Don’t look now folks, Twitter appears to have momentum with the youth as we head through 2016. Up to this point, Twitter has never really been about catering to younger demographics. Snapchat has been rolling through the teenage demographic like a steam train and it is no surprise because Snapchat for teens is all about creating secret, one-on-one conversations that couldn’t be traced by parents and which self destruct.
Twitter on the other hand is the open cocktail party of the internet. When you go on Twitter it is not so much about what you have missed but it is about what is happening right here right now. The only large scale success Twitter really found to this point has been around celebrities, businesses and media communities.
The main lure for younger demographics to Twitter has mainly been to follow celebrities online but not so much as a communication tool. You then end up with a lot of people who are consuming content on the platform but not so much creating content. During a recent episode of The #AskGaryVee show, Gary had two teenagers on to talk about musical.ly (another app gaining popularity among the younger generation) and when he asked what the most popular app in their school was I was shocked to hear them say Twitter.
It seems that teens are back on Twitter! I started having a look myself to see if this was the case and over the past number of weeks I asked teens what the most popular apps are in school right now. Guess what answer kept coming back? Twitter.
It seems that teens are gravitating towards Twitter because it is a platform that provides a base for natural communication with both friends, family and also complete strangers. Is Jack Dorsey’s efforts starting to pay off and is 2016 the year where Twitter will really find their feet and surge forward with the rest? It is hard to tell at the moment, last year was a big year of change for Twitter.
They introduced a wave of new features such as Twitter Moments, video, group messaging, GIFs, Polls and more. There is still a lot of work to do, personally I feel that their biggest weakness at the moment is the messaging system. It sucks! I would love to see them but some time and resources into messaging to replicate the efforts of Facebook and Slack. Messaging is huge at the moment and Twitter needs to look at getting in the game.
With teens starting to potentially return to the platform, what have they done so far in 2016 to continue the momentum of change from last year?
Jack returned to Twitter as CEO last October and I have full faith in Jack. I have always said and continue to say that I felt Twitter was misguided and lost under the command of Dick Costolo. I think Dick did the best he could but that he ultimately just was not the right man for the job.
Following Jack’s return there was a big round of layoffs and four executives resigned in the New Year. Shortly after, Twitter made several key big profile appointments to the board. Most notable was Natalie Kerris as VP of Communications. Natalie Kerris was the former PR executive for Apple.
Twitter needs to become more appealing to larger number of people. They need to reach a much larger audience and every change made since the start of 2015 has been with that in mind. In February of this year, Twitter introduced an algorithmic timeline similar to the concept of Facebook. The idea was that the algorithm would surface the best and most relevant tweets.
The feature is currently switched on by default for all users however you can opt out if you wish. Despite all the moaning and complaints, it has not had the catastrophic impact on the platform that some predicted and it has not driven users away from using Twitter.
Elsewhere, we know that Twitter is looking into the possibility of opening tweets to more than 140 characters. Recently, users were assured that the 140 limit was going to remain in place, however it is likely that Twitter are also working on a tool to enable longer public conversations and personally that would be a move I would welcome.
Users want to say more when the moment requires more to be said. Sometimes 140 characters is just not enough and as a result people have had to compose ‘tweetstorms’ and post screenshots of their notes app so they could get everything into one place.
Jack has more or less confirmed that Twitter is working on something back in January however it is unknown when we may actually see it in place.
— Jack (@jack) January 5, 2016
Video appears to be the key for 2016 and the foreseeable future. Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming app, has been a major focal point over recent months and it has seen stunning success. The true power of Periscope was seen when viewers from all over the world (myself included) tuned in to watch users trying to cross a puddle in Newcastle, England. It should have been mundane however it became an online sensation.
Periscope is now embedded live into Twitter timelines and they have also had great success with GIFs embedded into the app. On April, Twitter won their biggest video contract to date. They won the contract to broadcast Thursday night NFL games. I know that over this side of the pond people will not understand so much how that is a big deal. However, I am a huge NFL fan and I can tell you that deal was absolutely massive and a real shock that they managed to land it!
Twitter has been a long time NFL partner now serving up highlights which have been great for football fans on a Sunday. Let me tell you this, for any NFL fan on a Sunday, Twitter is an absolute beast! Interestingly, Twitter has also changed their App Store listing from being a social media app to being a news app.
What about the youth?
As I said at the start, Twitter seems to have momentum with the youth at the moment and that could end up being a big deal. On platforms such as Snapchat or Facebook, it is all very linear when it comes to conversation. However Twitter is still the open cocktail party of the internet. It allows you to jump in and out of the conversation freely with people you don’t even know.
People are free to jump in and out of any conversation they want. When I get asked what I think is Twitter’s unique selling point I don’t say that it is the live aspect or the 140 character limit. For me, the USP is the ability to come and go freely in and out of conversation with whoever you want.
There may be a ton of activity going on with other platforms at the moment, however Twitter is the biggest collective conversation.