We waited to talk more about Twitter because we were hoping for good news. Good for us – and good for you, mostly we have it.
Don’t Count Twitter Out
In case you haven’t been following, Twitter has had a rough time over the past year – really rough. Instagram and Pinterest overtook Twitter in terms of popularity, leaving Twitter in 5th place. Stock of the publicly-owned company began slipping last spring and user-growth on the platform slowed to a virtual grind, so…Twitter brought back the original CEO, Jack Dorsey last summer.
Since Dorsey’s return, Twitter has announced several new products and big changes and, even though revenue has generally exceeded expectations, growth of the platform has been flat and actually fell a bit during the last quarter. Apparently, the stockholders have not been amused as Twitter’s stock price went into a serious slide. So what caused it?
Well, the answer is complicated and, likely, no one factor is responsible. As we have covered before, Twitter introduced a ton of new features and products, made changes to the platform and proposed additional changes – the most notable being a suggestion that they were going to remove the 140-character limit.
They have been plagued by other issues as well. Twitter has been the subject of multiple discussions regarding the difficulty in monitoring social media communications of terrorist groups and even though they announced that over 125,000 ISIS accounts were taken down, they still seem to have a hard time keeping up with new accounts that spring up immediately after one is suspended.
At the same time, Twitter instituted a “Trust and Safety Council,” designed to help users report violent threats, but the reporting system is difficult and those reports are manually reviewed by Twitter staff. Twitter staff members have disclosed that certain accounts are “white-listed” or “black-listed” due to the “tone” of their Tweets. As Twitter is notably an organization on the liberal side of the political spectrum, this process has reportedly been used against well-known conservative Twitter users. Some of these conservative Twitter accounts have reportedly faced censure, “unverification,” suspension or something they call “shadowbanning” whereupon Twitter “mutes” the Tweets coming from certain accounts so those Tweets are never seen in the Twitter feed.
Several celebrities have loudly objected, gaining tremendous public support. The most famous case is that of Milo Yiannopolis, the Tech Editor at Breitbart who was notified of his “unverification” and was threatened with suspension – which he called being “put in Twitter time-out.” Oddly, though @Nero remains un-verified, his Twitter follower count went up exponentially. Twitter kind of gave itself a black-eye with that one.
Because we are leading up to a presidential election, Twitter fights between users can be quite vicious which may lead some Tweeters to avoid the platform and the company just disclosed that their password security recovery system has a bug which may have compromised the identity of 10,000 users.
So, the news sounds bad, and it may make someone think about ditching their Twitter involvement but it really isn’t all bad.
Twitter already beats Facebook on its “search” feature which makes it dead easy to find Tweets based on keywords. In fact, only Google’s search engine is better. Facebook is trying but they haven’t caught up.
Twitter may be in 5th place but they still have about 30% of the users on the internet and their demographics spread is better than new competitors, Instagram and Pinterest. Instagram is currently heavy on the under-30 millennial crowd while Pinterest is almost exclusively female. LinkedIn of course is college-educated professionals but Twitter, like Facebook, reaches pretty evenly across demographic groups including age brackets, gender and even race.
Though Facebook has an ever-growing audience that is already much, much bigger than Twitter, and though Facebook is trying its best to suck up more and more social media time, Twitter is really easier for businesses to use.
Your business Facebook posts won’t appear in anyone’s newsfeed unless they are already connected to your business. But anyone can see business Tweets if they are there at the right time. Even Tweets from non-followed accounts appear on a user’s global feed and feeds they are watching – as it is posted and because Tweets are public for pretty much everyone, businesses have at least a chance of appearing in Google Search (something new Google is doing). Finally, Twitter’s ads are better positioned as they appear as a Tweet that scrolls down, just like other Tweets. No sidebars, not as much need to shout and wave your hands.
Twitter has recently introduced an algorithmic timeline – which is a “best of” list that you missed since you signed on last. This is similar to Facebook’s top posts feed which has been very successful and like Facebook, you can turn the feature off if you don’t like it and see the most recent, or as in Twitter’s case, live posts.
Increasing the character limit continues to be a controversial subject but Twitter reckons it may bring new users to the platform. Likely, when (not if) Twitter makes the change, only the first 140 characters will show up but users can click something like “read more.” This may recruit new users who haven’t Tweeted yet because they don’t understand the constraints or can’t limit their posts to those characters which quickly add up.
Twitter also recently parted ways with 5 major company execs, four announced their separation on Twitter but one did not. Scuttlebutt is that one of the execs resigned for non-work reasons, three resigned under “suggestion” and one was forced out. No official word but…
They have already announced a new hire, Natalie Kerris, Apple’s communications exec will take over the VP of communications role at Twitter. Kerris has been named to Business Insider’s top 50 PR people for 3 years running and was in on the launches of key products including the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch so she brings real business. This is important because since Twitter’s inception, they have faced challenges in “explaining” Twitter. Maybe with some more explaining, new users will sign on.
According to those Bull, Bear, Buy, Sell, Hold guys….Twitter stock looks like it reached the end of the slide with a slight upturn.
Read about Twitter’s Recovery at The Street
Point is: Despite predictions, Twitter is far from dead. In fact, though it is going through a rough patch, Twitter isn’t dying and they have a good chance at starting to attract new users again.
Just like there are concrete reasons to be on Facebook, there are concrete reasons to be on Twitter and concrete reasons why you should be on Twitter frequently.
Business owners or their social-media managers need to develop a clear understanding of how to use Twitter, how the Twitter feeds and hashtags work and of what features their business can take advantage – including both free and ad-driven tools and the ability to respond to customer service issues in near real-time.
Probably the best way to get to understand Twitter is to spend some time Tweeting, following other users, getting followed back, searching for subjects and users, using hashtags, article links and images in posts – and don’t forget to reply to Tweets you see so that you get how conversations work. Unless a Twitter username is “real,” accounts can be virtually anonymous so it may be worth it for owners to sign-up under an interesting, innocuous username and do some personal Tweeting. Jumping into the lake to learn how to swim, as it were.
Hopefully, Twitter will stay quiet and we can cover what WhatsApp and Snapchat are about because we are sure you are dying to know.