Who? Oh, come on – you know Tom. Tom was the first person who befriended you on MySpace. You remember, back when you used it. This guy:
Tom was there for you. Tom was your friend. In fact, you knew that nobody liked you when Tom unfriended you on MySpace.
Tom Anderson is a real person. In fact, he’s the frickin’ president of MySpace, Inc. But as an icon within the network he provided a couple of important services:
- He became your first ‘friend’. Okay, he wasn’t a real friend at all, but then neither were 99% of your other MySpace contacts.
- He sent you a personal message introducing MySpace and offering you assistance and links to help files and FAQs.
Twitter currently doesn’t do either of these things. There is no automated first friend, nobody to steer you on the right path. Instead, we have the dubious suggested users list. Sure, there is a help portal and even a useful if dated introductory video, but they don’t deliver that all-important personal touch.
Tom was a real person, but there was a team behind that account. Kevin Rose is far too-cool-for-school to be the face of Twitter, at least in a ‘How can I help you?’ way, but there’s an opportunity here for the network that I feel is being neglected.
Here’s an idea: Twitter establishes some kind of ‘TwitBot’ that becomes everybody’s first follower when they join the network. It can be a person or a spin on the company’s bird logo. For the purposes of this article, let’s call it Chirpy. (I know, I know. Twitter needs a new PR team.)
Every time a new user signs up, Chirpy follows them. He then sends them 2-3 tweets. These could be tailored to the information given in the user’s profile. For example:
- Chirpy sends you a message welcoming you to the service. This includes a link to frequently asked questions about Twitter.
- After doing a scan of your data, Chirpy sends you a second message, containing a link to recommended people that you should follow. This will be relative to you and your interests. (If the user had not completed their bio sufficiently to make these recommendations, Chirpy would suggest that they do that now.)
- Chirpy sends a third and final message that recommends Twitter tools and applications. This could be sponsored and would be a great monetizing opportunity for Twitter.
That’s it. That’s all you’d see at this stage. Indeed, to prevent your Chirpy tweets getting seen by other users, this could all be done by direct message.
After this, Chirpy would leave you alone, unless you needed help. This would be activated by simply delivering a message to @Chirpy. Chirpy would then scan your message, checking for certain keywords, and return the relevant information to your query back to you (again, possibly via a direct message).
Maybe he could even understand basic commands. Perhaps
would trigger a fresh scan of your bio, tweets and followers and allow Chirpy to recommend some new people for you to follow.
If Chirpy was unable to assist you, it could refer you to alternative sources (including FAQs and the like) or possibly there could be a human team behind the scenes that took care of anything that pushed Chirpy into an infinite loop. Or – get this – maybe he then re-chirps your problem to all of Twitter, via a specified hashtag, and you get your answer that way, courtesy of the hive mind. You can do this already, of course, but you’re limited to your followers. Everybody would be following Chirpy (at least, at first).
After a while, you’d know a lot of the stuff that matters about getting the most from the Twitter experience, and you’d likely never use Chirpy again, or very rarely. And he’d leave you alone. You could even unfollow him. Indeed, you probably would, as much like Tom on MySpace or that loathsome paper clip in Microsoft Word, eventually you’d come to hate Chirpy for some unclear but nonetheless cross-culture reason. Let’s face it: with a name like Chirpy, it won’t take long.
The benefits to Twitter adopting an automated service like this are numerous. The opening messages from Chirpy would make new users feel more at ease with how the network functions and exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. This would cut back on a lot of the same daily questions that float around the Twittersphere, but even when folk did have a query they could prompt @Chirpy for a reply. And he’d be happy to help.
Just by having a follower, even an automated one, prompts people to seek out new folk to follow, as they’re immediately made clear that socialisation is what it’s all about.
Okay. Not everybody would bother reading the messages from Chirpy. When I sign up to a new product or service I tend to skip these myself, much like I don’t look at instruction manuals or bother to read the signs on toilets. But lots of wiser people do.
And even if they didn’t, it might be nice to know that Chirpy, much like Tom, is always there if you need him.
Note: A user account with the name ‘chirpy’ already exists on Twitter. They have protected their updates, but still – please don’t bug them with enquiries for help.