Twitter recently rolled out a “mute” feature that will allow users to silence tweets from people they’re following… which at first begs the question, why not just unfollow someone that doesn’t add value to your timeline? Theoretically, the benefit of the mute feature will allow users to temporarily quiet accounts rather than delete them forever. And it’s a potentially powerful tool for brands, allowing them to follow users for direct messaging purposes while maintaining a clean feed. Users aren’t notified when they’ve been muted but can still send the brand a direct message, so it’s a mutually beneficial feature.
But let’s not focus on brands, let’s focus on the average user. With how the mute feature is set up now, there is a high likelihood users will simply forget they’ve muted someone; instead of temporarily tuning someone out, the feature effectively serves the same purpose as an unfollow or block. Which brings us back to the first question- why not just unfollow someone? In it’s current iteration, I can’t see myself using the mute feature– but I can see it’s potential value, especially around events and live entertainment, with a few tweaks:
- First, timebound the mute feature. Twitter should add the ability to mute someone for a specific time period: do you want to mute someone for the next hour, day, or permanently? Adding a timeframe to the mute feature immediately differentiates it from an unfollow, and recognizes that Twitter activity changes throughout the course of the day.
- Secondly, add the option to mute hashtags, not just users. Muting a specific hashtag won’t silence all the chatter about a particular event (#SXSW), Twitter chat (#runchat), or live TV show (#Scandal), but it will help clear a feed temporarily. Just because someone is tweeting about #SXSW right now doesn’t mean I want to mute them forever; coupled with the addition of a timeframe, the mute feature would allow me to temporarily mute someone tweeting at #SXSW, but welcome back their tweets after the event has ended.
Now for some ideas of how the amended mute feature could work:
1. Event aggregation. You’re not attending #SXSW, and want to follow along from home, but the volume of tweets is overwhelming… and blocking you from finding any other news not related to the event. You choose to mute the #SXSW hashtag for the next day, and at the end of the day, Twitter sends you a recap of the event as told through the most engaging tweets of the day. You still feel like you know what’s going on, but you don’t have to wade through endless tweets to find it. (This is relatively easy, Twitter already sends a daily email recap of what’s trending in your network)
2. TV sync. Twitter has already partnered with Comcast for SeeIT, which allows Comcast subscribers to sync their cable accounts with their Twitter accounts in order to record shows directly from their Twitter feeds. Syncing with a TV provider would allow users to mute a hashtag or chatter about a TV show with a timebound option of “until I’m caught up.” When a DVR or cable box indicates the viewer has watched the latest episode, the tweets would turn back “on,” helping cut down on social media spoilers. With global events like the Olympics and the World Cup, a tool like this could be especially beneficial. Similar to the event aggregation tool above, the collected tweets with the muted hashtag could then be placed in a social “hub,” where users could see them appear in their prime time– effectively creating live, social TV in any time zone.
The mute feature didn’t create an enormous amount of buzz as far as Twitter updates go, but it could be a powerful new tool to create a better user experience and cut through noise on the social network.