It’s all happening at Twitter: Not only is the bird app testing an edit button for paid users, but it’s also rolled out Twitter Circles, a way of limiting post visibility that’s reminiscent of something Google Plus tried to do all those years ago. Unlike the edit option, Circles isn’t exclusive to Twitter Blue subscribers, and everyone should be able to access the feature now (or in the very near future).
The idea is that maybe you don’t want all of the friends, family, colleagues, strangers, bots and brand accounts that follow you on Twitter to see everything you post. Perhaps you want some tweets—your opinions on obscure folk music of the early 2000s, for example—to only reach a limited audience. That’s where Twitter Circles comes in, and the feature isn’t difficult to use.
Unlike the Google Plus implementation, Twitter is only giving users one circle, at least for now. No doubt the hope is that it will get people to tweet more: Something private that you might have previously hesitated to share can now be posted to the timelines of a private and select group of people.
How you get started will depend on whether you’re using Twitter on the desktop or through a mobile app. If you’re on desktop, click inside the What’s happening? box at the top of the screen, then click in the Everyone drop-down box at the top—if you pick Edit next to Twitter Circle, you can start the process of choosing who can see your next tweet. Leave the setting as Everyone, and your tweet goes public and is visible to the world at large, as normal.
Now it’s time to try and remember just who you have following you on Twitter: Switch to the Recommended tab on the dialog that pops up and you’ll see some suggestions for your Twitter Circle (presumably people who you’ve interacted with a lot in the past). You can also search for Twitter accounts through the Search people box at the top.
You’re able to add up to 150 people to your Twitter Circle, and those people don’t necessarily even have to be following you (or be followed by you). They won’t get a notification if they’re added to (or removed from) the Twitter Circle, but anyone inside the circle is going to know about it as soon as they see one of your private tweets.
You can edit the people in your Twitter Circle whenever you like, but bear in mind that anyone you add is going to be able to see all the tweets you’ve previously sent in this more private mode—it’s not something that you can edit and customize on a per-tweet basis. You’ve got your public tweets, and then you’ve got your Twitter Circle tweets, and anyone currently in the circle can see everything.
With Twitter Circle highlighted above your tweet, you can then compose it as normal and hit Tweet. Tweets sent i this way will come with a disclaimer, telling viewers (and you) that it’s protected in terms of who can view it. Anyone inside your Twitter Circle can respond to what you’ve said with a reply, but the retweet option is disabled.
Everything works in a similar way on mobile. Tap the new tweet button (bottom right) and you might see a dialog box inviting you to test out Twitter Circles: If so, tap Get Started, or tap on the Public drop-down menu above the compose tweet area. Tap Edit next to Twitter Circle, and you can again adjust the list, removing people via the Twitter Circle tab and adding people via the Recommended tab.
As on desktop, make sure that Twitter Circle is highlighted in the drop-down menu above your tweet when you’ve finished composing it, and you’re good to go. You can then continue to switch between Twitter Circle and Public (or Everyone on the web) for future tweets, but Twitter remembers your previous choice on each device.
If you’re on desktop and want to get to your Twitter Circle list without composing a tweet, click the More link in the left-hand navigation pane, then pick Twitter Circle. Inside the mobile app, tap your profile picture in the top right corner, and then choose Twitter Circle. It’s perhaps a good idea to regularly remind yourself of who is and isn’t inside your Twitter Circle in between tweets.
The new Twitter Circle feature works alongside the existing protected account option, which means none of your tweets are visible to anyone except an approved list of followers. You can still make use of a Twitter Circle on a protected account to limit who sees a certain subsection of your tweets.
From the other end of the Twitter Circle feature, if you find yourself included in a circle that you don’t want to be a part of, there’s not much you can do about it—you have to rely on the existing unfollow, block and mute tools to tidy up your timeline if it turns out that someone you’re following suddenly starts sharing large volumes of tweets on topics you’re not all that interested in.