Twitter shares the top spot in social media along with Facebook. And if you know how to use it, Twitter can provide you wondrous benefits. These benefits are often in spite of the developments and improvements Twitter Co. has tried to make to their platform. Most of what Twitter corporate has done in the last several years is screw things up. Let’s recap:
FIRST FAIL: TWITTER BLOWS THE ADDS FUNCTION AND DOES IT WRONG
When Twitter added a RT button they messed up the function of the retweet all together. And they have refused to fix it.
RT was a concept that was started by the users, not by Twitter. And in the good old days when someone wanted to ReTweet something they simply copy-pasted the entire tweet and added the user’s @username at the beginning. Then the magic happened, they could then tag additional, “conversational” information on to the end of the tweet. That was the beginning of conversations on Twitter.
Enter Twitter Co. to reset the way RT works and to add the BAD RT button (the lazy retweet), as seen above. Here’s why their RT button sucks.
1. It does not give any additive opportunity to comment, “high-5,” or otherwise interact with the conversation. An RT using the Twitter button is still a rebroadcast, yes, but there is zero conversation possible when using that system.
2. It does not show up in your timeline as a Tweet. It goes into the void of RT land.
Twitter knows this is a problem, but they are too lazy or apathetic to fix their own button. It’s an easy fix. In fact, their app (which they bought and promptly ruined) Tweetdeck, the process was fixed by the Tweetdeck developers. Here’s what the RT function looks like in Tweetdeck.
It’s not hard. If you want to do a lazy RT with no additives you can hit the blue button. If you want to join the conversation with your own witty remark, you hit the Edit & RT button. Sure, it’s fine for Twitter to make the RT easier. But let’s remember the focus is conversation and not just reach.
SECOND FAIL: TWITTER CLIPS THE POWER OF THE @-message
The other function they effectively killed is the @ messaging. (Another feature not invented by Twitter.) It used to be, when you tweeted @ someone your tweet was published in your timeline just like any other tweet. Today if you use the @username function the tweet is only visible to people who follow BOTH users. What? I’m sure this was done in the early, painful, growth years, when Twitter was working feverishly to address the frequent “Twitter Is Down” problems. But today, we need the @ message to be freed up. New users don’t know any better.
The fix is simple, but un-intuitive for a new Twitter user. You simply add any random character before the @ sign and the tweet behaves normally, for all to see. I prefer a period (.@username) if I want to be discrete and an arrow if I want to be overt. (>@username). But Twitter could fix the whole mess by just publishing @ tweets just like ever other tweet.
THIRD FAIL: TWITTER LISTS ARE DEMOTED AND BURIED
Back in the day, Twitter lists became the new “authority.” Follower counts could be manipulated and gamed, but Lists appeared to have some validity. A list was a hand-crafted grouping structure that gave users a way to organize and promote their friends and connections. I built out my List structure early and tried to give followers some groups that would be easy to subscribe to, or at least, collections of Tweeters by my main interests: social media, marketing, writing, etc.)
The first blow to hit lists was the Auto-Bot apps that would auto-generate lists based on rules. The lists began to flourish, but most of them were crap. And the gamers, spammers, and pornsters learned how to game the list system too. It was at this point that Lists began to lose their value. Enter Twitter, and at some point they killed the most egregious of the list-building apps: @formulists. At least they are gone, but new companies have started popping up with auto-built lists. Yuck. There’s no value in turning on a machine that can generate fake authority, because the scammers will figure out how to exploit them, and they have.
But even as @formulists died, Twitter failed to understand the value of the hand-coded lists. Today the LISTS link is buried. This morning it took me three tries to find it.
1. It’s not on the mini-profile that comes up when you initially highlight a user you are interested in. Why not?
2. It’s not even on their main page when you go visit their full profile. Why not?
3. Nope, it looks like List are only viewable on your own profile page. Huh, I can see MY lists, but why can’t I see YOUR lists?
There’s no reason the LISTS link shouldn’t be promoted all the screens above. Who cares about FAVS? And why doesn’t Twitter Co. care about Lists anymore?
FOURTH FAIL: THE DM IS DEAD PRIMARILY DUE TO TWITTER’S FEATURES
Do you look at your DM messages in Twitter? I don’t. Because 95% of all the messages are auto-tweets (set up within Twitter) thanking me for the follow and asking me to LIKE their Facebook page, download their eBook, or some other pleasantry. But it’s not pleasant. And it’s robo-tweeting. Twitter could kill the auto-responding feature today and no one would miss it. If you want to say thanks, tweet it. Don’t auto tweet it.
And then we come to the last auto-baddie that is somehow still allowed to operate. TrueTwit. (OPEN REQUEST: Please Kill TrueTwit’s Access to the Twitter API!) 50% of my DM spam comes from users who have asked TrueTwit to monitor and police their Twitter account for them. A fine idea, a really bad execution. (OPEN DECLARATION OF WAR: I will NEVER authorize or authentic a TrueTwit request. So if you’re using it, you’ll never see a follow from me, no matter how hard I try. This also means I won’t ever add you to any of my lists.)
THE WAY UP
Other than that, Twitter’s okay. But the conversation is being killed ever further by the company’s attempts to understand what revenue model is going to sustain them and keep their shareholders happy. I’ve written a lot recently about Twitter Ads, so I won’t go into them here, but the experience of Twitter is supposed to be OPT-IN. Ads are Forced Advertising and they violate the principle of OPT-IN. Sure, revenue is complex, and all these other new and funded apps/services are trying to figure it out too. But ADS injected into our tweetstream, or “sponsored” followers injected falsely into our Following lists are bad form. The Following AD is LIE. The “Promoted” is not enough to separate me from VISA when it shows up in my Follower list.
Twitter is the heartbeat of social media. Because of its open nature there is a lot more potential for Twitter to revolutionize things like Television (already has) and Shopping (see coupons and deals if you’re into those things) and so much more. But if they keep shoving more ADS and more “features” that ruin the magic, they will continue to have huge problems with keeping new users connected beyond the first week.
If you’re trying to use Twitter for your personal social network, or for business, you have to use Tweetdeck. Trying to view and interact with Twitter via Twitter.com is like trying to drink from a firehose with a dixie cup. Twitter takes patience, commitment, and tools. There’s a lot we can get from it. But there are also plenty of ways for Twitter.com to kill the magic through their misguided monetization ideas. Let’s hope someone at Twitter Co. has a vision for 2015, to pull the little blue birdie up from the current nose dive.
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
I’d love to help your online marketing efforts: