The Forced Evolution of Twitter

The Forced Evolution of Twitter

I wrote this post 20 months ago, but it seems relevant to bring it back to the surface for a new audience. Twitter is the big news of the day. But Twitter has major problems. And they haven’t solved them going into this IPO. Maybe they are hoping they will solve them AFTER they cash in on the big bucks. But I’m not sure Twitter really knows what they want to become. And for years they have lumbered on, aiming for this IPO-moment. But let’s look at some of the fundamentals that are still broken in the Twitter model.

Sure the Twitter IPO is big news. But the problems with Twitter are real, current, and showing signs of eroding the value of Twitter even at the dawn of the funded-era. In the US Twitter growth has stalled. Why? Maybe it’s the spam. Maybe it’s the maturity of the market? But I think it’s because 1. Twitter is confusing; 2. A huge majority of people stop tweeting within the first month (think 80%); 3. Twitter does an awful job of explaining how to use itself and for what; 4. Spam, Porn, Marketing, Scams make up a huge percentage of the tweets being generated.

Why would you tweet anyway. “I don’t really get Twitter,” one of my highly-motivated and fully-engaged marketing partners said, recently.

+++ Original post date March 2012 +++

Twitter is not doing well in innovation or advertising. To survive they will either have to evolve or dissolve. “Status” updates are will not be dependent on Twitter.com in the near future. And if there are three times more Twitter queries than actual Tweets, they really need to figure out how to monetize their data, not their platform. Twitter’s acquisition strategy with Tweetdeck, thus far, has been a disaster. (As of this writing Tweetdeck is still offline due to massive account security issues.) Friends and users of Posterous are not very happy about the buy out by Twitter either.

Twitter is stuck in a broadcast mentality.
And their platform is merely a protocol, that can and will be replicated and replaced.

Why Twitter will evolve or die
click to view presentation on Slideshare.net

Imagine a world in which your emails were all filtered and dependent on Microsoft Outlook, or even Microsoft Exchange Server. You don’t *have* to use Outlook or Entourage (mac client) but everyone else’s implementations are less than perfect. And imagine AOL owned IM/CHAT, so that only the AIM client would allow you to add or delete contacts in your network. Not a very exciting picture, is it?

Today Twitter is still seen as the poster child for Internet Tech Startup with huge growth and a non-existent business model. You can bet they’ve been paying a lot of people to work it out, but so far their ideas are old school, and have failed in the marketplace.

So why is Twitter and Twitter.com in control of the STATUS-UPDATE protocol?

  • They were first to market with the Tweet concept.
  • 3rd-party developers have given Twitter features and benefits that far outweigh Twitter’s own contribution and innovation fails.
  • Twitter is still free.
  • Everybody is on Twitter
  • Twitter has some great business success stories
  • Google is still organizing their overthrow
  • Apple chose Twitter instead of Facebook for embedded status updates

But why is Twitter also failing at accomplishing a solid business model (re: revenue stream)?

  • Twitter.com accounts for about 15 – 20% of the tweets worldwide.
  • Twitter needs you on Twitter.com to control your experience, serve you ads, give you Twitter-Brand pages
  • Twitter killed Tweetdeck’s dominance by redesigning (re-destroying) the beauty of it’s simplified interface
  • Twitter Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends, and Promoted Accounts are a joke. Akin to Facebook ads. Nobody is on Twitter looking for your services and products. Disguising them as tweets and “verified” accounts is not going to improve their uptake.
  • Twitter will either eventually charge for their API stream (and this might be the tipping point for a company to produce the cloned network) or will drown under the technical and financial obligations of feeding the Twitter machine that never touches Twitter.com
  • Twitter still does not know what it wants to become
  • Twitter is confusing and complex for new users
  • Twitter has a huge spam and zombie problem that turns off new users at about an 80% abandonment rate
  • Even experienced Twitter players are simply giving up on Twitter and moving to Google+ or something esle
  • When Twitter is not a critical-path technology that helps you get your job done, it is simply another task you have to check off your list.
  • There are very few DellFactoryOutlets and Groupons out there, if you’re not one of them, Twitter is going to be a challenge to understand and justify.

What will signal the changing of the TWITTER-protocol to STATUS-protocol? I’m not sure. The Fail Whale seems to be fairly well under control these days. And I have no view into Twitter’s finances or funding futures. But why would “business” and by this I mean BIG BUSINESS, let some little internet tech jockeys control something that is so vital to their business? They will not. And at this point Twitter is not a vital part of many businesses. But the STATUS-sphere will continue to evolve with smarter smart phones, better status-enabled devices, and even more innovative uses for the status-data that so many millions of us are producing.

BOTTOMLINE: Marketers and businesses can get an instant read on public sentiment and trending with Twitter today. But Twitter will not be able to hold onto this theoretical pot of gold if they do not figure out how to build a rainbow. And their efforts since coining the Tweet in 2006, have been pretty miserable.

If you think I’m missing something, please add your thoughts to the comments, or contact me directly. I’m always open!

* Stats: you are free to google my claims. I read and read and read, and this post is a stream-of-consciousness of those facts. If you really want access to “where did you get that wacky number?” please contact me directly.

Everything you need to know about Twitter is on The Twitter Way page

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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