SAN FRANCISCO -- Twitter has rolled out a new feature that will recommend accounts to follow, part of its effort to get users to be more engaged and spend more time on the service ahead of its initial public stock offering.
The new feature is based on an experiment called @MagicRecs, which monitors people in Twitter users' network to send out occasional direct messages recommending new accounts to follow.
The idea is to have a lightweight discovery tool that makes Twitter more personally relevant to users by finding activity that is drawing the attention of the people they follow.
For example, @MagicRecs told me last week that people in my Twitter network had begun following Apple executive Eddy Cue, who goes by the handle @cue.
"If you’re like me, you occasionally feel like you’re missing out on some of the day’s great Tweets, or that you’re the last to find out when someone awesome joins Twitter. We wanted to tackle that problem. With this new feature, you’ll receive personalized recommendations when multiple people in your network follow the same user or favorite or retweet the same Tweet,” Twitter’s Venu Satuluri said in a blog post.
Twitter for Android and Twitter for iPhone users will receive recommendations via a push notification, he said.
The move comes just as Twitter will have to address a tough question: how it plans to broaden the appeal of its service.
It may be the digital megaphone for the pope, President Obama and Justin Bieber and the populist tool to distribute news and organize mass movements such as the "Arab Spring," but Twitter does not have the same following as Facebook.
Twitter's 200 million active users around the world represent about one-sixth of Facebook's nearly 1.2 billion users. Only about 15% of Americans say they have used Twitter, according to a poll in August from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, up from 9% in June 2010.
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