The Most Overlooked Feature of Twitter

Often times when someone new follows me on Twitter I’ll usually spend a few minutes going through their timeline to learn about their background and interests. I’ll also read timelines for new people I encounter in @replies or retweeted messages. In addition to a person’s timeline, I recently started reading through Favorites which, in some cases it seems, is a better way to learn about someone.

But the information you’ll find in Favorites is sort of hit-or-miss. I did a quick (and very ad hoc) survey of how Favorites are used by the people I’m following. My observations are that Twitter “celebrities” (ie, those people who have a very large follower base and generate hundreds of tweets) have a very low percentage of Favorites compared to their total tweets. Which is understandable, I guess, since tagging a tweet as a Favorite takes time and their purpose in using Twitter is most likely broad communication for marketing- or evangelizing-type purposes. The reputations of the people in the celebrity group usually proceeds them anyways, so it would seem that their Favorites would be less useful for learning more about who they are.

For the non-celebrity group, say those people with a few hundred followers and who tweet with much less frequency, I found that it’s 50-50 on whether you’ll find Favorites of any value. It seems that most people have tried Favorites as a feature but don’t keep-up with the idea. That’s too bad since I think Favorites can offer a lot of potential if used in the right way.

Twitter has developed Favorites so that it’s public; people can see your list of Favorite tweets even if they’re not logged into the service. Therefore, it’s important to think about how you’re using Favorites. Do you favorite tweets so you can remember or archive them? Have you thought about the tweets that you’re tagging as Favorites from the perspective of someone visiting your Twitter profile, and how that information might be useful to summarize your interests? Or maybe you’re not effectively using the Favorites feature and there’s really nothing meaningful for anyone to see; if that’s the case then you could be getting a lot more value out of the Twitter service by rethinking your approach.

Favorites is a much less talked about feature of Twitter but its potential, when it’s used properly, could be significant. Your Twitter Favorites can summarize your interests and can highlight to your followers and the Twitter public those ideas, concepts, and thoughts expressed through Twitter, by you and by the people you’re following, that you find meaningful and important.

Favorites are a very important part of the Twitter feature set and to leverage it you’ll need to take a little extra time to pick appropriate tweets for your Favorites list. In addition, think about linking to your Twitter Favorites page from your Website or blog so that people in your community can have a convenient way to find the information that you’ve flagged as important; I created a link to my Twitter Favorites on this blog page to make that information more accessible. And if you’re looking for ways to make Twitter more useful, improve the way you’re currently using the Favorites feature.

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14 Responses to “The Most Overlooked Feature of Twitter”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    I always use the favorites feature if I find something worth favoriting. I usually just favorite things I agree with, something with a funny link or comment, etc, but nothing ever too serious.

  2. Mike Says:

    Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

    _________________________________
    Making Money $150 An Hour

  3. David Bressler Says:

    Sal,

    Interesting… I never thought of favorites that way. I use favorites in two ways…

    1. They’re tweets with URL’s in them that I want to read later. I use twitter almost exclusively from my iphone, but don’t like reading web pages there. So, I favorite them, and when at my laptop, catch up on my reading. Since I follow people for two reasons – personal interests and professional network – that is reflected in my list of favorites. Since I do tend to keep up with the reading, it probably would work to get to know my interests… simply because you’ll see what I’m reading right now.

    2. I also get a bunch of “motivational tweets” and I save the ones I like. I get to be reminded of them when I catch up on my reading…

    Anyways, your posts are always well thought out and articulated. Love ‘em.

    David

  4. saieva Says:

    Thanks David. In the (admittedly spotty) observations I’ve made of people’s Favorites, it is really a mixed bag what you will find. For me, since they are public content, Favorites are best applied to be a representative summary of my Twitter activity. So I’ve tried to Favorite my most meaningful tweets as well as the tweets of people I’m following that have been most meaningful to me. In doing that, Favorites become a reduced and concentrated timeline, or, said another way, the essence of my Twitter activity.

    Sal.

  5. David Bressler Says:

    I get it. I have a different perspective of favorites now, and I think you’re right. It’s a way for me to share more about me. I like the idea of twitter and a personal blog (coming) as a replacement for a live resume.

    Anyways… Good food for thought.

  6. Twitter Power System Says:

    Great post Sal. Twitter favorites are underused and this has given me a new perspective on how to use them.

    Unlike the 160 character bio limit, the favorites page gives you more space to show people who you are and what you’re interested in.

    Alternatively, if you’re the type of person who posts tens or hundreds of times a day, you could use the favorites function to provide people with a “lite” version of your Twitter feed that contains two or three of your most valuable tweets each day.

    Stuart

  7. Brett Fyfield Says:

    Hi Sal, As your numbers grow there are many strategies for dealing with the volume of good information coming your way. I use Twitter Line at work, so much like David I rarely have time to open a page or follow a link, but if something comes my way I’ll star it to be picked up later.

    It is a distillation of what I want to see in my stream and helps define the way that I interact with others. In this way I’ve begun to pay more attention to it.

    Thanks for pointing this out. Well articulated.

  8. twitter.com/sheffus Says:

    Hey Sal,
    Nice post!
    It’s interesting that they chose to call these Favorites. It makes the intended use ambiguous. MS uses the term Favorites for their bookmarks. Although I avoid IE, I tend to think of twitter favorites as a bookmarking feature. For things I want to explore later, when I am at my desk. I use it so much that yesterday I had to clean-up. I had 21 pages pages (on web interface) of favorites…
    But I also use it to capture really funny stuff.

  9. Damon Says:

    Hi Sal,

    I recently did a study along these lines as well, regarding how people use favorites as their network grows. It seems that as people obtain more friends, they are less likely to utilize the favorites feature. One of my guesses is simply that they hit a limit where they don’t see as many interesting tweets as they used to…

    You can see all the pretty graphs here: http://dcortesi.com/2009/03/04/10-crazy-favoriting-twitter-users/

  10. 1.000.000 miles & counting… » The Four Tools Required for an Online Personality Says:

    […] Twitter. I’ve gotten to meet more people through Twitter than any other venue in my career, and I’m glad to have done so. I like the balance of useful and benign information, it gives context about the person. I follow people to hear what they say, and occassionally just to see if they’re interesting. You’ll get to know what’s on my mind, with a bit of emotion, though I try to keep a mix of mostly professional comments, with some personal ones. I do have Twitter connected to my Facebook status, however, I will often update my Facebook status directly with a personal update that I don’t feel belongs on Twitter. Also, I like my friend Sal’s idea of looking at people’s twitter favorites to get to know more about their personality. […]

  11. Bronson Says:

    I agree that favourites are underutilized.

    They can be really handy for marking those posts that poin t out thins that you need to refer back to or important resources that you don’t want to lose track of.

    There may be a sweet spot in the market for converting all your Tweet Favs to Del.icio.us bookmarks (decoding the compressed url’s in the process)

    I have tons of really cool tweets that I have forgotten to mark and it busts my chops trying to find them everytime

  12. greg Says:

    Has anybody on here ever tried FAVRD? It’s basically a web based aggregator that shows the most favorited Tweets. So far I’ve found it to be a fairly interesting method to find people to follow.

    Wrote up a blog post on it earlier today. I really am staggered by how underutilized Twitter Favorites are:

    http://www.sagerock.com/blog/favrd/

  13. 1.000.000 miles & counting… » Recent 20, Managing First Impressions on Twitter Says:

    […] friend Sal posted a unique tip for using Twitter favorites as a way to learn more about people. He noticed his own behavior of using others’ favorites […]

  14. renevranc Says:

    i use my twitter favorites to collect links to Twitter tools
    (already 1500 by now)

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