I deleted Twitter from my iPhone. I think that the app’s time has passed…. well, that and I needed the space to download an app I might actually use in the near future.
From its infancy, Twitter struggled to define itself and really get involved in the daily conversations of the world, but it always seemed to fall just a bit short. The hype around how many daily users Twitter has is just that: hype. I always had high hopes for that cute little blue, tweeting bird, but could never quite get my arms around the platform.
There are seven major reasons Twitter failed as a social media platform:
- Fake accounts and Spam
Twitter is an epic failure at policing itself from fake accounts and spam. Although there is no clear data on how many fake accounts and bots are operating on the platform, even a casual user will recognize that a large portion of all of Twitter’s traffic is bogus. As far back as 2013, Twitter recognized that millions of its users were fake—and in the last four years, the problem has only gotten worse.
A recent article detailed the discovery of a single bot net of 350k + fake accounts. And Twitter’s only real response was to point to a policy making such behavior illegal. According to a study from Stanford University, as many as 48 million users on Twitter are fake accounts or part of a bot net. The folks over at Twitter even estimates that 5% of its active monthly users, or around 17 million accounts, are fake.
Twitter’s relationship with its users has always been fraught with frustration. A myriad of people with widely diverging views use the platform, and in a half hearted attempt at cracking down on the people who troll and “harass” others, Twitter has started to ban individuals from the platform.
The crackdown has been poorly implemented, though, and Twitter even managed to accidentally ban its own CEO, Jack Dorsey. Throughout the election cycle this past year, Twitter increased the rate at which it banned individuals until a clear pattern began to emerge of Twitter banning users with conservative views far more so than those with apparently liberal views, even when the behavior was similar. The ban proved itself much more of an appearance of censorship with a lean towards liberal bias than an attempt at implementing civil behavior in what has become the wild, wild west of social media.
There are few places on social media with more trolls than Twitter. For those unfamiliar with the term troll, we are not referring to a mythical creature that preys on the unwary. Rather, to someone who relentlessly harasses and bothers others with snarky messages, insults and in extreme cases threats. There have even been documented cases of trolls calling the police and reporting a hostage situation i.e.,“swatting” their victims.
During the election, thousands of fake accounts for both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump were used to troll others in order to suppress conversations and spread fake news either for or against one of the candidates.
- A Lack of Evolution
After more than ten years of service, Twitter has improved very little. The majority of its improvements were tiny and incremental, or added features like the recently defunct Vine, but nothing that truly attracted new users or encouraged current users to utilize the platform more often.
The main problem here has stemmed from a lack of creativity. If after ten years Twitter was unable to make substantial improvements, there is no reason to believe it will happen not—that is, unless there is a major shakeup in its management and engineering teams.
Social media platforms are competing with one another for the attention of users. There are a limited number of social media applications that a person can use in a given day. Competing social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook are grabbing the attention of users like never before, and they are innovating at a pace that Twitter simply cannot match.
Instagram and Facebook particularly have added many new features and functionalities that are attracting new users and increasing the apps’ daily usage patterns. Not to mention that there are dozens of new platforms being introduced every year. Most of them will fail, but some of them have a chance of stealing even more market share from Twitter and on their way to a successful business model.
- Financial Model
After ten years, Twitter is still not profitable. It has lost more than 2 billion dollars and profitability is nowhere in sight. In the last few months, it dropped Vine as a feature and cut 9% of its work force in a push to finally become profitable, but there are still no guarantees that that will happen.
Twitter’s revenue model doesn’t make sense. Its advertising model is too expensive given the results advertisers can expect and the number of fake accounts and users. The ROI of advertising on Twitter is one of the lowest among social media platforms. If one of my clients must choose between platforms, Twitter is certainly not the first choice.
- Difficult Conversations
Twitter’s one strength is that it is a place users can receive real time updates from all over the world… but that is also one of its main weaknesses. It is difficult, if not impossible to go deep into any topic on Twitter when tweets max out at 140 characters (an idea first believed to be genius, it has proved itself as anything but). And group conversations are often broken and confusing. The conversation model is difficult for new users to learn and many quickly lose interest, therefore limiting the ability of Twitter to grow.
Can Twitter resurrect itself? Maybe, but it would take a massive overhaul of how the platform interacts with people, and how those users interact with each other. It would also take a reinvigorated advertising platform that delivers results for advertisers by delivering useful messages to real people. In all fairness, like most things—and especially when it comes to social media—Twitter is an acquired taste. Maybe my taste buds will adjust—or maybe they’ll just never really grow to enjoy this particular platform. With so much else happening out there on the Internet, it’s anyone’s guess what will become of Twitter.
What do you think? We’re here to listen.
H.E. Strickland's The Dodo and its Kindred (London: 1848) , PD-1923
Can-Do Ideas is a Digital Marketing agency specializing in Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales. We are located in New York City and Connecticut.