Twitter Lists have generated a lot of excitement. There are some obvious reasons, but there’s also an undercurrent: a sense that Lists change things dramatically, not just for Twitter, but for social media, in general.
I believe that sense is correct. I believe that Twitter Lists have introduced the first effective use of Trusted Sources, and that Trusted Sources will change search, advertising, marketing, and social media, in general.
- What Are Trusted Sources? The people you and others have chosen to trust for information on a given topic.
- Why Twitter Lists?They are the first good, leveragable implementation of Trusted Sources.
- What’s a Trust Network? An outward-spreading wave of Trusted Sources, starting with your own selections, and moving outward through the Trusted Sources your selections have made, the sources they have selected, and so on.
- How will Trusted Sources impact search? Search will let you leverage your Trusted Sources as the starting point for the search, walking your Trust Network, validating the results returned based on other factors, and giving you search results in which you have greater faith.
Trusted Sources are the people identified as knowledgable on a given topic, or as important sources to you, in general. While Twitter Lists can be used in a variety of ways, they are primarily being used to identify and segregate people by topic. Hence, we see lists like “Twitter Tools and Devs,” “Marketing Experts,” and “SEO Resources.” Each List represents a list of trusted sources on a topic.
One could argue that people already have been creating lists or communities of Trusted Sources. After all, you decide who to accept as friends in Facebook or connections in LinkedIn. In Facebook, you can create different groupings for your friends and control who has access to what information. That allows you to kind-of segregate. You also have groups in Facebook and LinkedIn, which are topic-focused. Again, kind-of providing Trusted Sources. And of course, there’s always email, where you can add contacts and use folders and other methods to semi-categorize people.
But it’s all kind-of and semi. Twitter Lists are different because:
- You can create your Trusted Sources list from everyone on Twitter, easily, including experts that you may not be connected to otherwise.
- You’re in control–you decide who will be in your List on a topic. In Facebook or LinkedIn groups, pretty much anyone can join the group and you have no control.
- You can get as specific as you want on the List topic: “mobile marketers working at ad networks”. Again, groups in FB and LinkedIn are usually more general.
- You can easily leverage other people’s Lists. You may not know the best resources on a given topic. But you know people who do know, and whom you trust. And you can use the Lists they create.
- Twitter Lists are simple and easily accessible.It’s easy to see what a List is about by the name (though it’d be nice to be able to get a little more descriptive). It’s easy to see who’s in the List and view their profiles and streams to vet them. It’s easy to see everyone’s Lists, to find out what resources they offer.
The way that Lists are implemented on Twitter makes it possible to surf them, and it creates a network of Trusted Sources. I can create my list of Trusted Sources for SMM. Then, I can look at the Lists for each of my SMM Trusted Sources to find their Lists of SMM (or related) sources, and check those Tweeps’ Lists of Trusted Sources on SMM. My network of trusted sources, which began with the small list I was able to create from my own knowledge, just expanded exponentially all through avenues I’m comfortable with.
Of course, the further that I get from my original list, the less sure I can be of the quality of these sources. I’ve set a certain quality bar and defined the type of people I’m interested in. Others may have different criteria. If I’m a newbie, though, with a limited knowledge of SMM “experts” or resources, there’s a good chance that traversing this network will reveal more, excellent resources for SMM, and ones that I might want to add to my own, original List.
Soon, when you Search for a product, a review, advice, you’ll be able to begin with your Trusted Sources. When you want to know whether to buy the latest iPhone or what iPhone app to use to track your finances, you’ll click a checkbox next to the keyword box for Search. That checkbox will say “Leverage your Trust Network.”
When you check it, Search will begin with any Lists (or the equivalent) that you have. If you’re a technophile and have a technophile List, it’ll start there. Otherwise, it might check your Friends and Family List and, for each of the people in it, check their Lists to see if they have a technophile or iPhone List of Trusted Sources. It will move out through your extended network of Trusted Sources, pulling tweets and posts and links relevant to your search from all of those sources, and compile them as results.
Search will marry that info with data about the Trusted Sources themselves–how many other Lists they are in, how many blog posts, tweets, etc. they’ve made on the topic, and how those were rated. It’ll use authenticity tools to gauge their authenticity. It’ll check the “freshness” of the information, so that more recent information ranks higher.
Search will combine all of these factors to rank the results for you, to give you the ones deemed most trustworthy and relevant first. There will be an indicator next to each result indicating a Trusted Sources rating.
You’ll no longer have to worry that the results you’re seeing are simply a reflection of the money and time spent on SEO by a company. You won’t feel like the results you’re getting are possibly the consensus of the crowd, but not necessarily reflective of your priorities. Your results will be more relevant to you, more reliable, and more timely because they are based on your Trusted Sources.
That’s how I see Trusted Sources changing Search. There are other implications for marketing, customer support, and social media, in general. I’ll blog about those later. For now, I hope you’ll contemplate the future of Search with the same pleasant anticipation that I do.
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