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Twitter Acquires Chat App Sphere to Boost its Communities Push

Twitter’s new Communities offering doesn’t appear to have caught on in a major way yet, but it continues to revise the format and add more options which could, eventually, make Twitter groups a thing, and build another surface for more topic-focused engagement in the app.

And this could help – today, Twitter has announced that it’s acquired chat app Sphere to help expand its Communities project.


As you can see in these screens, Sphere is built around community chats, and optimizing relevant engagement within each group to help build bonds, and maximize engagement.

Its key features on this front are its ‘Zen Flow’ system, which works to highlight the most relevant group chat elements for each member, and ‘Appreciations’, community stickers and tools that enable people to recognize top contributors.

Sphere stickers

As explained by Sphere:

Our feed automatically clears out old or irrelevant chats to prevent groups from feeling chaotic. Our chats call out essential messages (like polls, events, and announcements) and make it more likely for people to respond. Our custom appreciations encourage people to express genuine gratitude.

Which doesn’t sound a lot different to other groups offerings, but where Twitter could glean particular value is in its discussion-highlighting algorithms, which work to showcase the most relevant elements to each user, while its incentive tools may also help to improve Twitter’s Communities offering, and make it a more compelling space.

Though it’s got a task ahead of it. While the idea of Twitter communities makes sense, in providing a way to engage around specific topics in the app, as opposed to broadcasting your every tweet, its practical value is limited, given that most users have already curated their own tweet communities via who they follow in the app. In addition to this, the prospect of actually reducing your tweet reach and engagement by posting exclusively to a Community likely doesn’t hold a lot of appeal to users.

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Looking through various tweet communities thus far, this is a common issue – tweets within communities, which are not viewable by all of your followers, only members of that group, see far less engagement in general, and the subsequent conversation is not exactly flowing in each.

That’s anecdotal, of course, and Twitter would have the real insight into what’s happening in its communities overall. But it does seem like Communities somewhat goes against the ‘public square’ nature of the platform, and may be an awkward fit.

But maybe, Sphere’s more advanced algorithms and tools can fix this, and maybe, if Twitter introduces some of Sphere’s engagement prompts and recognitions, that could help to make Twitter Communities more vibrant and active, and that could provide the push that it needs to become a more significant option.

It’s the latest in Twitter’s broader effort to expand its offerings, and become a more comprehensive connection tool, in various ways, as it looks to boost usage, and maximize its business potential. Twitter has also acquired newsletter platform Revue back in January and web reader platform Scroll in May, both of which are now been rolled into new on-platform offerings, largely aligned to its paid subscription tools.

Sphere seems less likely to become a paid tool, but again, as Twitter looks to broaden its focus on topic-based engagement, and building communities in the app, it could provide some key engagement tools that could differentiate its groups offering, and make it a more compelling in-app experience.

We’ll keep you updated on any progress.

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