So Where Can Twitter Go From Here?
Twitter can be indispensable, engaging, and fun for everyone on the planet, and make even more money in the process. So why isn’t that happening?
- For most people, Twitter is too hard to use.
- For most people, Tweeting is scary.
- For most people, Twitter feels lonely.
None of this is a surprise, as Twitter was mostly built by and for its power users. The odds are high that if you are reading this, you are one of those Twitterers who has built lists and muted accounts. You quote Tweets and tag photos with ease, you have multiple group DM threads, and for anything remotely real-time, you turn to Twitter search before Google.
People like you bring incredible value to Twitter and your product experience should never be worsened. Your feedback to the Twitter team has quite literally shaped the product and your passionate opinions remind all of us that there is something really special here. Long live the raw feed and all of its serendipitous glory. Unfortunately, most of the features listed above are complications that chase normal users right back out the door they came in.
The good news is this is all fixable. However, an incremental and iterative approach to improving Twitter will not work. Instead, Twitter will need to take huge risks, deeply question its key assumptions, and launch materially new stuff early and often.
Twitter does have boldness in its bones. It took unreasonable ambition to go from a company where pundits asked “How will you ever make money?” to building a business that will rack up $2 billion in annualized revenue this year. In parallel, it has been no small feat to guide the company from being a wholly text-based service to one teeming with rich media and a growing video monetization business. Even buying Periscope shows the company has the capacity and appetite for taking risk.
But Twitter needs to be bolder still. It needs to place more bets with potentially oversized payoffs. It needs to question aspects of Twitter it has taken for granted. It needs to operate with smaller teams that require less permission to make change happen. Twitter can afford to build the wrong things. However, Twitter cannot afford to build the right things too slowly.
Ultimately, while there is no one Twitter that fits all, there is nothing stopping Twitter from fitting most. There is a Twitter that hundreds of millions more people will embrace and use daily. This is what it might look like…
Using Twitter Could Be So Much Easier.
The world’s very best content is already inside of Twitter. All of the news, sports, entertainment, human interest, music, branding, social justice, humor, politics, celebrities, technology, and beyond. Twitter not only has it all, Twitter has it in real-time, before any other platform in the world.
Yet, for most people, using Twitter to see that great stuff is too hard. Why? Twitter doesn’t work like our minds do. Our brains prefer signal over noise. Yet, on Twitter:
- Timelines are oriented in strict reverse chronological order.
- Twitter’s core timeline building block is an account follow.
Though immediacy does underpin the value of some Tweets, many other great Tweets have long shelf lives and are just as compelling hours or days later. Plus, a timeline rigidly restricted to specific accounts presumes we won’t value anything Tweeted by accounts we don’t follow. As a result of these two constraints, Twitter timelines are spontaneous, but scattered and of inconsistent relevance.
On any given day, 500 million Tweets are sent. Some of them are wonderfully insightful, funny, provocative, inspiring, heartfelt, or even historic. Yet hundreds of millions of those Tweets are noisy distractions. For any sample of accounts, the odds are extremely high that the most recent Tweets are not the best Tweets.
This is where so many new users get hung up. Hardcore Twitterers have the savvy and patience to continuously tune the array of accounts they follow. They even train the nuances of their visual attention to notice only what they care about when scrolling rapidly. However, new users usually get lost in the rough before they have a chance to find any diamonds.
The next few hundred million Twitter users will want to know that they are always seeing the most interesting and most important Tweets. Sometimes that will mean seeing the freshest Tweets posted. However, in many other cases, users won’t care if those Tweets are ten seconds or one hour or two days old. In parallel, they won’t care if the Tweets were posted by someone they follow or not. They just want the best stuff.
So it is time to ditch the assumptions that:
Recent Tweets are always the best Tweets.
Only the people we follow post the best Tweets.