The sky is supposedly falling at Twitter. The stock is down. Top execs are leaving. A superficial deconstruction from The New Yorker laments its demise.
Don’t worry though, Twitter will continue to thrive and, I believe, become even more valuable. Why? Because when Twitter works well, people love it.
The more time I spend on twitter the more I like it. The more time I spend on Facebook the more I dislike it. I think this is a pretty common sentiment. I’m not particularly ‘good’ at Twitter but that’s what makes it even more interesting. There’s nothing interesting about Facebook anymore.
The more time I spend on twitter the more I like it. The more time I spend on Facebook the more I dislike it. I’m not particularly ‘good’ at Twitter but that’s what makes it even more interesting. There’s nothing interesting about Facebook anymore.
Just because Twitter is confusing does not mean it’s broken. The problem with Twitter is usually framed as a noise problem. It’s too noisy for it to be useful. But this is wrong.
The problem with Twitter isn’t the noise; it’s the fact that the layers of content are too intermingled. Twitter right now is a fruit salad. It’s a mishmash of flavors; it needs to be a layer cake, where each layer adds to the other but still stand alone clearly.
Twitter right now is a fruit salad. Twitter right now is a fruit salad. It’s a mishmash of flavors; it needs to be a layer cake, where each layer adds to the other but still stand alone clearly.
Twitter is a platform of ideals and goals. Facebook is a platform of everyday life. On Twitter I’m aspirational; I follow role models, interesting public characters, important organizations, and obscure interest groups. On Facebook I follow friends from high school and some magazines. Facebook is a utility now. Hugely profitable but boring.
Twitter needs to distance itself from the idea of being a social network and become a conversation network. Might not sound as sexy but it’s definitely more interesting. This is its job to be done.
Here are some ideas for how to fix Twitter (cc Jack Dorsey):
- Turn the fruit salad into a layer cake. Provide different interfaces for information based browsing and engaging in open conversation. Make conversations easier to follow and contribute to.
- Make news feeds cleaner by removing the @replies by default. Provide a view into my newsfeed with filters so it’s the best most relevant content. A trending sidebar doesn’t cut it. Moments is a decent start but it kind of defeats the purpose of following people if you guys curate it.
- Allow for sub feeds where I can follow specific people and just engage with them. Creating little mini groups of followers and conversations.
- Allow me to view my feed by subjects e.g. news, sports, tech etc. Think like a newspaper in that way. Help me categorize feeds.
- Make the ‘heart’ feature functional. Provide me updates about that Tweet, use it to surface that to my followers. Add degrees of virality. The retweet is the strongest but there’s way more under the surface.
- Long form content. This is inevtiable for a lot of reasons bu still require users to post a 140 character ‘subject line’. Treat longer content as an ‘attachment’ to a Tweet. Don’t forget that the medium is the message and limitations do wonders for ingenuity and style of conversation. Further deepen the integration between Medium to achieve this.
- Make it easier for the passive consumers of content to have a good time on Twitter. Design for the lurkers. Foster the power of the ‘like’ over the retweet to achieve this (cc Fred Wilson).
- Don’t let the very loud power users completely influence your design decisions.
How should Twitter make money? Display advertising is fine. But it feels like that’s only the surface.
Here are a few ideas:
- Embrace conversational interfaces and enable developers to build bots and applications that capitalize on the short form, conversational interactions within Twitter. Conversational commerce is the next step. Imagine this: someone likes a tweet about a book/movie/restaurant and a bot engages them in the following: I saw you liked that book, looks like you already read it but are you interested in something similar? Want me to order it for you? The interaction model needs a lot of refinement but the potential to blend open interactions with a functional utility is a natural evolution of this conversational medium and build a transactional model around it (cc @chris Messina). Build APIs for developers to integrate natural language processing apps with tweets. I’m not talking about command line crap.
- Harness all the brain power and data at your disposal to provide a true market research platform that goes way beyond surveys. This is a potentially big business.
- Capitalize on the fact that people follow their interest groups and are looking to engage with them. Twitter should be the most direct form of conversational marketing. Right now the advertising tools stink. They are very expensive and do not provide the right guidance to make content conversational.
- Provide better integration with services that content is connected with. Help advertisers close the loop between content and transactions.
Even though there’s a lot to do, Twitter’s current challenges are a direct result of its success. It succeeded because it unlocked the potential of the realtime, open, organic web. This is an important and essential mission.
Now Twitter must figure out how to balance the values of openness, conversation, and realtime sharing with a growth strategy and big time business model.
It starts though by changing the perception of Twitter; it is not a Facebook competitor. Twitter isn’t a social network. It’s a conversation network.
Learning to balance the demands of an open conversational space with the needs of an information platform are Twitter’s inherit strength and greatest challenge.