person typingOne of the things that made Twitter most attractive to marketers is the fact that it allows anyone and everyone to see your tweets for free. Unlike Facebook, which uses sponsored and promoted posts to expand a business’ outreach, Twitter allows everyone’s tweet to be seen regardless of its “value.” Most Facebook posts only get seen by a small percentage of fans or friends, unless you pay to promote them. 

For small businesses just starting out, Twitter holds a lot of responsibility in maintaining a solid social media marketing strategy. Small businesses use Twitter to engage and inform fans of new products or services witho
ut having to pay.

But this could change according to Twitter’s Feb. 13 blog post. Developer Arne Roomann-Kurrik said the company would soon be adding a filter field to tweets to determine values. On Wednesday, Feb. 20, Twitter’s filter attribute will appoint values to tweet, classifying them with “none,” “low,” “medium,” and, in the future, “high.” Roomann-Kurrik said the tweets valued at “medium” or “high” would equate to the top tweet results on Twitter.

This means that Twitter’s streaming API will be able to rank which tweets are most important and how high they will be placed in the feed for developers. Though Roomann-Kurrik doesn’t explain how each tweet will be judged and ranked, big businesses with a large following and a high frequency of engagement will probably take over these top spots. For a company that founded itself on the notion that anyone should be able to share short, intimate, important thoughts or anecdotes, this change could leave some Twitter users feeling worthless, especially small businesses. 

While some developers, and big corporations would deem this change useful because it weeds out “useless” tweets, small business owners could be at a terrible loss. Small businesses attempting to establish a reputable social media presence might be unable to achieve this due to a small number of followers. With this new filter, most developers won’t see tweets by small businesses even when they use a hashtag. Instead, tweets holding the most value will appear at the top of the feed under the hashtag search results (AKA the users who have hundreds of thousands of followers.) 

The new filter integration undermines the possibility to market to an endless pool of consumers, which was an action Twitter originally promoted. There’s no doubt that Twitter wants to make money, and understandably so, but this is going to hurt a lot of small businesses and possibly discourage individual users from using the site.

It’s also going to limit the amount of diversity in tweets. Instead of seeing different opinions from various users responding to a certain hashtag, you’re going to see big companies advertising their brands (as if they really needed to advertise more).

While this change is inevitable, small businesses need to make sure they know how to continuously engage followers. This might require hiring a social media agency, or it might mean vigorously tweeting using hashtags, mentions and links. Either way, small business expansion on Twitter is going to take a big hit.