Once again Twitter seems to be in a state of existential crisis. At least that is according to all of the various conversations about it, starting with Sacca and ending with this weekend’s battle royale of viewpoints between Startup Jackson and Dustin Curtis.
Woe be the Twitter! What is it? Why do people use it? What good does it serve? Where is it going? Everyone seems to have an opinion about this, which they gladly tweet storm about into the Twitter ether to fill up the ever loving timeline to the ends of the infinite scroll.
Indeed, there are things about Twitter that seem frustrating. Dustin did a good job in encapsulating the most pressing usability and experience challenges with Twitter. Multimedia is disjointed. There is no real dialogue or engagement, just broadcasting. The platform seems enslaved to the timeline. Twitter is still daunting to use for beginners. And my personal pet peeve, favorites are a hot wet mess.
For all those obvious and unforgivable problem, here we are in 2015 and we are talking about Twitter. Not only are we talking about it, everywhere you look, there are hashtags and @ addresses on advertising and TV spots and billboards. Breaking news is breaking on twitter. The proverbial second screen is Twitter and a trending tag. Every major celebrity has a Twitter handle and many of them are actively tweeting away.
There are few services that can say that they have 300 million users. Even if it more like 200 million users minus the bots, that is an extraordinary global reach. Think about it, you are potentially connected to every significant person on Earth. You are simply a tweet away from greatness. No other platform has that power or reach or impact. There are no Facebook revolutions. You can’t Snapchat your way to fame. Only Instagram has the potential to cross over into Twitter’s territory.
As a business, it has done well in a short period of time. While nowhere near Facebook’s revenue, Twitter will pull in $2.2 billion in revenue this year and there has shown strong growth quarter over quarter. While Dick Costolo is hounded out the job, it should be recognized that he made Twitter into an actual business. All of this on the back of a really awful, terrible, crappy product apparently.
Can Twitter fix the product issue? I feel confident that Twitter will work out the product issues. Given the pummeling Twitter took last quarter on user growth, I suspect that the company got a fire light under its ass to fix the gaps. They are growing the ad network nicely, now is the time to get users to fall back in love with Twitter, even if that brings ire to the old-school Twitter power users.
What I suspect is holding them back is a culture of fear. The old fuddy duddy of social networks, Facebook, has no problems rolling out product at an astonishing rate. They are the culture of “break stuff, fix later”. Twitter has been playing it too safe on the product side and it is time to get experimental and risky. Obviously on a platform that is real-time and serves 300 million globally, this sounds incredibly scary, but this is not Twitter of 2008 when the thing was crashing non-stop. The Twitter of 2015 should have the talent and processes and experience in place to iterate quickly on product without risking a complete platform meltdown.
Despite the current challenges however, all of this points to one obvious conclusion. Twitter has won. None of the other social networks have what is baked into Twitter. It cannot be replicated. There is no obvious replacement. It may be a stretch to say it is “too big to fail”, but it has made its cultural mark into the mainstream. Even with all the miscues and missed opportunities and disappointed Wall Street investors, Twitter still stands. Now is the time for Twitter’s next act, let’s hope they do not screw it up.
Image credit: CC by Andreas Eldh