Almost exactly a year ago, I declared that Twitter would be dead in three years. As the head of a digital agency, I could see both how Twitter was trying to monetise itself, and how people were trying to monetise Twitter as a service for their clients. I didn’t see lasting value in either.
In the last year, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Twitter has lost a CEO and has seen several high level departures. It seems the board has finally cottoned on to what the public has been saying online - namely get back to your roots as a social media platform.
For the last five years users have increasingly seen Twitter put its power behind the platform as a content publishing site, focused on those with the loudest voices i.e. celebrities and the heavily opinionated, rather than ordinary people.
The result is that it became less a social platform and more of a consumption platform. You just get all these people trying to sell you products. It’s like having a chat with a friend in a pub with a friend and being interrupted by somebody trying to sell you something.
This caused a problem, as it heavily reduced audience engagement. People were reading, but not commenting and not re-tweeting. It is exactly the same thing we saw with Myspace: they lost their fundamental positioning, lost their audience and lost their credibility.
To be in a social network you fundamentally have to have people that socialise. But because Twitter is a broadcaster now, nobody is shouting back. Nobody is conversing. So it ceases to become a social network. So even though Twitter had over 1.3 billion users, only about 320 million actively use the platform on a monthly basis.
Even that usage is pretty anaemic: Twitter defines an active user as someone who logs in at least once a month. There’s so much clutter on Twitter now that it’s far harder for brands to get messages out. Another big issue for Twitter is that there are much better channels to do that on now, such as Facebook, Instagram and even Snapchat; social media where you have much more engaged users checking in and regularly looking at their content. More importantly they aren’t just looking at content but actually creating content, actively and on a daily basis. From a brand perspective an engaged user has ten times the value of a passive user.
Congratulations Twitter, on creating a stadium built for 1.3 billion people. Unfortunately most of your seats are empty and no one is talking about your game.