How Suggested Users On Twitter Are Changing The Face Of The Mommyblogosphere
The Suggested Users Function (Find People –> Browse Interests –> Choose Topic) on Twitter is interesting: for various different topics of interest, Twitter generates a list of people that are thought of as leaders in that niche and, therefore, good people to follow. All of the people who are on the list — regardless of where their follower counts were before they were placed there — are now well over five digits. Have you ever wondered how they choose the people on the list?
I honestly had not given it much thought until very recently, because until very recently, it seemed that Twitter was more likely to reflect the findings of the blogosphere back at me, rather than the other way around, at least in my own niche. What I mean by that is, if I were to look at the suggested Twitter users in the Family category, I found that the bloggers listed were all well-established popular bloggers in the parenting genre. Twitter’s list included some of the most powerful and popular bloggers in the mommyblogosphere — not all of them, and not necessarily the ones I would have chosen — but many of them. A few did not fit the profile, exactly, but I guessed they ended up on there because they were particularly active on Twitter, and that some kind of algorithm had determined that they followed the right people, and that the right people were following them back.
Even if nobody wanted to admit these people were powerful, Twitter had decided that they were.
If that is indeed how the suggested user list is working, then that is liberating, because it functions as a workaround for the old boys network of blogging power. I like that idea. I want to believe that it exists. But, as usual, I’m a little skeptical. For one thing, there’s only a few people on the list that meet that criteria, and a whole mess of others who do not, including a few conspicuous inclusions with connections at Twitter. For another, there are some very conspicuous omissions from the list, if it is to be an inclusive list of powerful moms on Twitter.
Why does any of this matter?
Well, it used to be that Twitter reflected the blogosphere in that if you were big in the blogosphere you would be big on Twitter. To a certain degree this is still true. But now, it is starting to work the other way as well. The people who were included on the suggested user list whose blogs were small by comparison now have huge subscriber lists compared to before they were included, and they are now being invited to events they were not invited to before, and arguably never would have been invited to before they were included on the Suggested User List. This, in turn, is leading to more traffic, which in turn leads to more deals, which leads to other opportunities, and as we all know, this is how bloggers end up becoming “important” in the blogosphere. And actually, all of this is fine, except for the fact that I recently found out that Twitter is now going to start allowing people to buy your way onto the Suggested User list, which kind of complicates things a little bit. Though, to be sure, advertising is still a totally legitimate way of promoting one’s self in social media, whether it’s on Twitter, on blogs, or anywhere else.
Except something’s not working. Because, for example, take this account, @parentingmaven, that is a suggested user on Twitter, and that I’ve never heard of, who calls herself (?) a “Weird Blogging Mommy with lots of Parenting tips and stories.” Apparently, she (?) also uses a lot of unnecessary capitalization, and posts a lot of links to stuff that is useless, with no @replies. From all appearances, it’s a robot account, or an account run by humans who are not really personalizing things very much anymore at any rate. If you follow the link to the blog associated with the account, there are articles there, but nobody seems to be reading them. The only comments are from spambots. Of course, it is running ads from the BlogHer Ad network. (Cough.)
Maybe this is just a one time thing. Let’s check out some of these other “important users in my niche” that I’ve never heard of before and see what they are up to. There’s @dailyparentingtip, a Twitter account that retweets stuff that other people post and links to a blog on which it aggregates posts that other people write about parenting topics on other blogs for which they do not pay anything; there’s also @pediatricians, which is “Managed by Web Marketing Expert Douglas DoNascimento,” because that is super important for us to know; and don’t forget about @amazingmoms, the site where Disney tells us about crafts.
People, this is without them even selling the spots yet.
Now, I know all this stuff is arbitrary, we all know this, that is the name of the game, of course. But some of this is getting a little ridiculous. It seems like they could clean it up a little bit over there or something at the very least.