Feature Friday: Twitter Mobile Notifications on Android

I was at a USV event last week in SF and I bumped into Sung Hu Kim, a product manager at Twitter who handles mobile stuff. We got to talking about things I'd love the Twitter Android product to do. I mentioned that my daugther tweets a fair bit but I often miss them because I follow 735 people, many of them prolific tweeters. I do have a family list but I only get around to checking it every few days and I often miss opportunities to @reply to Emily.

Sung pointed me to the mobile notifications settings and we turned on notifications for Emily on my Android. Game changer! Now I get a notification every time she tweets and I can immediately favorite it, retweet it, or reply to it. I turned on notifications for about ten others including of course my wife.

Here's how to you do it (I assume this works on Twitter for iPhone too but I don't know for sure).

1) Navigate to someone's profile. You can do that by clicking on their avatar in a tweet. Here is my friend Bijan's profile on my phone.

Bijan profile

2) Do you see that little image of a head under the block that says "tweets" on the middle left? You click that. And you get this dialog box.

Tweet notifications

Click on "turn on notifications". That's all you have to do.

3) Then you get notifications at the top of your home screen whenever someone you've added to mobile notifications tweets. Those notifications look like this (look at the very top of the home screen):

Freds homescreen

For those that are curious, that is Gilligan on my home screen. My friend Josh Harris painted that Gilligan and the original hangs in my office at USV. The Gotham Gal also has a Gilligan in her office. For those that know Josh and his obsessions, it has great meaning. It represents the crazy web 1.0 era in NYC in my mind. It is one of my favorite art pieces we own.

4) When you pull down the notifications tray on Android, you actually can see part of the tweet. And you can click on it to go to the tweet. Here's a notification of a tweet from Bijan (who I've added to my mobile notifications as well).

Bijan notification

I have had this feature active on my phone for the past week and it has significantly increased my usage of twitter as I am now seeing in real time the tweets from the folks I care most about. I love it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. takingpitches

    I follow about 120 people. I wondered how people can follow more that that. I have had to unfollow certain people who I would like to follow like @corybooker because it’s too much.I am wondering about your and other’s Twitter use patterns.Do you just dip into the twitter stream when you have time and not worry about catching every missed tweet? Or do you try to read every Tweet?

    1. fredwilson

      i just dip and catch whatever is coming at meand i have lists (for family, usv, portfolio companies) that i check regularlybut these mobile notifications allow me to curate another “list” which is the folks who are in the “don’t miss any of their tweets” camp

      1. takingpitches

        I don’t love getting too many mobile notifications, but I agree this is a step in the right direction. I am hoping that Twitter comes up with something creative to fill the gap between mobile notifications and lists so it’s easier to follow more people for those of us who like to skim their entire list of Tweets. Maybe something that surfaces some of a Tweeter’s more important tweets, e.g. some of Cory’s sage words and not every RT he does of his advice to call a help number in response to a constituent issue.

        1. Anne Libby

          I had to unfollow Cory, too. I couldn’t get past how many of his tweets read like a teenager’s texts. The 140 character limit can inspire elegance. And I know he’s got the chops to tweet in sentences.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        You’re a bit of a different user too, in that social media is apart of your work time – not merely social entertainment time.

      3. Dave W Baldwin

        In the broader outlook, not sure of this being gamechanger. Most are commenting along line of wanting important, but don’t bother me at same time. I do see the forest thru trees thing though.

    2. Anne Libby

      To your point about Cory Booker, I’d love to see a “mute” feature.It would be great to mute people’s tweets while they’re live tweeting something I don’t find compelling. And I have a few people — on both right and left — who sign on to tweet streams of candidate bashing tweets that just aren’t informative. (If they were tweeting links to publications I wouldn’t ordinarily read, rather than invective and opinion, I’d check them.)

      1. Sheamus

        Twitter doesn’t support mute directly, but a lot of (IMO, much better) Twitter apps such as Tweetlogix and Tweetbot, do. Doesn’t have any impact on what you see everywhere else, of course (i.e., on your desktop). Tweetbot is now available for Macs (although it’s a pricey $20).A universal mute feature is something a lot of people want but I don’t see Twitter delivering it as it means they’d be owning up to a noise problem on their system, which I think, obvious as it is, would put them in a weak position with advertisers.

        1. Anne Libby

          Thank you!

        2. takingpitches

          Interesting Sheamus. I’d like to give them a shot, but isn’t Twitter phasing these apps out.

          1. Sheamus

            They’re imposing restrictions on their ecosystem but I don’t think they’ll kill off third party apps completely. Certainly not all of them. What they are doing in some cases (i.e., Tweetbot for Mac) is limiting the number of users these apps can have, which are controlled by tokens, which is a really poor show IMO. Their platform, their rules, etc, but they could have done this in a better way. It’s all about the ad revenue – Twitter’s ads are too easily blocked (or don’t show up at all) on third party clients. There’s nothing to lose now by trying other clients. I’d strongly recommend Tweetlogix on the iPhone and Tweetbot on the iPad (if you have one or both of these devices).

          2. takingpitches

            i do and I will. Thx!

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Good idea — probably better to have it be a temporary / time-sensitive mute, say “mute for 30 minutes” or however long makes sense based on average user’s behaviour. It would be really interesting to see how user’s behaviours change, how much longer potentially they stay reading a feed, OR at minimum, non-measurable (mostly), how much less mental exhaustion they experience when they’re having to filter out a lot more. I’d imagine this would increase the quality of viewing for a person.

      3. takingpitches

        Brilliant suggestion Anne!

  2. Rohan

    Fun friday suggestion: favorite people you follow on Twitter.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I’ve really lost touch with Twitter in that intimate kind of way – likely because of not knowing about this specific notification possibility. I’ve used it more for following businesses I want to keep in touch with, and see general updates from to get an overview of what’s going on in their space.And, since you made the Fun Friday Suggestion – who are the favourite people you follow on Twitter? ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Rohan

        Looks like Fred likes it Matt. Coming soon next week.. hehe

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Cool. I better add a first batch of people to add to my notifications list – so i have a yay / nay list to post. ๐Ÿ˜›

    2. fredwilson


    3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      It is also a question of how many you follow – I have tried using lists to organize that that has not worked out too well. This notifications idea is a good one but I will have to experiment to determine the optimal number. Great idea by the way

      1. Dave Pinsen

        How many do you follow?

        1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

          234 – My plan is to get it down to 40-50 follows that I really want to catch their tweets and the rest I can unfollow and divide to lists. I do worry that some will get upset by the unfollow and might take it in a negative manner

    4. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Too many, really, but there’s so many interesting folk (especially since the demographic became much broader over recent years) and specialist opinion/news-feeds out there I find it hard to keep below ~2k that I am following at any one time – most are pretty low noise so that’s good and those that creep towards dozens of posts a day, every day, I tend to cull (as probably a ‘bot anyway also, so of limited interest) unless is an exceptional feed – but still my stream gets a bit too busy at times – turning on these ID specific Notifications will help a lot but I will be circumspect about how many I add initially, else that will defeat the object!

      1. ShanaC

        same, and I so want to cut back – how do I do that!!!!

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          I do a cull now and then – can usually drop a couple of hundred or so every few months, as some people/services become too ‘bot-like or people simply stop using the service, for whatever reason. No matter, as soon as I have culled (awful expression, I know) I start adding interesting new people/services and lo and behold as soon as you know it, you’re back to square one! It is what it is, Shana – if you have a curious mind, you’re screwed! Nice problem, really. I have probably been more stimulated/learnt more via Twitter than I ever did at school, lol. I sometimes wonder…

        2. Rohan

          Just cut cut cut.Look at the person you are following. If it ain’t a ‘hell yeah! I want to follow this person..’, cut.

          1. Carl Rahn Griffith

            Harsh but true!

      2. Matt Zagaja

        One thing I’m going to try is instead of having people on my main follow list I’m going to put them on individual twitter lists for certain areas. I have not really leveraged the twitter lists feature that well but since I’ve adopted Tweetbot as my client of choice it seems easier to flip between them for this purpose.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Good point – a few years ago I used lists a fair bit but like ‘favourites’ seemed to fade away from the function and just go back to basics. As in many things, less is more, and using Twitter in its purest form just seems right, but, as you say…

    5. takingpitches

      An underappreciated follow is:Brian Phillips @runofplayPhillips writes for Grantland which is sports in a larger pop culture context, and his tweets and columns drip with brilliance.

    6. Techman

      Am I on that list? I always try to post some geeky stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. John Best

    Complete tangent, but I love Instagram-as-Gilligan’s eye. Intentional?

    1. fredwilson

      Accidental. Like most of my great successes

      1. John Best

        I’m with Lefty: “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Lol, wise words!

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        I’m accident prone but seem to have screwed-up on the linkage with success ๐Ÿ˜‰

      3. testtest

        this is bullshit. there’s such thing as being good at what one does.some people are natural investors

  4. jason wright

    Isn’t it time for a crowd sourced platform for all Android settings and hacks?

    1. RichardF

      nice idea!

  5. William Mougayar

    That feature is available on the iPhone too. I’ve just enabled it for Fred & a handful of others.ย Very cool, and I didn’t know about it. But it was subtly buried in there. I never thought about clicking that button. Has Twitter written a blog about it? Maybe they should have a Features blog. ย Is there a feature to manage these notifications in one place? Issue I foresee is if you do it for a number of users, then you start to forget who was on ย that list & you’ll need to go back to each one to turn on/off.ย 

  6. JimHirshfield

    I’ve done something similar. I have a few people I follow where I get an SMS when they tweet. I repeat, a few…can’t handle too many this way. I also remove this for some people, and add others over time. I like it ’cause it’s Twitter’s original way.BTW, is there a MaryAnn or Ginger in your future?

    1. Trish Fontanilla

      I was just going to say, I remember the first time someone told me they were getting text messages for my tweets because they didn’t have a smartphone, so maybe 3-4 years ago? It actually made me lighten up my tweeting for awhile because I felt bad they were getting charged for some of my babbling. haha

      1. JimHirshfield

        Unlimited SMS plan. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. Trish Fontanilla

          Is that what I should have said? Get an unlimited plan honey. I’ve got a lot of important things to say. Haha

  7. RichardF

    Great example of the type of filter that Twitter needs (badly) on both the website and apps. Lists just don’t cut it for me.

  8. Sheamus

    I’ve written about this before (more than once) but I’d love to see Twitter mirror Friendfeed’s ‘best of day’ feature that would let you see the top posts from the people you follow on Twitter over the past 24 hours. This could be calculated (like Friendfeed) using an algorithm that measures popularity (retweets, replies etc), or even by a pre-select (i.e., you choose X amount of users to track who would always be in your ‘best of day’). Or a combination of both. The cream would float to the top, and you’d see maybe 10-15 tweets – enough to catch-up and get your fill.There should be a Twitter-wide option, as well, that provided best of day from everyone on Twitter. It would be mostly celebs, sure, but would be a useful snapshot.I think for people who have little time to devote to Twitter it would be a fantastic way to stay on the pulse, both globally and within your own chosen network. Would stop you missing the big stories/people and allow newcomers to manage the flow.

    1. William Mougayar

      Isn’t that what you get when you receive the daily email from Twitter? It’s the “best of” from those I follow.

      1. Sheamus

        Not really, no. As with most of Twitter’s takes on this stuff, it’s a watered-down version at best. ๐Ÿ™‚ And, as said, I’d love to be able to dip into this ‘best of’ section any time in the day. I think it would be a really useful feature for everybody, but particularly folks new to the network.

        1. William Mougayar

          Like LinkedIn Today?

          1. Sheamus

            Kind of, but again, more instant. LinkedIn Today always seems like yesterday’s news. I’d want this Twitter feature to update the time that I click on it. It’s not something to be pushed continuously, but when I click on this it should give me the best of Twitter – site-wide and for my network only – for the past 24 hours.

        2. Matt Zagaja

          What about news.me?

    2. ShanaC

      that would be so cool for meme generation

  9. andyswan

    I’m honored, Fred.No seriously… Being in someones “mobile notifications” or “text notifications” list is the ultimate “follow”.It should count more. It should be displayed. It’s truly a measure of influence much more than “followers” is.It’s the self-policing filter that Path is forcing. Sure, you can “follow” 25,000 people on twitter….but NO ONE wants more than 100-150 people on their mobile notifications list.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t want more than a dozen

  10. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Cool. Was always aware of it but for some reason assumed (dangerous, I know) it in fact initiated a SMS style alert, so I never tried it. Shows how long I have been on Twitter, I guess – associating it with SMS ;-)Just done it – re: iPhone you also have to go to Settings > Notifications to enable whatever style of alert you want from Twitter. All works fine – first two IDs added are your good self, Fred, and (of course) @swfc :-)As an aside, DMs seem a lot more prompt and reliable nowadays, also – using with much greater frequency and pretty much replaced ad hoc emails, IMs, et al.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      My brain didn’t even jump that far into trying to assume what it did.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Lol – best policy, usually! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. bijan

    thanks fred.(ps my daily tweet volume is likely to drop now that i know i’m hitting your phone!)

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Just start trolling him (not sure how) to get him to stop getting notifications for your tweets.. ๐Ÿ˜›

  12. kenberger

    Bria is absent from your home screen. I guess you only use it overseas? I just started running it all the time, w/ excellent results (other than battery drain).

    1. fredwilson

      all my telephony stuff is on the next screen

  13. William Mougayar

    It’s ironic that I had a hunch for adding a news source to this, and just got the bad news that a car bomb blast just happened in Beirut 1 block from my parents home, just now! All are fine. Windows in the whole apartment building are all shattered.Just talked to my brother who was there with his 2 kids, and they are leaving the area.

    1. Anne Libby

      Oh, no! May everyone be safe.

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      Sorry to hear that. Glad you know status.

    3. ShanaC

      take the day off william. this does not sound good/pleasant.

    4. John Best

      Not good, but glad your loved ones are safe.

    5. Richard

      Know the moukarim family?

      1. William Mougayar

        No, but I’ll email.

    6. Techman

      Ah man…that’s sad. Hope your family wasn’t harmed.

  14. Matt A. Myers

    “Turn on notifications”I’ve seen this before though had no idea what it did, so never clicked it. They might want to A/B test different wording or even test having an additional small “what’s this” link in the same row.Now that I know about it I will probably use Twitter more.

  15. markslater

    thats the USV hall of fame screen – your home screen!

    1. fredwilson

      then gilligan is in the hall of fame

  16. Tim Thomas

    Could you bug them to add this for lists? I built an android app specifically to notify me of my “Don’t Miss” list. But it would be so much nicer if it was in the actual app.aTwix is that app if anyone’s interested:https://play.google.com/sto

  17. @billg

    Fred, I know you aren’t a fan of wearing things on your wrist and apologies in advance for the shameless plug.However, the use case you described – viewing Tweets from your kids – was too strong for me to resist. Viewing tweets from my kids (on a smartwatch) is something I started exploring in 2009 as illustrated in the photo below. And I continue doing this today.We get many notifications every day. Not all are important, but some are – like Tweets from our kids. The problem is its hard to determine which is which. So, what many of us do is pull our phone out each time it beeps, vibrates, or barks; wasting both time and energy. A glance at a smart / connected watch is a simpler and effortless way to triage the problem.Bill

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Nice but I in recent years I have gone to rarely wearing a watch – if I was flying a lot/etc, I probably would again, but I am pretty much bound to my home office nowadays. Interestingly, have noticed this trend – ie, sans watch – amongst quite a few friends, even ones who do still travel a lot. With the ubiquity of the smartphone and myriad of alerts one can set easily via phone, and often glancing at it anyway, a wristwatch seems redundant and I suspect there’s a bit of an inverse snobbery going on, also – namely, many people are tired of the $$$s branding parades watches have become and it says more to not wear one at all.

      1. @billg

        You’re right. Some people have quit wearing watches; preferring to use their phones to tell time. Smart watches, however, aren’t just about telling time. They are extensions of your mobile device.You can either pull your phone out of your pocket 100 or more times each day, or you can glance at your watch and determine whether that notification requires immediate attention or not. So, it’s all about convenience; something we call ‘Hands Freedom”.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          I can see some going to go to a pager-style of aux-device – acting as a proxy to our primary smart mobile device in our pocket which is the device that is web-enabled and conveys key alerts to the pager/watch – on our belt or wrist, lol. Everything goes full-circle, I guess.

      2. ShanaC

        oddly enough, this makes me want a watch even more – maintaining personal style is important to me

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Personal style is whatever we want it to be, for sure. It isn’t brands, or shouldn’t be. I think it’s when a friend of mine bought his umpteenth ~$10k watch I got pretty sick of the whole crass fashion/wealth statement – logos, logos, blurgh – especially when those not as well-off as him were trying desperately to keep up with him. Next to a flash car a flash watch seems the most ‘popular’ way to display one’s wealth. Not cool in these times, very Yuppie/90s. Funky non-styles such as retro cheap Casios are cool, though, And I do miss my battered old Timberland, at times – but, my wife has pretty much adopted it, anyway; being a teacher she needs to always have the time at-a-glance!

        2. @billg

          Form and function must come together for these products to succeed. We wear fashion; we carry electronics. This makes aesthetic / industrial design one of the most important elements in product execution.

        3. Wavelengths

          I like the analog ones that run counterclockwise. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. andyidsinga

      I’m right with you Bill ..wearables (including watches) are going to change these kinds of notifications.Those MetaWatches are pretty wicked too ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. Techman

      Heh Heh — that watch looks pretty darn cool. Are you actually able to view tweets from that watch, or do you just get notifications?

  18. Richard

    Turning mobile Twitter updates OFF and ON:ON: turns ALL your authorized Twitter updates and notifications on.OFF: turns ALL phone notifications off. ย ย ย ON [username]: turns on notifications for a specific person on your phone. Example: ON alissaOFF [username]: turns off notifications for a specific person on your phone. Example: OFF blaineFOLLOW [username]: allows you to start following a specific user, as well as receive SMS notifications. Example: FOLLOW jerry, orย F jerry, for short.UNFOLLOW [username]: allows you to stop following a specific user.LEAVE [username]: this command allows you to stop receiving SMS notifications for a specific user without having to unfollow them. When you log into twitter.com from the web you will still see this user’s updates in your timeline. Example: LEAVE benfu, or Lย benfu, for short.STOP, QUIT, END, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE, or ARRET: will deactivate your account if you are an SMS-only user. If you completed the sign-up flow on the web, sending any of these commands to your Twitter short code will simply remove your phone number from your Twitter account.Fun stuff โ€“ friends, favorites, and stats:Use the commands below to send direct messages, mark Tweets as favorites, and more.@[username] + message – shows your Tweet as a reply directed at another person, and causes your Tweet to save in their mentions tab. Example: @meangrape I love that song too!D [username] + message – sends that person a Direct Message that goes to their device, and saves in their web archive.You can also use M [username] + message to send a private message!Examples: d krissy want to pick a Jamba Juice for me while you’re there? or m krissy wanna pick up a Jamba Juice for me while you’re there? performs the same action.d

    1. ShanaC

      thank you for the handy shortcut guide

      1. Richard

        Your wecolme. Be mindful of the time zone of those you follow if you keep your phone near your bedside ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. fredwilson

      very nice

  19. brian trautschold

    as always – this signal to noise concept that you’re alluding to in twitter is front of mind for me. notifications are great, but being able to actively filter or add intelligence to your feed would be ideal. developers working on that problem now having to move off twitter *if* they want to grow their audience

  20. andyidsinga

    its neat / funny that the instagram camera is right over gilligan’s eye :)me: ahhhh its Gilliborgiganyou: nah, he’s alright, he’s my little buddy.

  21. kirklove

    Semi-related: Went down the @jheil rabbit hole from your link the other day in your debates post. Man, I want to party with that dude.

    1. fredwilson

      we will. he loves Perla too

  22. LE

    “Do you see that little image of a head under the block that says “tweets” on the middle left? You click that. And you get this dialog box.”Things like this represent everything that is wrong with the (not any particular company but in general) UX and the way people selling and making products think. Computer things are particularly big offenders. People don’t read manuals. That’s why it took years until someone figured out to do “quick setup guides” for products. A car that I recently bought (I never read car manuals) came with a “quick quide” as well.The fact that people don’t know they can even do something like this, that you didn’t even know you could do this, and that probably most people don’t know this can be done is inexcusable. It shows a true lack of testing and understanding things from the end user experience.

  23. Pete Griffiths

    Imho notifications are a bit like ads in this regard – a new format starts by attracting eyeballs but is quickly filtered out due to sensory overload as everyone sees its success and piles on. (nicely discussed by andrewchen here: http://andrewchen.co/2012/0… ).To avoid people just ignoring the format smart filtering is essential. But of course, that then makes the format less successful for people who want to shout at you.Scoble is a living experiment in filtering signal from noise with gigantic feeds and pinpoints the ability to successfully so filter as a critical success factor for any network. I think he’s right – this is a big deal.Isn’t it interesting that this tip (thanks Fred) is unfamiliar to most in a forum that is unusually sophisticated. It is very hard for companies like Twitter to get this kind of thing across. Just as it was for Facebook to get privacy settings better understood. Things are changing so fast that most people are going ‘snowblind.’

  24. Dave Pinsen

    Do you have a notification alerting you when someone mentions one of your portfolio companies on Twitter? I saw DuckDuckGo mentioned in today’s FT, so I tweetd you about it:@fredwilson @duckduckgo mentioned by letter writer in today’s FT as way to “escape Google’s grasp”: ft.com/cms/s href=”https://twitter.com/dpinsen/status/259388983275036672″โ€” David Pinsen (@dpinsen) October 19, 2012Curious whether you’ll see that tweet first on Twitter or here on Disqus.Incidentally, the embed feature on Twitter has a little bit of an issue now, in that it doesn’t let you expand the text box with the HTML in it so you can copy and paste all the code.

    1. fredwilson

      no i do not

  25. William Mougayar

    Along the same vein of Twitter granular settings, you can also turn off Re-tweets from a particular user, but that can only be done from the desktop. That choice appears in the same menu, just above the Notifications line.

  26. luchenbach

    Bob Denver. coool

  27. Vlad Ciurca

    Twitter for iOS works the same, Fred ๐Ÿ˜‰

  28. Techman

    As much as I love twitter, I don’t use their mobile client because I don’t really trust them. They in my opinion ask for too many permissions and they don’t justify those requests anywhere on the app install page. Why does Twitter need to know my phone’s identify, huh? Why do they want to know what carrier I’m using, the phone number that I have, etc. Stuff like network requests are understandable.Hey @fredwilson:disqus if you meet this person (if ever) again, please ask him about what I just said. If he can justify those permissions, then I”ll use the Twitter application for Android and not the web interface, which I really have no problem using for the time being.

  29. Matt A. Myers

    Agreed that would be better wording. At minimum do an A/B test for that as I mentioned in a comment a few minutes ago.

  30. Matt A. Myers

    ‘Add to notification list’ might be even better, though is slightly longer.

  31. Carl Rahn Griffith


  32. Matt A. Myers

    I’ve seen it many times, though never was interested enough (nor prompted to be told about it) to check it out. It’s a really beneficial feature though, that should be highlighted / taught to users IMHO.

  33. Matt A. Myers

    Shorter the better, not necessarily. Different people see different things, and length can draw more attention and more thought on something. That’s why, at least with Twitter’s traffic, you’d want to A/B test that. You should never minimize for the sake of minimizing – there is method to the madness that makes things short / concise, though doesn’t mean short is better than shorter. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  34. Matt A. Myers

    Sure, I didn’t have to have to use the word never – just being lazy. If you don’t have the time or resources, then sure, you can just minimize things without testing… or if you don’t think the difference will be significant enough to matter..