As popular as Twitter has become, its immaturity shows in a variety of ways. It is pure speculation, but what would Twitter Pro accounts look like if I was developing them?
To become a must-have consumer service or a business-critical utility Twitter need to shed some 'baby fat' and grow up by tweaking some of the ways it does its tweeting. It also needs to invest in a more robust network infrastructure that can withstand spikes in traffic and DDoS attacks, but that is another story.
Here is my wish list of the Top 5 features or functions that Twitter should build into the Twitter Pro accounts:
1. Improved account management. The process of following other Twitter accounts, accepting or blocking followers, determining if the accounts you follow are following you back, etc. is all very cumbersome right now. Users rely on third-party tools such as MrTweet for recommending new users to follow based on who the users you follow are following, or TweetAdder to automate many of the functions of account management like following and unfollowing. A Twitter Pro account should incorporate the features of services like these to provide a more mature, professional account management interface.
2. Traffic metrics. The target audience of Twitter Pro accounts is supposedly businesses who are using Twitter as a public relations and marketing tool. Marketing and metrics go hand in hand. The Twitter Pro account has to provide a means of determining the exposure of a given message and providing some sort of reporting that can be used to determine the effectiveness of the marketing campaign.
3. Tagging function. Hash tags are used in Twitter to tag tweets with keywords that help other users find the message when they search. Keyword tagging is an integral part of web site indexing and it makes sense for Twitter to use keyword tagging as well. The problem is that the tags use up some of the already-sparse 140 character limit you have to work with in a tweet. Twitter Pro, or the next evolution of Twitter should incorporate some method of assigning 2 or 3 keywords to a message without having the characters of the keyword tags count against the character available for the tweet.
4. Tweet filtering. If you use the actual Twitter web site to follow the incoming tweets you may be quickly overwhelmed. Following 50 or 100 people may be manageable, but if you are following hundreds or thousands of users the tweets may come in so fast that you will miss most of them. Currently I use Tweetdeck which enables me to create sub-groups of Friends, Family, Breaking News, or whatever and filter the tweets so that I make sure I see the ones that are important to me. Twitter Pro should include a function like this, making it a little more like Facebook in the process which already provides an ability to both group contacts as well as an ability to filter out status updates from certain individuals without removing them entirely from your contacts.
5. Extended search capabilities. Search has emerged as the Holy Grail of social networking. Google has an established dominance in web search, but they are coming a little late to the party for the sort of real-time, collaborative search results made possible by social media. Twitter Pro should create a more robust search capability and provide a means for searching farther into the past. The Twitter search function works OK for finding tweets from the past week or two, but does not have any capability to search tweets from last month or last year.
I am sure there are more things I could wish for. I am also sure that more details will emerge over the coming months regarding what Twitter Pro really is rather than just my speculation. I wonder if Twitter Pro will in any way cut down on the porn, follow-me-and-we'll-all-get-a-million-followers, and other MLM type spam that seems so pervasive in Twitter.
Of course, the opposite is also possible. Perhaps major corporations like Nabisco or General Motors will be able to pay for the ability to spam their Twitter ads across the network to everyone whether they follow or not. Only time will tell.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.