Why Twitter's Stars/Hearts Thing Is Actually Kind of Important

From an outsider’s perspective, the care, effort and data science that can go into making a seemingly minor change in the user experience can look like madness. Who cares enough to change a star to a heart or swap out one shade of blue for another?

For companies like Twitter, whose every move is parsed by analysts from the financial world all the way to schmucks like me, such changes are a surprisingly serious business. Remember when Google changed its logo's font a few weeks back?

Twitter has to walk a fine line between investor expectations and pleasing its users, and the changes are amplified on mobile devices due to the intimate nature of the medium.

This move should please both investors and users, if they’re paying attention.

There are a number of reasons why the switch to a heart from a star as the "likes" icon (a label that's also changed from the name "favorites") on a tweet is a good idea.

1.     Hearts are popular on Twitter. In fact, according to research from the FiveThirtyEight blog, hearts are by far the most popular emoji used on Twitter. People are used to seeing and using them.

2.     People engage with hearts more. According to Twitter Product Senior Vice President Kevin Weil, who spoke at the Open Mobile Summit on Tuesday, “We see now 6% more hearts, 6% more likes on Twitter than we saw with favorites.” New users tend to engage 9% more with this change.

3.     Instagram uses hearts. It’s no secret that Twitter’s next big hurdle is to get more users. Instagram has a plethora of users, and its user base is younger, on average, than Twitter’s. This means that an entire generation of mobile users is being trained to “heart” things that their friends send them. Twitter probably at one point hoped that the star was different enough to draw users, but it’s clear that the wind is blowing towards hearts as the de facto method of liking on mobile devices.

On the surface, star to heart seems like a little thing, but it shows that Twitter’s not taking anything for granted and that it's paying attention to the bigger picture.

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