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Could Removing the Like Button Kill Engagement on Twitter?

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At a recent Twitter event, Twitter’s founder and CEO Jack Dorsey admitted he wasn’t a fan of the ‘Like’ button and that he had plans to remove it from the platform “soon”.

At present, the Like button is used as a means of casually engaging with Tweets when the subject matter doesn’t require a written response, but users would still like to show support, agreement, praise, empathy, sympathy etc. So why is Twitter considering killing one of its core features and how will this change the way users interact on the platform?

Why Kill the Like Button in the First Place?

According to @TwitterComms, the removal of the Like button is being considered as part of a move to incentivise “healthy conversation” and improve debate on the platform. This is believed to be an effort to mitigate some of the scrutiny Twitter has recently found itself under for failing to enforce abuse and harassment policies. The removal of the Like button is the first step in a Twitter-wide effort to reevaluate the overall healthiness of the platform and facilitate more meaningful interactions between users.

Our Predictions

There’s no sure way of knowing what will happen if and when Twitter removes the Like button but the social media experts here at Platform81 have been able to make some educated guesses. First of all it’s likely that there will be a drop in casual engagement which is likely to impact almost all users.

We predict the loss of the Like button will push users and brands to re-think the kind of content they are creating. Retweets are typically reserved for content that users find relatable or representative of their views, and brands will need to tailor content strategies to reflect this if they want to encourage engagement. One of the ways we might see this is through a shift in the tone of voice from brands to reflect their audiences’ identities rather than their own.

We think Twitter’s attempts to actively encourage conversation by removing the Like button may fall short. The beauty of the Like button is that it is a quick and non-committal way to respond to a Tweet. Whilst conversation very much has a place on social media, hyper-fixating on the conversation element of the platform puts a lot of pressure on users. It may even discourage users from Tweeting in the first place if they’re not feeling particularly conversational that day.

What We’d Suggest Instead

In order to boost the quality and quantity of conversation on the platform, Twitter may want to take inspiration from Facebook by integrating something similar to the Did You Know feature in order to generate conversation starters. Instead of asking the user a question, this feature could prompt users to get to know each other through daily questions directed at their followers.

Alternatively, Twitter could create ‘featured’ hashtags with the purpose of driving conversation on current topics. These could be identifiable using an easily recognisable colour or icon and would appear at the top of the “Trends for You” sidebar. The idea being if you Tweet using a featured hashtag you’re encouraging others, even those outside of your followers, to comment and engage in conversation with you on the subject.

Whatever happens, this change is going to impact the way businesses and brands create content and interact with their audiences. If you’re looking for responsive social media management that’s up to date with current social media trends and developments then get in touch with our Digital Marketing Team here.

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