In October 2015 Twitter announced its plans for redesigning its social media buttons. Among the most important changes is a switch from gray button with blue logo and black text to a blue button where both the logo and the text are white. This kind of change couldn’t go unnoticed, but the color scheme change wasn’t the most striking transformation, compared to the fact that Twitter has decided to get rid of its tweet count that could be found next to the tweet button.
Since social sharing buttons are seen on virtually any website or blog, Twitter’s announced caused a lot of debates in the community. The tweet count served as a social proof – a new trend aimed at making content as social as possible. There is still no united opinion on why the count was removed. What can be stated confidently is that Twitter never considered the tweet count to be an official data source. Additionally, the data source development architecture that Twitter used for many years was no longer providing the amounts of service needed for correct operation of the tweet count, and switching to the new development architecture required a complete redesign of this feature, which would be too time consuming and too costly. Twitter’s third reason for removing the tweet count is that this data did not accurately reflect the way the content resonated with the public – for example, shortcut links to the same post would not count towards the overall number; plus, the system didn’t take the profiles of the people retweeting the content into account.
From a marketer’s point of view, however, the reasons for Twitter getting rid of the tweet count are slightly different than the ones offered by Twitter itself. Some specialists think Twitter was tired of spending finances and time on powering the tweet count mechanism, which is why they could let go of this service so easily. Another possible reason for Twitter’s move is the determination to increase the value of the count feature rather than to decrease it. By making the tweet count available only to selected sources instead of the general public, Twitter achieved an almost iconic status for this feature. Now lucrative blogs are forced to use Gnip, which charges somewhere between $300 and $4,000 a month for the same data that used to be available to Twitter users for free. Nevertheless, there is a more controversial opinion: according to it, Twitter’s initiative is aimed at taking the value out of simple social metrics. Since Twitter doesn’t consider the tweet count to represent the impact a piece of content left on the readers, it makes sense that the company wouldn’t put too much effort into maintaining and developing this functioning. The last viable theory is simple: Twitter just doesn’t understand the importance of tweet count and the way people reacted to this feature. By taking something that was important to users away from them, Twitter risks displaying their ignorance and bad decision-making.
What does this move mean for the community? Well, most importantly, users who heavily relied on the tweet count to measure the success of their content, will have to find another tool for doing so. Companies who used tweet count to display their social proof will also have to resort to other technologies. It’s worth mentioning that while using third-party apps that access Twitter data, it’s very important to keep those apps in check, because not every one of them is as trustworthy and technologically advanced as we would want them to be.