Earlier this year Twitter turned 10 years old. The idea for a web-based SMS-style short messaging service had first arisen during a brainstorming session at San Francisco based podcasting company Odeo.
Twitter grew in the following years to become a globally recognised brand with 320 million users posting 500 million tweets per day. It became the place where mainstream news broke first, a place where business could sell to each other, a place where people started businesses based around Twitter as a service and a place to gossip faster than ever before.
Sneers about “twits” and “twittering” have disappeared over the years pretty quickly and Twitter seemed to be onto a winning idea. However over the past number of years that has changed. User growth has halted and the number of active users dropped slightly in the last quarter.
Wall Street has no patience and unfortunately for Twitter, they are at the mercy of the investors. Jack Dorsey returned last year following the departure of Dick Costolo to try and steady the ship, however despite a raft of changes from new features to new personnel on the Twitter team, they are still struggling to grow.
So where does the platform go next? People are calling for Twitter to innovate the platform and to be honest I feel that is what needs to be done. I think that Twitter is going to be backed into a corner where they will have to annoy some of the die hard users so that they can reach a wider audience.
I love Twitter, I’m frustrated that they have failed to innovate and keep up but I love the platform none the less. Despite this, if you told me right now that I had to drop one social media platform and leave it completely – I would choose Twitter.
Not Facebook, not Instagram, not even Snapchat. I would drop Twitter first. Why? Because despite how much I love the service, the problems they are facing out weights the benefits of the platform in general. Their biggest issue now is not even growth of the user base, it is the noise problem. Twitter is such a low driver for website traffic compared to other sources.
Personal Sharing And Data
Last month, Facebook reported that personal sharing has declined. Reports have suggested that personal sharing on Facebook has declined around 21% and that is a massive problem for the social media giant.
Facebook has built one of the best, biggest and most targeted ad platform in the world on the back of personal data. However, while personal sharing may be down on Facebook, it is interesting to note that sharing overall has not really fallen at all. So what does that mean?
Basically it means that you are sharing less personal stuff on Facebook and you are choosing to share more links to content on external websites such as news content and blog posts.
That’s a problem for Twitter. Twitter is where people have gone to share news and content in the form of links and for now it still is. However, if the data continues like it is at the moment then it suggests that people are switching from Twitter over to Facebook when it comes to general discussion around topics and sharing links.
If Facebook takes that market of sharing media content at scale from Twitter, then Twitter is going to be in a whole heap of trouble. That still leaves the question of where personal sharing is now gone?
Facebook believes that people are turning to Snapchat. The core takeaway though is that more media content is now being shared on Facebook and we know that Facebook is making a bigger push to be involved in real time events – so where does that leave Twitter?
The other problem Twitter faces is data, or lack of data. Twitter data holds value in the sense that you can use social listening to get a real feel of what people think around topics and events. However, if there are less people active on Twitter because they decide to go share more media content on Facebook instead then the data loses value fast because it is only representative of the number of people using the platform.
Twitter’s data is a problem because of the user numbers. More users on the platform will lead to more accurate and representative data.
What Next For Twitter?
So what does Twitter do next?
Jack Dorsey returned last year which is a move that makes sense however not a massive amount has changed. He brought in a raft of new features but nothing has really paid off.
The marquee feature was ‘Moments’ but the feature has failed to take off at a large scale and is still only available in a few countries all over the world. For a global brand, that is a problem.
Right now, Moments is a failure. It was launched in the US seven months ago and it has failed to attract users to the platform. It has failed to launch at scale and those who have the Moments feature who I have talked to say that it feels little more than a gimmick.
Then we had the introduction of an algorithm to the timeline which people went a bit nuts about and proclaimed that Twitter was becoming Facebook. In fact the response has been positive with a rise in tweets, retweets, replies and likes. Less than 2% of users have opted out of the algorithmic timeline which is a good sign but not really significant.
Is Twitter Stuck?
Part of the problem seems to now be that Twitter doesn’t know where to go next. Look at Snapchat as an example, they have been able to innovate and add new features in response to user demand.
Twitter wants to stick to their thing which is a place for real time live content which is what I love the platform for however it creates a noise problem. Twitter has tried to improve engagement with group messages, however it is far from a decent service when you compare what Facebook is doing in comparison on Facebook Messenger. The options are starting to feel limited.
A big scoop for Twitter recently has been the NFL rights to Thursday Night Football which will be big in terms of giving them a chance to connect with a wider audience but we are still waiting to see how that is going to be implemented.
Can Twitter Survive?
Twitter is still relevant but the warning signs are certainly there and every quarter we hope to see an improved change which just is not coming at the moment. 320 million active users is by no means a bad number of people however when you compare it to the other networks, that is when you see how far behind they are.
My belief has not changed over the past number of months. I still think that Jack Dorsey can find a way to make Twitter relevant again, however I don’t know if he will find a way before it is too late.
Despite all of this there may be a flickering sign of hope. I pointed this out recently on the Gary Vee show and I will point it out here again. Twitter appears to have some momentum with the youth at the moment.
If they can take that momentum, leverage it and run with it then they could potentially find a way to turn the services fortune around. Time will tell.