Twitter could be the people's platform – but not unless it turns a profit

 
Lawrence Weber
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Twitter has a problem.

Despite unbridled use by the President of the United States; despite being used the world round to mobilise protests and marches – to distribute news, to interact and advertise – it looks like it’s in trouble. Awareness of it has never been higher and yet, Twitter isn’t making a profit.

While revenues and active users plateau, complaints that not enough is being done to control trolling is rife. More pertinent to its longevity, nor is enough being done to attract new users, who can initially be confused with entering the jumbled stream of content that is, I think, brilliantly unstructured.

Product points aside, it’s true that if you juxtapose Twitter, from an adtech point of view, with Google and Facebook, it may not fare well.

Because of it’s sheer scale and controlled product interface, Twitter can’t grow by emulating a mélange of features from other platforms’ products, in the way that Instagram has to compete with Snapchat.

Similarly Twitter can’t necessarily compete on a pure ad buy basis. Both Facebook and Google command an increasing slice of the online ad market because they offer more consumer signals at a competitor-dwarfing volume scale.

Twitter needs to find its place, and make that place work for itself and its huge band of passionate fans.

The advice us marketing types give to brands that can’t be the biggest and broadest is to find something that you truly believe in and double down. In the tech space that’s even more important. Connecting an emotional benefit to your technical function is something that Twitter can absolutely do, and in a way that can get it a unique voice, role, and perhaps, a unique way to make money.

For me that unique benefit is the real time democracy of voice that Twitter – over and above any of it’s competitors – can offer.

Twitter has a unique place in mass culture, it’s both high and low brow, thoughtful and knee jerk, desirable and undesirable, and because of that, there is still no better way to gauge public sentiment in a live snapshot.

It is, in a way, a true platform for the people. The trick though is to use that sense of open “blink and you’ll miss it” magic to create value.

One route open to Twitter is to become the only way consumers can get desirable live content. Another is to offer brands an added premium set of data to access in real time, while others receive data with a time lag.

It could, if it were really bold, find a meaningful way to be the People’s Platform, making use of data for the benefit of consumers. Imagine if you knew that contributing your thoughts to Twitter might result in Twitter passing on some of the value it extracts back to you.

Being the first data transparent platform that shares success with its users, while offering them a space to consume and comment on live happenings would result in building a wider user base and the delivery of real data back to the brands that need it.

Twitter has nothing to lose by trying out a Brave New Model. An approach as bold as its initial launch, when it first offered the world this incredibly open, short form way of communicating – that swam the opposite way to the content rich offerings around it – might just save the platform.

Lawrence Weber is Managing Partner of Innovation at Karmarama, part of Accenture Interactive

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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