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Twitter Launches Public Test of ‘Circles’ for Private Chats via Tweet

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Twitter Launches Public Test of 'Circles' for Private Chats via Tweet

After testing out a range of variations of the option over the past year, Twitter has today launched a public test of its new ‘Twitter Circle’ option, which will enable users to share tweets with a specific, custom group of connections in the app.

As you can see in this example, Twitter Circle enables users to essentially create a private group chat via tweet, with a variable audience control process that enables you to share tweets with a specific group of chosen contacts.

Users will be able to add up to 150 people to their Circle, with any tweets in the group then only visible to the people in that listing.

Members of Circle are alerted that their tweets are only viewable by those in the group via green indicator attached to each Circle tweet.

The option is essentially an extension of Twitter’s reply control option which it launched back in 2020, which enables users to decide who can see and respond to each of their tweets, while it also leans into the more enclosed discussion use case that Twitter’s looking to boost with its Communities option.

Twitter Communities example

Communities enables users to segment their Twitter audience, so that you can share more specific discussions with specific groups, as opposed to broadcasting everything to all of your followers all the time, and that, ideally, will open up more opportunity for Twitter users to engage with a broader range of topics, as they won’t feel constrained to post only what they think their established audience will respond to and like.

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But whether it works that way in practice remains to be seen. Part of the problem with Circles, as I see it at least, is that most users likely conduct the discussions that would fit into this offering within their DMs already, maintaining group chats with their close friends in a more private space. That privacy enables people to feel more comfortable sharing, and there doesn’t seem like much reason for them to switch those conversations to the potentially more exposed Circles option instead.

In addition to this, Twitter users also have lists to stay in touch with their most important connections, or they can just whittle their Following list down to the most important profiles – so there’s no real, practical value or need for Circles, as such, given that all of the functionality for it already exists in different forms.

A more practical, and valuable application of the same core concept would by Twitter’s other in-development restricted sharing option ‘Facets’, which would enable users to follow each profile based on different topic interests.

Twitter Facets example

As you can see in this example, Facets would enable users to follow each profile based on different topics, so if you want to tweet about entirely different subjects, and not annoy your main profile followers with things that are irrelevant to them, you could give users the option to follow specific elements of your Twitter presence, as opposed to getting all of your tweets.

That, of course, is not the same as more enclosed group sharing, but it caters to a similar need, in segmenting your audience, which would have, arguably, a more practical value and purpose than trying to bring group chats into the general tweet stream.

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As noted, Twitter first previewed Circles in July last year, and within that first explanation, Twitter also noted that Circles tweets would appear first in user timelines, which would be an even more significant element, and could see increased interest in the option.

That’s not part of this initial test launch of the option, though it could be built into Twitter’s algorithm – and maybe, if Circles tweets had the extra benefit of increased priority for those in the group, that could make it a more enticing function.

But right now, I’m not sure I see the real value – though no doubt many people will test it, and they might well find handy use cases for the process.

But it does also seem like interesting timing.

Twitter has long been viewed by many as a ‘global town square’, where people can go to get the latest news and updates, and where everyone can have their say.

That analogy was most recently used by incoming Twitter owner Elon Musk.

Yet, Twitter itself seems determined to partition off the Twittersphere where it can, with variable controls for who can see your tweets, who can reply, Super Follower tweets for only those who’ve paid to see them, private Spaces, private chats, etc.

Is that in line with Elon’s vision for the app?

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Is that why Twitter has pushed this out now, before the takeover goes through?

In essence, I don’t see big value in segmenting Twitter discussions, when DMs already exist, but maybe there are ways to use it to highlight your biggest fans, and create more intimate connection, or to segment your audience into specific groups, similar to what ‘Facets’ might do anyway.

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Interest in leaving Twitter grows as Musk’s grip tightens

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Twitter is changing under new owner Elon Musk

Twitter is changing under new owner Elon Musk – Copyright AFP/File Ben STANSALL

Analysis of Google Trends data reveals that web search trends for ‘Delete Twitter Account’ in the U.S. grew 335 percent on 1st week of November, 2022, around the same day when Elon Musk officially bought Twitter for $44 billion. Atypical for a takeover on this scale, the process was played out in public.

Many of the concerns are connected with the apparent right-wing shift in terms of the social media platform’s ethos that is being constructed as the result of Musk’s acquisition.

This finding came from a business-to-business networking site called SeeBiz. The company also saw a major increase in Google web search trends for other variations like “deactivate twitter”, “delete twitter”, “how to deactivate twitter”, “deactivate twitter account” etc. All the search term variations related to delete twitter are following same increasing trend as per the Google.

Elon Musk dubbed himself ‘Chief Twit’ in his Twitter profile and listed his location as the company’s San Francisco headquarters, as the deadline nears for him to complete his buyout. – Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL

According to Richard Seymour writing in The Guardian, Musk has not purchased Twitter as the outcome of sound business analysis. Instead, this is part of political project and the consequences are unlikely to be positive. Seymour writes that Musk: “Notoriously rules by fear, breaking the law, busting unions and firing employees who criticise him. He appears to want to establish the same pattern at Twitter, based on his apparently unassailable conviction that he knows best.”

The chaos surrounding Elon Musk and his Twitter takeover seems to have upset a lot of the social media platform’s user base. Similar increase in trend these terms was also seen in the last week of April 2022, when Twitter initially announced that it had come to an agreement with Elon Musk.

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Analysis was also performed on the same trend in Google search volume as well:

Keywords and phrases Jul-22 Aug-22 Sep-22 Oct-22 Increase %
delete twitter account 60,500 60,500 49,500 110,000 94%
deactivate twitter 4,400 4,400 3,600 8,100 96%
delete twitter 5,400 5,400 4,400 12,100 139%
how to delete twitter 6,600 6,600 3,600 6,600 18%
how to deactivate twitter 3,600 2,900 2,900 5,400 72%
deactivate twitter account 1,600 1,600 1,300 2,900 93%
how to delete your twitter account 2,400 2,400 1,900 3,600 61%
how to delete twitter account permanently 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,900 90%
how to delete my twitter account 1,600 1,300 1,300 3,600 157%
how do I delete my twitter account 1,900 1,900 1,600 8,100 350%

In the U.S., the reaction to the buyout has been split along partisan lines, with praise for Musk’s planned reforms and vision for the company, particularly his calls for greater free speech coming from those of a conservative leaning. In contrast, Musk has received harsh criticism over fears of a potential rise in misinformation, disinformation, harassment, and hate speech on the platform, from those of a liberal or social democratic persuasion.

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