a slew of new features from Twitter this week

Open letter to Twitter – you WILL die unless…

Don’t get me wrong. I love Twitter but it sure does have its problems, some of which are listed below. Twitter won’t be around this time next year in August 2018 in its current form unless some drastic steps are taken so the letter below is written in a positive spirit and in the hope that Twitter will reverse its decline and power ahead into the future.

Social networks come and go and make no mistake, Twitter has seem serious problems which if ignored could see Twitter going the same way as Friends Reunited, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut and Google Buzz. Those that say that Twitter is ‘too big to disappear’ should there are plenty of warning signs:

  • Twitter is losing money – Twitter reported a $116.5 million loss in its latest results for the 2nd quarter of 2017.
  • Twitter is always losing money – Twitter has NEVER made a profit in any quarter.
  • Twitter is losing sales – revenue was down 5% year on year in the latest results on 30 June 2017. Meanwhile Facebook’s revenue was up over 45% in the same period.
  • Twitter is losing key employees –  In recent months the VP of Media, the VP of Product, the VP of Engineering plus the heads of HR and its video service Vine have all left.
  • There’s no clear strategy – Is it a news site, a video hosting site, a live streaming site, a social network or a customer service channel? The most common words I hear in the same sentence as ‘Twitter’ are “I don’t get…”.
  • Twitter is not gaining users – 328m at the last count and the time before that? 328m. Zero growth. In contrast, Facebook and Instagram are roaring ahead. It’s telling that Twitter doesn’t divulge the number of daily users any more. If I was an investor I wouldn’t be happy with that.
  • Many of those 328m are bots and fake accounts – According to research from the University of Southern California and Indiana University as many as 48m Twitter accounts aren’t people, 14.5 million of the 36.4 million followers of @realdonaldtrump are fake according to twitteraudit.com plus there are lots of duplicate accounts too. Facebook isn’t affected as much by this issue.
  • Fake news – Twitter has a credibility problem. For example, an army of bots managed to get #HillaryDown trending during the US election campaign last year. This is serious as according to Pew Research 74 percent of U.S. adults who use Twitter say they get news there, up from 59 percent of the site’s users in 2016.
  • There’s been little innovation – On my weekly #SocialMediaShow they are on average around 8 new Facebook features per week. More often than not there are none from Twitter
  • The advertising platform is poor – Most of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising yet the advertising platform is clunky, difficult to use and lacks features. I would love to be able to promote my tweets in Cardiff but I can’t. So Bristol maybe? Nope.

So let’s move from to the positive and look at what Twitter can do to save itself.

Dear Twitter

Here are seven ideas on how you can attract more users, encourage more engagement and grow healthily in future.

  1. Users should be required to login – Without registering you can read the news on the homepage plus ALL the content on the platform, use the search and browse via hashtags to your hearts content. This is odd (bonkers in fact) as I can’t think of another web based service that allows use of their service without a login. From a business point of view this is a huge missed opportunity that can be easily rectified. Acquiring all those email addresses on non-registered users gives Twitter the opportunity to tailor ads and provide a full service for them.
  2. ALL users should be properly verified – Incredibly, it appears that automated users ie bots are permitted on Twitter. Both new and existing users should be properly verified and should be required to provide their residential address which should be verified. Existing users should be required to upload a form of id to confirm their identity. Within a few weeks, Twitter’s bot problem would largely be solved.
  3. Position and promote as a news and sports service with live conversation – Twitter has always been a great news service with real time reporting from citizen journalists. News ties in nicely with Twitter LIVE and its sports coverage. To its credit it has moved in this direction but not strongly enough. There are plenty of live sports and news services but Twitter has a USP; conversation around sporting and new events so it should really major on this. Being able to chat with fellow supporters on the same screen as your team is huge and a natural development from tweeting while watching a game on TV.
  4. Make sports, news and people more discoverable – Twitter search is poor. The Advanced Search page looks the same to me as it did when I joined Twitter over 10 years ago so it needs improving. Twitter Moments has potential but many users don’t know what it is or where it is. TweetDeck could also help discovery but again there’s barely been any development since it was acquired.
  5. Rework the advertising platform – A rewrite and redesign from the ground up is required.
  6. Increase the 140 character limit – OK so this is a biggie but it’s the right time to do this. The best way to implement would be by means of a Twitter Card. This is a format that Twitter uses to attach photos, videos and headlines to tweets so a new Twitter card could provide extra space for a tweet. This way the standard tweet would still be 140 characters but for those that wanted it, there would be more space. Initially, make it available to advertisers only so would help drive revenue.
  7. Develop the Like button – Facebook is forever ‘borrowing’ ideas from Twitter and other social networks eg hashtags, so why not borrow one back? Have more options via the Like button. Hat tip to Anthony Ash of for this idea.

So there you go Twitter – I hope you take these suggestions in the positive manner in which they are provided and look forward to Twitter once again becoming my favourite social network.

Best wishes

Jonathan Pollinger
Intranet Future
+44 29 2078 9139

 

 

 

 

 

1 thought on “Open letter to Twitter – you WILL die unless…”

  1. Good article and one that needed to be written. I do hope Twitter doesn’t disappear. I think your comments on verification, login and refreshing the advertising platform are valid. Twitter has the potential to be a powerful advertising tool.
    I don’t think the character limit needs to be increased and I don’t think it needs to innovate every 5 seconds like Facebook. I think that if it really works hard on making its advertising platform easy and clear, verifies and ensures login, it could find a niche in being one of (the only?) SM platform that works really well, is responsive to user query and where the user can actually feel extremely comfortable using it because it doesn’t change all the time.

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