On Wednesday, Twitter CEO Dick Costello made clear how valuable he believes the information on Twitter can be. He was speaking at the annual convention for the American Society of News Editors, where he encouraged the media to take a more active role in sifting through the 500 million Tweets that are posted each day.
Filter five hundred million Tweets, by yourself?
Costello may be aware that valuable information is available on Twitter, but he fails to understand that no journalist or editor has the time to dig through millions upon millions of Tweets.
Let’s expand that statement a little. No brand manager, financial analyst, campaign strategist and certainly no advocacy organizer has enough hours in their lifetime to search the entire Twitter-fire hose.
“We don’t do journalism. We don’t report Tweets that come in. We’re very complementary to news organizations,” Costello said. He placed the responsibility of filtering information and deciding who or what is credible directly on the newsroom staff.
So that’s it. To all the journalists, brands, financial Institutions and political organizations: here is one of the greatest sources of real-time information of our lifetimes. Go fetch! Though, you may have to wade through 399 million tweets filled with false information, spam and porn before you find the tweet you need.
Don’t forget, when you find that special Tweet, you may have to do some more research to figure out if you can trust it or not.
The only way to tell if a tweet is trustworthy at this point is if it comes from a verified account (Even that isn’t always a sure thing). This fact begs the question: why doesn’t Twitter make verifying all user accounts one of its highest priorities? Not all usable information on Twitter comes from high status individuals, the type that usually get their accounts verified. What about thought-leaders in less traditional fields? What happens if a fertilizer plant explodes in Texas and I need to find a fertilizer plant expert quickly for information or comment? If Twitter focused on validating whether people are who they say they are, the site would instantly become a goldmine of actionable information. Verification could be achieved through a mandatory connection to LinkedIn, or other professional websites, when users sign up for their accounts.
Unfortunately, as some of us know all too well, the Twitter verification system is a nebulous void filled with more questions than answers. It is impossible to request verification, even if you consider yourself a thought leader in a particular area of expertise. There is no consistency with which accounts receive verification. On top of all that, the verification system causes further confusion by verifying random accounts.
It all comes down to trust, and when it comes to Twitter, trust is almost non-existent. Yes, the information resources that Twitter provides via its millions of users and daily tweets is staggering. But what good is any of it if you can neither find the information you need quickly, nor trust it? Whether you are a publisher, brand, financial institution or political organization, the only valuable tweets are those you can trust and act on.
So as much as Dick Costello would like to see me pass my lifetime looking through Twitter streams trying to find the right Tweet at the right time, it might be a better idea to work towards verifying all accounts instead of only those with the highest visibility. If Costello expects editors or anyone else to heed his advice, then Twitter needs to make it easy for us to know exactly who those 500 million daily Tweets are coming from.