What comes to mind when you think of Twitter? Maybe it's the character limit they made famous, or infamously, plan to change. Maybe it's the term hashtag that has become a staple to denoting topics, themes, and feelings across platforms. Or maybe, when you think of Twitter, you automatically think of Facebook. Because for many people, there isn't a space in our lives for another social network outside of Facebook. This is just one of the many problems confronting Twitter today, among others including a falling valuation and an exodus of key employees. However, the solution to a lot of the problems they face is being approached by, what I would argue, a convoluted method of reasoning. If Twitter expects to be relevant in the next five years, it's imperative that they find a reason for new users to join and stay engaged.
By and large, Twitter is an advertising-based company. They provide a service to users and make the bulk of their revenue through advertising products and services to them. And in order to not only sustain, but grow revenue, Twitter as a whole needs to make it their mission to attract more and more users. Of course, the company will say that is their goal, but the current suggestion of new ideas fails to address the key problem of customer retention. As of their last quarter, Twitter has reported a decrease in monthly active users. In the business world, this is as bad news as you can get. They are publicizing to the world that less and less people are using Twitter. And when your livelihood depends on the marketing budget of an ad agency that wishes to garner the attention of large user bases, you're giving them less of a reason to invest in Twitter.
Even more so than before, advertising dollars are stretched and need to be maximized. Facebook and Google are the behemoths that have a monstrous amount of information at their fingertips to pull more of that revenue their way. But despite their shrinking user base, Twitter has one key strength that sets them apart: they are the Now. What I mean by this is that Twitter's golden goose is the living, breathing stream of thoughts that gets poured into the cloud from millions of people living in their moment. When users launch Twitter, they join that Now moment and participate. They can participate by observing or contributing. But hardcore users will tell you, their is nothing like the Now moment that Twitter provides. And this is the drug that needs to be sold in magnitude to potential users.
At the time of writing this, Kanye West is about release his latest album
So Help Me God, Swish, Waves, The Life of Pablo. And the marketing for what seems to be, if history teaches us anything, a hugely successful record was almost entirely built through Twitter. From the G.O.O.D. Friday track releases, the momentary beef with Wiz Khalifa, and the brief hysteria around the meaning of T.L.O.P. (sorry, it doesn't mean The Left Over Pizza), Kanye West had a stranglehold on pop culture whenever he pleased. And it was all thanks to Twitter. If you were lucky enough to witness Yeezy speak, whether you agreed or not, you had a feeling of him existing in the same moment as you. The Now. And that connection, real or imaginary, is what Twitter needs to focus on and showcase to potential users.
A key step the company can take to attract new users would be to mend their relationship with developers. And I'm talking about more than just an apology. Twitter has an opportunity to have hundreds, if not thousands, of developers to work for them for free. Sort of. And all they have to is give them better tools to help proliferate the Twitter brand. Historically, Twitter has been all about managing control and mitigating the amount of freedom third-party developers had. This caused a real headache, and even lead to a ceiling for how much a third-party developer could earn off of Twitter. And if the company expects to attract new users that stay and continue to use the product, it's in their best interest to have a diverse set of gateways to the Twitter stream of consciousness. Having multiple ways to be interactive opens you up to more potential customers. You don't see car manufacturers offering one model. They want to have multiple ways to get you on the road. And this is the same perspective Twitter should have toward third-party developers.
Another idea I want to highlight is the successes that the NBA has had on social media. The game of basketball has benefited greatly by embracing Twitter especially, and using it a platform to share the game. Hell, superstars like Lebron James and Steph Curry owe so much to what Twitter has done for their personal brand. From GIFs to short clips, Twitter offers a great environment to witness (and re-witness) amazing feats of athleticism. But more importantly, you get the ability to add your own commentary and revel in what may be on of the most viral tweets of the night. When something court-shattering happens in the NBA, it is propagated to the Twitter-verse first and talked about for hours and hours. That is until the next feat of amazing happens. This momentary joy in athletics is something that unique to Twitter and imitated on Facebook. And while Facebook has a lot of success, it doesn't have the feeling of immediacy that Twitter enjoys. If Twitter as a company is serious about attracting more and more active users, they need to be able to share the amazing in a manner that goes beyond Moments. If Twitter wishes to truly grow their user base, they need to hand-hold new users and do a better job of teaching them the intricacies -if the product, while keeping the process of doing so as user-friendly as possible. Sports in general have a lot to offer potential users of Twitter, and the NBA is proof of that.
The advent of Twitter has also brought upon another phenomenon in culture: the birth of the slacktivist. While some may view this type of participation for social change in a negative light, it has far more profound effects than one may at first perceive. The hashtag movements to support those in need is the absolute lowest barrier to entry one could have to standing behind a cause They believe in. As of recent, the #BlackLivesMatter (and comically pathetic #AllLivesMatter) were born on Twitter and would not exist without it. While some may gawk at what they assume to be meaningless retweets, the Twitter platform provides a simple way to unite people. Users flood the stream in unity and that creates a number, especially when in the millions, that gives a damn good reason for widespread media attention. This type of unity and passion is harder to replicate on Google or Facebook and often requires further investment. With Twitter, you get to voice your support for all types of loss and injustices and add to the larger movement. The movement, which as a whole, has the power to shape change in the world we inhabit. And this large movement toward social change would have been a lot harder if it were not for the tools that Twitter provides.
Whether it's Kanye West, the NBA, or the slacktivist movement, there are more than enough reasons to highlight that Twitter is all about the Now experience. It is an experience that attempts to be replicated on other platforms, but sees its true potential on the Twitter. And focusing on this core benefit is what will be integral to growing Twitter as a product and brand to attract investment from advertisers. By treating third-party developers as partners and hand-holding new users, Twitter can prove to investors, and themselves, that their is a tangible reason for them to exist. By clearly defining their existence and empowering their audience, Twitter has opportunity to exceed expectations and escape the confines of a social network. They can be the place where people go to exist.