Sad but true, we all know the scene. The place is packed with black-clad mourners. The slow rush of salty tears stream down the faces of those gathered when their thoughts drift on the memory of the departed. The family marches in and is greeted with hugs, pats on the back and awkward apologies. The gleaming casket stands before the audience, but who’s being laid to rest?
Is it the little blue bird? Or is it much ado about nothing?
The demise of Twitter has been a much-debated topic in the last year, especially after stocks prices plummeted following a first quarter earnings report. The debate has been renewed recently thanks to an article by Umair Haque (picked up by the Huffington Post) in which he called Twitter a “cemetery” and the social web “a nasty, brutish place.” There are certainly a number of reasons to believe that Twitter is going to the way of MySpace but it is also reasonable to believe that it is in the adjustment period that so many companies go through and that its power and presence in the popular consciousness will carry them through.
Below, I’ve provided a set of reasons why Twitter may not survive as a platform as well as reasons that support the idea that Twitter may be on the verge of greater success.
Why Twitter is dying:
The Abusive Nature of Twitter
The focus of Haque’s article was on how more and more people are walking away from Twitter because of the abuse they may take for making comments that a particular group does not agree with. We’ve all seen it. A star, a football player, a political candidate makes a comment about some aspect or event in our society. The wrong person picks it up and the onslaught of inflammatory tweets begin. While these stories were isolated and comical a few years ago, they have become a near daily practice in 2015. And unfortunately, what was initially seen as a sort of “correcting” of the misguided, an incidence of social justice, has become an attack on anyone who “doesn’t feel the way, I feel” about a specific topic. “Today’s revolutionary is tomorrow’s little tyrant,” said Haque in comparing today’s social landscape to the French Revolution. Social media, Twitter included, for its ability to connect you to the world also means that you can’t hide from it.
While the abusive nature of Twitter is somewhat a matter of opinion and how you choose to use the platform, the declining growth of active users is a matter of fact. According to Fortune Magazine, Twitter’s user base grew 1.3 percent in the last quarter and only 4 percent in 2015. These numbers are counter to the sharper increases Twitter saw in new users prior to the going public in 2013.
The announcement of slower user growth led the stock to plummet following their first quarter earnings report. As the saying goes, “if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking”. While Twitter continues to experience revenue growth, it can only be sustained if more people come to the platform and become active users. As the social media landscape continues to grow with new competitors, Twitter’s own growth is critical.
How people use Twitter
In a Forbes article on the subject, Jose Espinosa of Connect Advertising and Marketing, called Twitter a “broadcast” (platform), one in which people shout info to a group but doesn’t communicate with them. Furthermore, he said that brands like Coca-Cola and stars like Taylor Swift are dominating the platform while Twitter’s use among less public users is regressing. The reduction in new users and the fact that a little more than half of Twitter’s 500 million users would be considered “active” supports the notion of a shift in usage. This is also due, in part, to the sheer volume of messages that flow through Twitter on an hourly basis.
It’s proving difficult to monetize tweets
Twitter’s interface produces two distinct issues when it comes to monetization on the platform. One, Twitter’s trademark 140-character limit prevents them from gathering very much data on their users. Two, because Twitter is open to the public, people have a tendency to share less about the personal tendencies. At most, Twitter profiles tend to center more on users’ interests. So unfortunately, the two defining qualities of the Twitter experience may be two things that are killing Twitter.
However, all is not lost. While Twitter’s critics are fervent about its demise, they tend to share only a portion of the story. There are a number of reasons why the claim is largely exaggerated.
Why Twitter is alive and thriving:
The open nature of Twitter
While the fact that you can reach any user on Twitter (privacy settings aside) can cause more than a few headaches, it also gives you the ability to communicate with just about anyone. While it was stated earlier that Twitter has become a “broadcast platform”, there’s tremendous power in being able to reach an unlimited audience with your message. To do that with Facebook, it costs. Instagram and Pinterest are emerging as platforms but the level of interaction is not the same. Twitter is cluttered and true influence lies in a small group of users, but the quality and stickiness of your content still matters.
The Power of Twitter as a News Source
There’s nothing that happens in this world on a large or small scale that doesn’t get reported instantaneously on Twitter. As a matter of fact, Twitter’s greatest power is as a news source. From behind the scenes looks at events like the Super Bowl to on the ground details of unfortunate events like the Paris bombings, people go to Twitter before they hit nearly any other source, including Facebook. As a matter of fact, Facebook adapted their “trending topics” section as a response to the ubiquitous part of the Twitter interface. However, Twitter’s brand is news and it feeds to our society’s craving for instant information.
The medium of choice for influencers
According to U.S. News and World Report, 90 percent of the world’s leaders, kings, celebrities, rappers and athletes are active on Twitter. So not only is nearly all news and events reported on Twitter, nearly every newsmaker is on Twitter as well.
The emergence of live video
We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in terms of how we use social media, especially among millennials and Generation Z. People are becoming more interested in receiving the instant experience of being a part of an event or experiencing the behind the scenes aspects of a business. This is why Twitter’s Periscope is positioned so well. The live streaming service takes you to the events of the profiles you follow immediately. While it may not always be able to give you free access to pay-per-view events like the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, the ability to see an event as it’s being filmed will be the type of experience that people will want more of as time goes on. And companies will be happy to provide this content via Periscope.
While Twitter has suffered in part from its own success it remains so woven into our societal consciousness that it’s hard to see it going away any time soon. The need to evolve is a certainty for any business in any industry. However, social media, in particular, moves incredibly fast. Tw
itter’s success is going forward will depend greatly on their ability to understand what the public wants, especially in the dispersal of information, which is its strength, and finding better ways to innovate it and monetize it.
End of the road for Twitter? Maybe a bit overstated, but it should probably get regular check-ups.