If you spend a lot of time on Twitter, you’re probably familiar with Twitter threads. They show up in your timeline because either someone quotes or retweets someone else’s threaded tweet, or, if you’re lucky, you see all the tweets in the right order because (a) someone takes the time to thread them properly by sending one tweet, and then replying to the original tweet with the rest, and (b) you either follow the threader, or their account is public and you have it on a list, so you see the tweets as they come in. If you’re on Facebook or some other social network, and one of your friends wants you to see the thread, they’ll share one of the tweets from the thread in the hope that you’ll click on it and read it. But Twitter threads are not good for all sorts of reasons, and because I feel rather strongly about the subject, I decided to write a ranticle about it.
Why do people thread in the first place?
People thread on Twitter because Twitter’s 140-character limit is almost never enough when you really need to get something off your chest. Also, Twitter, (including third-party applications), has an incredibly simple posting interface without a lot of distraction involved. The fact that you can use a third-party app on your phone which may have an even simpler posting interface, through which you can fire off tweets at the drop of a hat, makes it even better. When you add up a 140-character limit, plus a really simple posting interface, it’s easy to see why Twitter threads have become as popular as they are.
Still, I would like to discourage you from Twitter threading. In the strongest possible terms.
Threading might be great if you’re the one posting the content. I use the word “might” because whether it’s great for you or not is debatable. But if you’re trying to read it, that’s an entirely different story. For one thing, it takes a lot of time and effort to scroll back through tweets, and that’s assuming you’ve stumbled on the original tweet that started the thread. If not, you’re stuck in the hell that is Twitter’s user experience trying to scroll back through tweets. If someone quotes a tweet in your thread, the thread is now broken, which makes the effort needed to put into reading an entire thread much more involved. It means that you might have to spend more time in Twitter’s horrible user experience hellscape trying to find out where the thread begins because someone quoted in the middle of a thread. Second, since Twitter threads are by their nature chunks of ideas, it’s realy difficult to cite a thread in such a way that keeps all the comments in context. Since tweets are now making up a large part of what gets reported by news outlets of all stripes, that means this has become more important, both for those reporting the news and for those reading it.
Next, there’s the problem of linking to this content. Since each tweet has it’s own link, and that link is based on a user ID, linking to all the pieces of content that make up a thread is somewhat like collecting individual rice grains once you’ve dropped the bag of rice. Not easy. And depending on how many tweets are in the thread, (I’ve seen threads of over 300 of them), a metric ton of work.
Then, there’s the part about how the content you create is yours and not some corporation’s. There are a lot of good ideas floating around Twitter, (and other social networks for that matter), but as long as that content is being posted on Twitter and nowhere else, you don’t own that content. If Twitter decides to change its link structure, that content may be lost.
This is important for people, but it’s also important for businesses. Posting your content on Twitter in the form of a thread, (or really, on any social network), instead of your website means you no longer own that content. It’s like going and setting up a stall at the local flee market and calling it your office. You’ve invested time in creating that content, you should own it. It should have a permanent link that won’t change unless you want it to, and which anyone can link to. Then, you can syndicate that content to Twitter, or Facebook, or anywhere else you like, and even if someone isn’t on any of those networks, (believe it or not, there are people who don’t use social media, and have no desire to start using it), can read and benefit from your content.
But what if I’ve already threaded on Twitter?
Fortunately, there are some tools you can use to collect all the parts of your thread and turn them in to blog post for later linking and enjoyment. Spooler is an excellent choice for converting Twitter threads into blog posts. You can start with the last tweet in a thread, and it will also grab any videos and images you’ve posted to Twitter that are part of the thread. If you find that you’re live-tweeting a talk or something similar, Noter Live is a great option which will, (once you’re done tweeting), allow you to copy all your tweets from the event into one post, along with including the speaker’s Twitter handle if they have one. If it’s the feedback you’re after, you can always enable webmention on your site. Popular web platforms like WordPress and Drupal have plugins to do this, and you can use a service like Bridgy to syndicate your content to the social networks, and then pull in reactions and responses to your own site so you have them all in one place, coupled with the content you created.
While I’m pretty certain this one post isn’t going to stop you from threading tweets, I hope that you’ll consider the people who are reading the content you’re creating, and instead of creating a thread that’s not even enjoyable to read on Twitter, you’ll at least consider turning it into a blog post afterwords.