Social media status update prompts

Before you write and share something on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, do you notice what the prompt in each of those platforms’ status update boxes are? Here they are, if you don’t recall, or didn’t care to observe.

Twitter’s prompt fits the platform’s live/now nature. LinkedIn’s prompt is rather generic, while Facebook’s is faux-personalized, adding your name and asking you what’s on your mind!

I don’t know about LinkedIn and Twitter, but Facebook has been toying with their prompts for a long time. Prior to 2009, the platform had, “What are you doing right now?”. They changed it to, “What’s on your mind?” in 2009. Eventually, they personalized it by adding the user’s name at the end.

You may argue that these prompts are a blindspot right now, after more than a decade+ of us users living with these platforms and using it the way we want to. But they continue to exist, as if they matter.

Facebook has been trying to make them more useful, from time to time.

In 2015, they added more specific prompts in the form of hashtags (along with ‘What have been up to?’), in the assumption that such topical prompts could direct people towards finding something to say about them.

Facebook tried that in the Messenger too, by picking cues from where people went to or what they listened to.

But, imagine: so much of social media chatter is about how they spawn hatred and anger. How could they use these prompts to direct users towards something away from anger or hate?

For instance, I wrote about Twitter’s use of prompts, not on the status-update box, but after you have written something!

If they can do that, could social media platforms use artificial intelligence to prompt users towards talking about something good, better, pleasant, happy or simply point to something topical?

But, would that be considered as a form of social engineering? For instance, if the platform adds, among others, one particular happening (based on the news in each country), and if many people write about it as a result, did the happening become ‘viral’ because of the prompt?

Still, beyond Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn could gain more from custom prompts. The platform already lists professionally relevant topics on the top-right corner (web version), and adding some (country-relevant) topical prompts could generate more posts, and hence conversations, around them.

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