Twitter users worldwide now have access to the conversation settings the social network had been testing for replies to tweets, enabling the author of the tweet to choose who can reply: everyone, only people followed by the author or only people mentioned in the tweet.
Director of product management Suzanne Xie wrote in a blog post, “Since your tweet equals your space, we’ve been testing new settings to give people more control over the conversations they start. Sometimes people are more comfortable talking about what’s happening when they can choose who can reply. We’ve seen people use these settings to have conversations that weren’t really possible before. Starting today, everyone will be able to use these settings so that unwanted replies don’t get in the way of meaningful conversations.”
The test of these new settings officially began in May, but Twitter first introduced the idea at CES in January with a since-removed fourth option of not allowing anyone to reply.
Starting Tuesday, users can choose between the three reply options. Tweets designated for only people who follow the author or only people who are mentioned in the tweet will be labeled, and the reply icon will be grayed out for those not eligible to reply.
People who can’t reply to tweets can still view, retweet, retweet with comment, share and like those tweets.
Xie also shared some findings from usage, feedback interviews and surveys of Twitter users involved in testing the conversation settings.
- They help some people feel safer: People told Twitter they felt more comfortable tweeting and more protected from spam and abuse. Xie said the new settings prevented an average of three potentially abusive replies per tweet while only adding one potentially abusive retweet with comment, and there was no uptick in unwanted direct messages. People who have submitted abuse reports were three times more likely to use the settings, and 60% of people who tested the settings didn’t use the social network’s mute or block options.
- More meaningful conversation: Tweets about topics such as Black Lives Matter and Covid-19 were longer on average from people using the settings. Xie wrote, “Some people use these settings to have more sensitive conversations about politics and social issues. Those with a lot of followers use these settings to share more feelings, opinions and personal news.”
- People can still see various points of view: Twitter research found that people understand that replies are limited on certain tweets, and they frequently look for additional commentary in those cases. The new retweets with comments timeline is visited four times more often on tweets using the new settings. Xie said retweets with comments sometimes reach larger audiences than the original tweets and often tally more likes and views, even when the author of the original tweet had more followers.
Xie concluded, “Twitter serves the public conversation, so it’s important for people to be able to see different perspectives. We’ll keep working on making it easier for people to find the entire discussion through retweets with comments. Also, we’re trying out a new label to make it more obvious when these conversation settings are used.”