#HeartGate: Twitter Replaces Stars With Hearts

Twitter users were outraged yesterday afternoon by the channel's recent update… and they were tweeting to vent their frustration.

It's the latest in a string of updates intended to encourage audience growth: Twitter has replaced the ‘favourite’ star button for a heart shape which means a 'like'.


Why has Twitter removed the star button?

Over on Twitter's blog, Product Manager Akarshan Kumar explained that the change is designed to “make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use”; claiming that “at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers.” The heart shape is supposed to tap into our global language, using a sign that everyone recognises as an expression of love and approval. 

"You can say a lot with a heart", Twitter say

This explanation feels somewhat contrived. Having used Twitter for years, I find it hard to cast my mind back to first joining – but I can’t imagine I found the concept of favourites confusing, particularly given that Twitter will give a demo to new users when they log on.


How do Twitter users feel about the new heart button?

It's too early to see if the update will successfully bring new users onto the channel, but we can be certain that a lot of existing users didn't exactly have glowing reviews. Both #likes and #hearts were trending throughout the afternoon:

The same comment came up again and again: that Twitter is losing its individuality and becoming more like Facebook and Instagram.

My first impression was that the animation seemed a bit ‘young’ and over the top – it reminded me of that primary school phase where everyone was dotting their i's with love hearts. But overall, I’m quite indifferent towards the heart. As with all social updates, people will fight change at first and then grow to get used to it (anyone remember what Facebook looked like before ‘timeline’? Exactly). 

I'm more excited to see what happens next, and how this change will impact on the channel's use from a marketer’s point of view – could it lead to an increase in engagement? Psychologically, the lexical connotations of a ‘like’ signify much less of a commitment than a ‘favourite’, so perhaps brands will see more people using the button from now on. As Twitter themselves said in the announcement, “You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”


How can marketers take advantage of Twitter's new heart button?

The update has already been a big feature in the news and online over the past 24 hours. It no doubt will lead to an increase in Twitter activity; both from existing users logging on to look at the update and new users that have been swayed onto the channel because of it. Therefore, this is a crucial time to be showing your brand at its best and capitalising on the traffic.

It didn't take long yesterday for marketers to jump on the #heartgate topic and relate it back to their brands:

This update serves as a timely reminder for marketers. Whilst likes are an important indicator of how your brand is being received on social, they’re far from the end goal. Successful social media marketing will go beyond ‘vanity metrics’ such as likes; but will encourage users to share the content, click through to your website, and ultimately become a customer and brand advocate.

What do you think – are you in favour of the heart? Or do you not like it?