Twitter has been in the wars recently, with falling numbers of new users, a nose-diving stock price and desperate steps to stop the rot. But is it really the end for Twitter? I don’t think so and there are 350 million users who agree with me. I joined TRT World’s ‘Money Matters’ show to explain why.
The demise of Twitter has been prophesied for the past 18 months or more. It’s not been around for 10 years yet, but CEO Jack Dorsey’s plan for Twitter to reach everyone on the planet is looking unlikely to be fulfilled in the short term and constant comparisons with Facebook won’t help. Twitter has carved its own niche for almost ten years and has in that time proven a winning formula, but will shareholders demand change when all it needs is some time and TLC?
User growth is the real issue and something that founder and returning CEO Dorsey pledged to resolve. The latest financial quarter results show the first time growth has stalled in active monthly users, at 305 million. Comparisons with Facebook’s 1.59 billion users are almost impossible to ignore, but the product and the reach are very different. What Facebook has shown lusty shareholders is that there is more to be had, whilst competition from Instagram (400 million users) and Snapchat (an estimated 200 million mobile-only users) have taken up a charge in an increasingly overcrowded social media marketplace.
Already, Twitter has made changes. A new algorithm aimed at infrequent users letting them know the top stories they have missed ‘while you were away’ has extended beyond the 5 most popular tweets. The increased Direct Message 10,000 character cap has proven a welcome addition for many and one which hasn’t impacted on the basis premise of Twitter’s USP – short missives in reverse chronological order from the people you follow. Dorsey encapsulated this as: Twitter is live! Live commentary, live conversations, live connections – speed and immediacy. Certainly, Twitter’s acquisition of live-streaming product Periscope – which has recently beaten off competition from now defunct Meerkat – plays to this strength.
But change isn’t always welcome. Rumours of expanding the character cap across all tweets met with vociferous derision from the Twitter community, a new Moments timeline hasn’t proven to be successful with users or advertisers and there has been limited success in generating revenue from advertisers – the only obvious income stream for the free to use service.
Talk of a new timeline, customised to individual users forced Jeff Seibert, Twitter’s head of consumer product to address the rumours – initially reported on Buzzfeed – and to categorically deny them.
But there remains a place for Twitter. When David Bowie passed away recently, celebrities and fans turned first to twitter to record their reactions and tributes. Live access to the world and without the fear of being misquoted is a valuable tool. As is brevity. It wasn’t posts made on Facebook that filled the 24-hour news screens, but tweeted messages from some of the biggest and best known names in the world – pop, performance and politics.
I certainly hope Twitter will be around for many years to come, but the only way to ensure that happens is to play to its strengths and not try to be something it’s not.