Are Tribes Killing Twitter?

Social networks naturally create groups. Delineations between “us” and “them” that are actually quite useful for content curation: after all, if you want to hear about the latest web design news, you’ll most likely want to follow and friend fellow web designers, not necessarily fashionistas or the literary types.

However, Neicole Crepeau at [grow] thinks that these groups – or tribes, as she calls them – are killing Twitter. And it’s not because they’re exclusionary; it’s because they’re too inclusionary, to the point of propping up fellow members even when they’ve lost their Twitter juice.

So are tribes the kryptonite to Twitter’s powers?

Not necessarily.

Crepeau makes a great case for tribes being a Twitter killer. In a nutshell (her article is worth a read in full here), she thinks they:

  • Promote mediocre articles simply by virtue of them being written by someone in the “tribe”, a fact which automatically gets the poorly written article multiple retweets
  • Effectively produce spam, links shared not based on merit but based on association within the tribe
  • Turn Twitter into a “big blogger ad-space” due to auto-tweeting of fellow tribes-people

The problems that Crepeau outlines are not negligible. Tweeting links without reading them dilutes the value of those links, and the value of looking to the retweet numer as an indication of quality or interest.

However, Crepeau believes that the “prisoners” in this system – tribespeople – are not going to solve the problem. Rather, the “jailor”, Twitter itself, must step in and rewrite the ruleboook. And in her mind, this means disallowing auto-tweeting.

Auto-tweeting does cause some of the problem of poor quality links being shared on Twitter. However, if Twitter were to step in and discontinue it, many bloggers would be frustrated by the fact that their Twitter account would no longer tweet a notification of a new post. Likewise, aggregator accounts – those that tweet news and other articles automatically – would quickly dry up.

Twitter needs variety in order to function. If people were restricted in how they can use the network, it would likely cause a mass exodus of uses who no longer find the service meets their needs.

Tribes are a problem, for people who are part of a tribe or who get all of their information from tribes, but that doesn’t represent the majority of users. And it’s up to the tribes – not Twitter – to self-correct all of the poor link-sharing and retweeting – or else die out when they become useless.

(Image courtesy of YanLev via Shutterstock)