How would you implement a feature that uses location in Twitter?

A Product Design Question for Product Management Interviews

The Question

You are a product manager for Twitter and you are asked to design a feature that uses the location of tweets. What would you propose?

Answer Structure

This is a typical product design question. One useful structure to apply to your thinking when tackling this type of question is the CIRCLES Method™ from Lewis Lin’s book Decode and Conquer, which boils down to:

  • Ask clarifying questions to narrow the scope and to understand what the goal is
  • Who is the target user(s)
  • What are the use cases
  • Prioritize use cases
  • Brainstorm solutions
  • Evaluate the tradeoffs of solutions
  • Summarize: which solution you would recommend; recap what the solution does, why is it beneficial and why you prefer this solution

This is just a guideline, use it judiciously.

Answer Example

INTERVIEWEE: What is the goal of the feature?

INTERVIEWER: The goal is to increase the frequency of use and engagement of Twitter users. We think this will increase the attractiveness of the platform to marketers/advertisers.

INTERVIEWEE: There is a Connect feature in the Twitter app that lists local events under the label Popular Near You. It lists, for example local San Francisco news/events and and public city services like BART, the San Francisco Police or publications like 7×7. So, is this feature not working the way you expected?

INTERVIEWER: Well, we think we can do better, and would like to get more ideas from you.

INTERVIEWEE: Ok. Would you like me to provide ideas for desktop and mobile?

INTERVIEWER: Let’s narrow it down to the mobile app.

INTERVIEWEE: Ok. Could I take a few minutes to think about possible solutions?

The interviewee starts by thinking who the possible Users are, which will help him think about use cases and answer the rest of the questions.

Twitter Users:

  • News readers (national/international news)
  • Celebrity followers
  • Technology followers
  • Influencers/Thought leader followers
  • Entertainment (Movies, Hollywood gossip) news followers

INTERVIEWEE: I would like to start off by talking about the different types of Twitter users and why they use Twitter. This will help me identify who the most valuable users are and prioritize their needs. Then, I will brainstorm how location can be used to enhance the user’s experience, provide some solutions, and wrap up with recommendations.

INTERVIEWER: Sounds good.

User types

INTERVIEWEE: In general, Twitter users use the platform to read news that is of particular interest to them. For example:

  • News junkies
  • Celebrity followers
  • Technology news followers
  • Followers of influencers or thought leaders
  • Followers of entertainment news like latest Movies, Hollywood gossip
  • Friends followers

I think the heaviest users from these groups are:

  1. Followers of entertainment news — I think most people go to Twitter to be entertained, such as reading about the latest hollywood news or celebrity gossip.
  2. News junkies — people are getting their news from social networks like Twitter more and more rather than newspapers.
  3. Celebrity followers — many millennials follow celebrities.
  4. Technology news junkies — mostly happening in states with large concentration of technology companies.
  5. Influencer followers — people following thought leaders in business and technology mostly.
  6. Friends followers

I would prioritize the needs of the top three users, since they are the heaviest users.

Use Cases

Now, I would like to analyze how these users use Twitter, then think how location can be used to enhance their experience.

  • Entertainment followers — these users are probably doing searches about movies or tv shows, actors or seasonal events like the Oscars.
  • News junkies — these users already follow specific news sources like the New York Times, BBC for international news or the San Francisco Chronicle for local news for example; and they are also doing searches for tweets about recent international/national events people are talking about.
  • Celebrity followers — these users are reading what their favorite celebrities are tweeting about.

Brainstorm Solutions

Now, I am going to brainstorm some possible new features that use location to increase engagement and frequency of use of these users.

Three ideas are:

  1. Extend the Popular Near You feature to include filters that allow users to filter news/events by a topic of interest.
  2. Create a new Local tab that lets users find tweets about local news or events that can be filtered by a topic of interest.
  3. Add a Marketplace tab similar to what Facebook has that enables users to find things or services for sale near them.

Of the three ideas, I would pick the one that is more in line with the goals of the users, engages them more and is easier to implement. Extending the Popular Near You feature and creating a new Local tab feature are more aligned with the goals of the top Twitter users, which is to be entertained and read about news and interesting events. The Marketplace tab would only interest people that are in the market to buy or sell something local, which I think is less aligned with the goals of these users. Between the Popular Near You feature and the new Local tab feature I am proposing, I think the new Local tab would be the best option. A Local tab would be used more frequently because it would be visible on the app tab bar as opposed to buried under the Connect feature as the Popular Near You label. And, it would be easy to implement because it is similar to a regular feed except filtered by location and topics.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, sounds good. So how would you implement it?

INTERVIEWEE: Okay, before talking about implementation, I would like to start by describing how I think location information can be used to enhance the top users’ experience.

  • For Entertainment followers, location can be used to enable them to find local events happening that day with the option of filtering by different types of events, such as movies, concerts, bar events, and coffee house events. It could also enable them to buy event tickets.
  • For News followers, location can be used to enable them to filter local news, or automatically show tweets about local news related to tweets the user has retweeted or liked.
  • For Celebrity followers, location could be used to enable them to find which celebrities are performing in town that day and enable them to buy event tickets.

Let’s talk about implementation now. The Local tab would present a new screen after the user taps it, and like with the Moments tab, the categories of Entertainment, News, and Celebrity can be presented on a horizontal bar at the top of the screen. The user can select any of these three topics to display related tweets that are happening within the city the user lives. In the case of Entertainment, when the user selects this topic, the sub-filters such as movies, theater, coffee bars, and concerts, would replace the contents of the horizontal bar. A back button would need to be displayed, perhaps as the first button on the list of sub-filters to enable the user to return to the main topics.

Since there would be space for additional main topics on the top horizontal bar, the Technology News, Influencers and Friends topics could be included as additional main topics.

However, one drawback I see with some categories like Celebrities, is that there may not be too many tweets to show at the local level, since Celebrities tend to hang out only in very cosmopolitan/international cities. A way to deal with this problem is to display this topic only in cosmopolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and others.

In terms of monetization, I think that the Entertainment events topic would attract many of the local businesses to promote or advertise within this Local feature. People tapping on the Local tab would already be interested in events in their local sphere and more likely to buy tickets for local events. Twitter could charge these businesses a percentage of the ticket prices bought through its Local feature to generate revenue.

In summary, I brainstormed three possible solutions that use tweet locations to enhance the experience of top heavy users of Twitter: an extension to the current Popular Near You feature, a Local tab, and a Marketplace tab. I recommend the implementation of the Local tab because its function would be more aligned with the main goals of the most frequent users and would perform better than the current Popular Near You feature, which is not visible. An additional upside of the Local tab feature, besides increasing frequency of use and engagement, is that it can be monetized through a profit margin sharing arrangement with event organizers when users buy tickets.