Why is Twitter Failing?
Instead of dragging this out for an entire post, I’ll just go ahead and start with the answer to why I think Twitter is failing, and honestly, never really had a chance to be the next Facebook or whatever it was that people “in the know” predicted for it years ago:
- Can you tell a story effectively in 140 characters or less? “Hell yes!” Says the average Twitter user.
- Can you tell EVERY story effectively in 140 characters or less? “Hmmm…, maybe not, but I’ll definitely try!” Says again that average Twitter user and thus contributes his/her part to the cluttered mediocre content mess that plagues this social network.
And that’s the gist of it – Twitter content largely sucks and it’s getting too messy for the good stuff to be found so why would anyone (other than those interested in making and distributing [sucky] content) use Twitter…?
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The best things about Twitter
Twitter has 2 things going for it:
1. If you want to know what’s happening right now in the world, you go to Twitter.
It is THE news channel of our time, giving every person a stage and an opportunity to be heard, allowing anyone and everyone to report the news that happens around them from their point of view.And you know what the best thing about this news channel is? If you don’t want to hear Joe shmoe’s take on the latest storm hitting New York city, you can scroll to see what the trusted news outlets of the past are saying (CNN, BBC, whoever), they’re there too!
You have all the news you need, told in hundreds of different ways, right there in your Twitter feed.
That’s an incredible thing and Facebook, as much as it’s trying with new features (like “trending topics”), will likely never catch up.
Twitter’s look and feel is all about the news that happens now, it’s so natural there because the Tweet is the main event, while on Facebook, a friends and family type social network, in which the user is the main event, news just feels foreign.
2. There isn’t a more ‘social’ social network around.
If I comment on a friend of mine’s status update on Facebook, or an article posted by a page I’m following, you, as my Facebook friend / follower might see that in your news feed or you might see a small indication of my activity on the top right of the Facebook interface.
An activity of mine that would be featured center stage on your news feed would be something that I, your friend, have posted, tagged in or shared. All the rest would be pretty easy to miss.
On the other hand, if I’m active on Twitter, just about any social interaction I have would be easily visible to you, my follower.
Why is that a good thing? Because it touches the core of who we are as people – if we do something publicly (whether it’s tweeting, commenting, liking or sharing) we want people to notice and give us [positive] feedback on it. There’s nothing sadder than posting a hilarious one-liner you thought of after a strange encounter on the subway and then have it forgotten, orphaned of any attention.
Another thing – when you tweet at someone, you expect to be tweeted back. Twitter is always viewed as a two way street of communication. Facebook page managers are also [slowly] getting the hang of this, with many social media managers starting to comment on the comments users leave on their pages, but on Twitter it’s a given, it’s basic and it’s the essence of “social”.
Al this engagement makes Twitter the place to be and is what makes sure people come back to it again and again.
So basically, Twitter is THE place to read/watch the news and converse about them. There is no better place than it for this and seeing as we all love consuming news as it unfolds, there shouldn’t be a reason for Twitter’s demise anytime soon, right?
Newsflash: Tweeting isn’t for everyone
There are 2 ways to use Twitter – you can either be an active tweeter, updating your followers on your thoughts and activities regularly and conversing with them, or a passive one, just lurking around and quietly going through the tweets posted by your favorite thought leaders and friends.
This dichotomy also exists on Facebook of course but there’s something drastically different in the way Twitter users behave.
While on Facebook it is known that a great chunk of us are of the passive user-type. We sometimes post photo’s of ourselves and like photo’s of our friends but we don’t really communicate – almost never post a status update or comment on a friend’s update. By the way, this doesn’t mean we don’t check our news feeds as often as those active users, we do. How else would we stay updated on the lives of those we call “friends”?
This is not the case with Twitter. If you’re not active on Twitter, it really isn’t that interesting to hang out there. Being actively social is so inherent to what this network is that if you don’t participate in the conversations by either commenting or tweeting yourself, you’re not really experiencing Twitter.
Unfortunately this means that a large amount of people who should not be tweeting either because they can’t write a coherent sentence to save their lives or simply because they have nothing interesting to say, do it anyway, and do it often.
There aren’t a lot of people that can get an idea across in an interesting way with 140 characters, which is probably why Twitter is thinking of increasing the character limit to 10,000.
But that won’t help, you know why? Their aren’t that many people who can get their point across in an interesting way with 10,000 characters either!
Not everyone’s a writer or a Viner but if you’re a Twitter user, you try to be. And so we’re left with a wonderfully social news source diluted by piles of crap content no one wants to read or see, getting more cluttered as we speak.
Can this blue bird survive?
Yes. If Twitter, like Facebook, would find a way to appeal to both those who can and should actively tweet and to those who should only listen then it would stop it’s deterioration.
It’s not going to be easy, but I refuse to believe a social network with so much going for it can’t figure out how to pivot and get on track to success.
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