Twitter Acquires Chat App Sphere to Boost its Communities Push
Twitter’s new Communities offering doesn’t appear to have caught on in a major way yet, but it continues to revise the format and add more options which could, eventually, make Twitter groups a thing, and build another surface for more topic-focused engagement in the app.
And this could help – today, Twitter has announced that it’s acquired chat app Sphere to help expand its Communities project.
Sphere is focused on community chats and optimizing relevant involvement inside each group to help develop ties and maximize engagement, as you can see in these screens.
Its ‘Zen Flow’ system, which attempts to emphasize the most important group chat aspects for each user, and ‘Appreciations,’ which are community stickers and tools that allow individuals to recognize top contributors, are major features on this front.
As explained by Sphere:
“Our feed automatically clears out old or irrelevant chats to prevent groups from feeling chaotic. Our chats call out essential messages (like polls, events, and announcements) and make it more likely for people to respond. Our custom appreciations encourage people to express genuine gratitude.”
Which may not sound all that different from other group offerings, but Twitter’s discussion-highlighting algorithms, which work to highlight the most relevant elements to each user, could be particularly valuable, while its incentive tools could also help to improve Twitter’s Communities offering and make it a more compelling space.
It does, however, have a challenge ahead of it. While the concept of Twitter communities makes sense in terms of providing a way to engage in conversation around specific topics in the app rather than broadcasting every tweet, its practical value is limited, given that most users have already curated their own tweet communities based on who they follow in the app. Furthermore, the possibility of lowering your tweet reach and interaction by publishing solely to a Community is unlikely to pique consumers’ interest.
Looking through many tweet communities thus far, this appears to be a widespread problem — tweets inside communities that aren’t seen by all of your followers, but only members of that group, receive considerably less participation in general, and the accompanying dialogue isn’t exactly flowing in each.
Of course, that’s anecdotal, and Twitter would have a better understanding of what’s going on in its communities as a whole. However, Communities appears to go against the platform’s ‘public square’ essence, and may be an unusual match.
But perhaps Sphere’s more advanced algorithms and tools can assist, and perhaps if Twitter implements some of Sphere’s engagement prompts and recognitions, this will help to make Twitter Communities more lively and engaged, giving it the boost it needs to become a more prominent alternative.
It’s the latest step in Twitter’s larger drive to broaden its products and become a more complete connecting tool in a variety of ways as it seeks to increase usage and revenue. In January, Twitter purchased newsletter provider Revue, and in May, it bought online reader platform Scroll, both of which have now been folded into new on-platform products that are broadly aligned with its premium subscription features.
Sphere appears to be less likely to become a paid feature, but as Twitter expands its focus on topic-based interaction and community building in the app, it may give some crucial engagement elements that distinguish its groups offering and make it a more interesting in-app experience.
We’ll keep you informed of any developments.
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