Should Twitter change the term "followers" to "listeners?"

Posted 15 May 2012 by 

Jason Hibbets (Red Hat)
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On Twitter, do you follow or listen?
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opensource.com

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Yes
18% (32 votes)
No
21% (37 votes)
It doesn't matter
60% (104 votes)
Total votes: 173

Something caught my attention in this story by Phil Shapiro. It was something he said in the video presentation he made--as he was describing what Twitter is and what people use it for, he made the argument that the term followers should be changed to listeners. This is where my brain started racing.

Whether you use Twitter or not, I'm curious to see what you think about this idea. Does simply changing a term change how people use a service? Does it change their perception? What do you think?

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9 Comments

suehle
Open Sourcerer
Social media companies already know that things like this matter. It's why Twitter's prompt has changed from "What are you doing?" to "What's happening?" to simply "Compose new Tweet..." It's why Facebook dropped "What's on your mind?" for six months and then brought it back. It's why Facebook changed your interaction with a Page from "Become a fan" to "Like," and then instead of having "Connections," those Pages got "Fans." They don't do these things because they've run out of hackysacks in the office.
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isharacomix
Open Minded
To respond to the poll, I'd have to say no... consider the differences in connotations between the phrases: "Follow me on Twitter" and "Listen to me on Twitter". "Follow me" has a positive feel to it - it sounds like I'm going somewhere cool, and I'm inviting you to come along for the ride. "Listen to me", on the other hand, sounds kind of childish and self-absorbed. While it might be possible to put more of a positive spin on it, it would probably take more words than the simpler "Follow me" would, and we know Twitter is all about brevity. The terms that are chosen by a social networking site are adopted because they evoke a certain feeling. Positive, inviting feelings encourage the communication that these social networking companies are trying to achieve. The terms are then used by the individuals and companies trying to get attention from users, and they want the terminology they use when plugging their social media presence to be just as positive and inviting.
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jhibbets
Open Sourcerer
It's all about emotion. I love it. Great analysis. Jason
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Unidentified
Maybe the danger is that much of what we tweet is childish and self absorbed. Calling it listen to me is honest, but a bit blunt.
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pshapiro
Open Source Champion
Barry Peddycord's analysis is convincing. I'm swayed by his thinking. I do hope that Twitter spends more time and effort explaining their service to the public, though. I spend too many hours each week at my public library job explaining Twitter to newbies. People who don't "get it" are not able to contribute their fertile ideas to the common good. In a knowledge economy, we not only need all hands on board. We need all ideas on board, too. We can never know where the best ideas are going to come from. I fear some of the best ideas might not be seeing the light of day. Phil
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Bob Jones
Twitter.com is blocked in China where I live. Some may say this is because china is stifling personal and open communication, but I would have to agree with the communists on this one. Blocking websites like twitter.com and facebook.com isn't such a bad idea. they, of course have their gov't monitored clones of these websites, which I also ignore.
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gdk
Open Minded
:rolleyes:
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lamapper
At first I was like, "It doesn't matter", than I read @Barry.. comment and thought, don't change it, Follower is better. I feel this way even after watching the video...which I did last. I don't just listen, I relay information to others, from someone I am following that others may not be following. About breaking news and especially about news that the mainstream media, corporations and world governments do NOT want you to learn, understand and/or realize. This is in addition to the obvious social and learning that naturally follows when you follow others. One analogy he used, the Public Broadcasting one, does not address how THEY (whoever they are) marginalize an individual's ability to get the word out about a topic. And when you are doing that, you are not only listening. How do they marginalize you, glad you asked, by allowing you only to broadcast in the wee hours of the AM when few if any will hear or get the chance to listen. Neither listening or following address the THEY that censor and marginalize the message for their own selfish reasons. I say Follow works fine. So no, don't change it.
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jhibbets
Open Sourcerer
Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing! I love the Twitters. But I've found lately that I follow more topics of interest than people. I think the tweeps (Twitter peeps) I follow are great, but it's the topics that really keep me coming back. Jason
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Jason Hibbets is a project manager in Corporate Marketing at Red Hat where he is the lead administrator, content curator, and community manager for Opensource.com. He has been with Red Hat since 2003 and is the author of, The foundation for an open source city. Prior roles include senior marketing specialist, Red Hat Knowledgebase maintainer, and support engineer. Follow him on Twitter: @jhibbets

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