Hearts vs. Stars: What Twitter’s Icon Change Means for Brands

November 24, 2015 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer

Twitter_Hearts_v2.pngAs you’ve likely noticed, Twitter recently changed its star icon for marking a tweet as a “favorite” to a heart icon for indicating that you “like” a tweet. Who could have imagined just 10 years ago that we would live in a world where this matters? Here’s an explanation of why it does for brands.

Favorite vs. Like

Setting the icon aside for a minute, it is important to note that Twitter also went from “favorite” to “like.” This was done to clear up user confusion about what the button was for. After all, you can like a lot of things, but you can only have one favorite. Some users believed, therefore, that use of the icon indicated some sort of exclusive status and were reluctant to use the feature, or they used it as a way to bookmark particular tweets. “Like,” on the other hand is more casual and Twitter hopes that more people will click away.

Stars vs. Hearts

Twitter explains the shift from stars to hearts this way, “The heart is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.”

Fair enough, but we’re not sure how emotional people are willing to get over a tweet. Stars have long been used as a rating system, as with restaurants and movies, or as an indication of good work, like on a spelling test. One can make an intellectual judgment and award something a star without any emotional investment at all. Hearts, on the other hand, are the universal symbol, not of like, but of love. There’s something different, perhaps more revealing of the self, about giving a heart.

Who Cares?

Will the shift from stars to hearts impact the behavior of Twitter users or will they just shrug and accept that a “like” is a “like”, regardless of the symbol? We don’t know, but there is a chance that this will change user’s behavior in one way or another. If you are doing active social media monitoring (and you should be) you may notice a change in your analytics related to favorites/likes. If you do, don’t assume that the change is related to anything you’ve done as a brand. It may be a short or long-term reaction to Twitter’s new icon. It may even be worth asking your audience and influencers who interact with your brand what they think of the change and whether it makes the more or less likely to click.

Modern PR professionals are able to track the results of our activities and the health of our brands in ways that couldn’t have been imagined just a short time ago. That level of granularity means that we have to pay attention when changes, no matter how trivial, might impact the behavior of the public. So in that light, the heart is something to keep an eye on.

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