes it’s just crickets. And the latter probably happens due to a number of factors, including the fact that Twitter is a platform where so many tweets are constantly being sent out at once that it’s easy for your own tweets to get lost in the sheer volume of tweets that pop up. in someone else’s timeline.
But I noticed in Twitter communities, because each community is a decidedly much smaller sub-platform within the larger Twitter platform and each community is dedicated to a specific topic, than the tweets you send may end up being much more visible. You are not competing with so many people for attention. And so, in the communities I’ve joined so far, I’ve noticed that most people who post questions in a community often get a response instead of just being ignored.
Twitter is known to be both wonderful and horrible. And there are days when there seems to be no middle ground. Content moderation has long been considered the primary answer to the Bird app’s problem with abusive tweets or content. But some think Twitter is more of a town square and as such would benefit from less content moderation.
Twitter Communities appears to be another answer to Twitter’s long-standing problem of balancing the need for free speech with the need for responsible management of a massive social media platform and keeping its users safe. users. In Twitter communities, there are actual rules that you must follow and you must stay on topic. These rules can lead to less abuse and more relevant and engaging discussions.
Like Reddit, Twitter communities often feature a published set of rules that members are expected to follow, and communities have moderators who enforce community rules. Twitter community moderators can also remove members of a community if that member violates that community’s rules or hide posts that violate a community’s rules.
On the main timeline, content moderation exists but it doesn’t seem as strong as the moderation you might find in a community. Since members are expected to follow an additional set of rules on top of Twitter’s own rules, chats and tweets tend to stay on track and are almost always related to the topics the community was created for.
It almost feels like Twitter communities – and your mileage may vary depending on which communities you choose to join – are an escape from the chaos of the main timeline and trending topics. When you view a community timeline (or the timeline Twitter creates for you that’s made up of all the tweets from all the communities you’ve joined), it seems quieter and more focused. It doesn’t sound like a jumble of emotions, memes, and hot takes. Instead, you can peacefully scroll through a long timeline of dog photos, food photos, or any tweet about any hobby.
As mentioned, each community has its own timeline of posts that is separate from the main Twitter timeline. You can send a tweet to a community, but that tweet will only show up in that community. This limited visibility of community tweets in other sections of Twitter also extends to retweets. You can’t really retweet a tweet you see in a community and share it on your own profile.
So if you can’t retweet a community tweet, what can you do? You can like, quote, tweet and reply to it. Liking a tweet from the community doesn’t appear to appear under the Likes tab of your profile as it would for tweets in your main News Feed. Your replies to other people’s community tweets will also not appear on your profile.
Twitter will let you sort of post a community quoting tweet on your own profile, but it won’t show up entirely: the comment you added at the top will be visible, but the community tweet you’re quoting will not appear. Instead, there’s just a notice that says “This tweet is unavailable. Learn more.” So basically your full quote tweet of someone else’s community tweet will only appear in the community itself.