Is Twitter’s New 'Moments' Feature Worth the Hype for Government?

Twitter's new feature will voluntarily move posts to the top of a users' newsfeed, which may be a valuable feature for organizations trying to push a message to its followers.

by / February 12, 2016
Screenshot Twitter

Late last week, Twitter went wild with speculation that social media platform would be using an algorithm to reorder newsfeeds. In a veritable Twitterstorm, under the hashtag #RIPtwitter, users protested what they saw as an affront to the natural order of the platform.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to his personal account, @Jack, on Feb. 6 in an attempt to quell the uproar and reassure users that Twitter would not become just another iteration of rival platform Facebook, but rather a way to share content users missed while not logged in.

Ordinarily, the tweets are displayed in reverse chronological order, most recent on top, cascading down. Under the new system, content tweeters are likely to have missed during a prolonged absence from the service will see curated, relevant content first, followed by the standard feed.

Many on the social network said the shakeup would turn the platform into a high school-esque popularity contest or somehow degrade their First Amendment rights. 

The idea that Twitter would give preference to some posts over all of them sent many users into a tizzy.

But the feature, for all of the criticism, could have a promising impact for organizations with an important message to get out. Say, for example, a city account with several thousand followers had an emergency storm update.

Lindsay Crudele led the city of Boston’s charge into the social media realm, and is now with Media Cause, an organization providing outreach solutions to nonprofit and civic organizations making positive social impacts, where she serves as the director of .gov and dean of training.  From her perspective, this new facet poses a tangible benefit to the effective sharing of information. 

“One of the benefits to Moments from a public agency perspective is that a user doesn't need to be logged in to see the curated story,” she said via email. “Lowering the threshold for access is only a good thing for government, which should be thinking about maximizing clarity and ease of access to information.” 

Because of the vast amount of information available to Twitter users, Crudele said the new addition to the platform will help to connect users with the information they are most likely to care about more quickly than before.

“Twitter's value as a real-time reporting tool is well-evidenced for current events and emergencies, but it's also a lot of information to parse, particularly for someone who is not a heavy user,” she wrote. “So for a constituent, it could represent easier access to the most important content.”

Under the new protocols, which also happen to be voluntary despite the uproar indicating otherwise, a user logging in would not have to scroll through a hoard of content to see posts they might have been interested in. 

As with many things in the fickle world of social media, the original doom-and-gloom posts condemning the action have given way to more rational, “oh, that’s all it does,” posts. 

Following a tweet introducing the new feature Feb. 10, Dorsey walked users through how to disable the feature if they didn’t care for it. According to the CEO, the feature is easily disabled through the platform’s settings menu.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.