Favorites: The Final Frontier

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As of this very moment, I’ve pulled 675 Tweets out of the cacophony that is Twitter, and branded them as “the chosen few”.

I’ve given the fleeting, temporary text certain permanence and eternal life.  If you don’t know what I’m referring to, look at any tweet,  and look at the little transparent star sitting to the right; it represents one of the most underutilized, yet potentially most powerful components to the social web: the Favorites feature on Twitter.

The truth is, anyone can “Like” something. But when you’re their “Favorite”, it’s special.

Social bookmarking has been a utilitarian phenomenon of the democratized Web for years now (not for myself, particularly, but still…), but for some reason, Twitter users haven’t yet fully embraced this function of the service. This could be attributed to any one of a few reasons including confusion, lack of awareness, or maybe it’s that usage occasion has been undefined and there isn’t a clear value exchange.

Before we analyze the why, I’d like to recount my experience (visualize this a la the Windows 7 spots): one day while casually perusing Twitter using its official mobile app, I was inspired to succumb to my “Follow binge”, a bimonthly expedition where I aggressively hunt for new people to Follow. However, before tapping the Follow button on my first catch, and agreeing to further chisel away at my already dwindling attention, the one thing that I curiously put my eye to was the ability to tap into the user’s list of Favorite tweets, which was conveniently located immediately below the user’s stream of total Tweets.  [Insert late pass here]

The next thing that happened was epic, and one of the enlightening occurrences in my Twitter existence- I spent an hour lurking through tons of my potential users’ Favorites. My preferred news source Favorites. The Favorites of my influential/interesting friends. The Favorites of people who I don’t follow, but follow me nonetheless. Some Tweets were informative and piqued my interest, while some Tweets failed to illustrate a reason as to why on Earth they’d be anyone’s Favorite. Then I proceeded to notice the disparity in use that exists. Some users, like me, rely on the function to bookmark the content that provides relevance in the form of education or entertainment so I could get back to it later and potentially share. On the other hand,  I was surprised to find that some of the more savvy Twitter users, specifically the content publishers, had 0 or 1 Favorites marked. This contradicted with my assumption that they, of all user types, would be incentivized to encourage people to discover the most relevant Tweets curated by them. Then it hit me that Favorites haven’t hit critical mass, and although it seems we’re inching there, there are some things that need to occur.

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Time has no Favorites

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Just 1 Favorite for the New York Observer

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Zero Favorites for Complex

What Does It (Or Can It) Mean?

So how do we, the people, add a sense of purpose to allow the Power of the Favorite to truly shine through? For starters…

  1. We Will Define. The rules of engagement, that is. The suggestion for how Favorites be treated should naturally come from the almighty Twitterati, but ultimately result in the larger community approving and adopting, similar to the way the service itself had matured. (For me, at least, Twitter began as a conversational mechanism, and has since evolved into a “rich source of instant information”. Wait, what?)
  2. We Will Develop. Once holistic awareness sets in, and more users begin indulging, it’d be interesting to see some applications that augment influential Favorites. Many strategists and analysts place so much emphasis on the Retweet as the key measure of influence, but negate the amount to which that Tweet was Favorite-ed. If applications and Twitter clients were developed whose purpose it was to purely monitor and display Favorites from influential sources, Twitter could potentially evolve into a much richer, more meaningful place by illustrating its potential as brain trust.
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Well on it's way!

Reorganizing data through a controlled mechanism always has a funny way of being the catalyst of new perspective, forcing users to alter their behavior- hopefully resulting in an increased propensity to interact. Once activated and popularized, these Twitter clients could be result in the tipping point of The Favorite.

Data. Access. Permanent.

So, assuming this thing gets up-and-running, its implications for the consumer are bright. For example, once I’m conditioned to lurk within the Favorite lists of my choice publishers, I’ll have comfort in knowing that at any given moment their living database of recommended links and Tweets deemed could be updated, giving me access to the best of the best (and random). If the same links were amplified by the same handle via sporadic Retweets, there’s a good chance that I would’ve missed them.

Another implication for the Favorite is in the behavioral side of things. The advent of Favoriting can make people more conscious of the content that they post, a theme that ties into my last post about the road to increased accountability and personal curation. If I, as a savvy Twitter user, understand that all it takes to make something potentially damaging to my reputation permanent is simply the click/tap of a star, I’ll eventually become more mindful of what I put out.

Regardless of everything, I strongly encourage you to begin using the Favorite button, and to lurk within the Favorites of your friends, and of some random people. Not only is it a good exercise to prepare for what’s to come, but I’m sure you’ll be led to some content that could be valuable, entertaining, or potentially creepy…

Image Credit: Pewari Naan