Twitter Tests “Subscribe to Conversation” Feature For Spectators to a Discussion

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Though Twitter has a smaller user base than Facebook, the platform is better suited for encouraging engagement with the public. On Twitter, anyone can talk to everyone about anything. Whether or not that’s a good thing is debatable, but it is useful for specific organizations. Twitter is testing a new “Subscribe to Conversation” feature that will make it easier for people to follow the online conversations they care about without having to join them actively.

Currently, if you see a conversation on Twitter that interests you, the only way to follow it is to engage directly with the original Tweet. This engagement can be a reply or just liking the Tweet. However, what if you want to follow a conversation without liking the Tweet or joining the discussion? That’s where the “Subscribe to Conversation” feature comes in. Twitter users will be able to follow the Tweet without engaging with it in the traditional sense.

At first glance, this feature may sound a little weird, like some “lurker” mode. However, there are many legitimate situations where you may want to follow a discussion silently. For example, if you’re going to monitor an online conversation without influencing it, this feature would be useful. People use likes and replies as a measure of the success of their Tweet. If you want to follow the conversation without giving the Tweet positive reinforcement, this feature will help.

Right now, the “Subscribe to Conversation” feature is only in the early testing phase. It just came to light last week when someone noticed the new option while on Twitter. It’s not available to everyone, and Twitter has yet to announce the feature or a rollout date officially. However, the fact that we’re seeing live user testing is a sign that Twitter feels the function has promise.

In reply to the Tweet from the person who first saw the feature Twitter said, “This is part of our work to make Twitter more conversational.”

It may seem counterintuitive to call a feature that reduces the need for engagement as “more conversational,” but Twitter may be on to something. If people are only liking and replying to a Tweet so they can monitor the discussion, it creates a lot of unnecessary engagement.

The “Subscribe to Conversation” feature would eliminate many of the short (and sometimes rude) comments from people who don’t like to content but want to follow what is said. You could think of the “Subscribe to Conversation” button as a Spectator mode, and with spectators on the outside, the actual discussion could be more conversational.

The real test of this feature will come from how it affects overall engagement and time spent on Twitter. As was mentioned before, the amount of engagement they receive is part of the incentive for people to Tweet. If the new feature leads to fewer likes and replies on content, people may become less likely to Tweet. Similarly, if there’s an overall decline in Twitter use for the people who have this feature, it probably won’t see a widescale release.

For more recent news about Twitter, check out this recent article on Twitter’s new Timing is Everything tool that can help marketers know the best time to post their video content.


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