It is no big secret at this stage, people struggle with Twitter. I haven’t talked about Twitter all that much recently because I care a lot less for the service now than I did at one point.
It was my #1 not so long ago
It is not easy for me to say shitty things about Twitter, it was my number 1 love for such a long time but being a photographer at heart and always wanting to keep creating and documenting – Instagram has won over my heart big time in the last six months.
I care so little for Twitter at the moment that when I was doing a social quant review recently I handed over my main account for the two week trial. I didn’t bother to create a second account and run a trial on a test profile. I just handed over my main account and said “here, do what you want with it.”
Why? Because I don’t really care for Twitter at all anymore and when I look at the platform I see it fragmented, falling further behind the competition and confused. It is an enormous time suck with overwhelming amounts of information and little to no organisation.
In fact, to give full content, here is exactly how I use Twitter at the moment. I fill my Buffer account with tweets the night before and they roll out over the course of the day. When I open Twitter during the day I use lists or I am engaging with people who show up in the notifications. I ignore the main feed now, it is pointless and rammed packed full of garbage.
In February, Twitter posted disappointing earnings results and Twitter announced it was making the platform more attractive for normal people to use. That comes as the platform has hit a stall in growth. Twitter has 320 million monthly active users in the three months ending 31 December which is the exact same as the three months before that.
In the earnings announcement Twitter said the following: “We are going to fix the broken windows and the confusing parts that we know inhibit usage and drive people away.”
Bad news for the hardcore Twitter enthusiasts, Twitter is going to have to change big time to attract growth which means the Twitter you love now is going to be replaced by something else, we just don’t know what that something else is at the moment.
Twitter is in the big predicament where users are split as to how they want change to come. Some users want more than 140 characters, some hate the idea of changing the character limit at all. We know that abuse and harassment is rampant on the platform and while Twitter seems to be clamping down there is much work to be done on that front.
No matter what they do, some users are going to be left frustrated and angry and whatever may come. Just look at some of the struggles they have faced around change so far. When they introduced an algorithm to the timeline people were proclaiming it was the end for the platform. Now the latest changing to replies has people so angry that Mastodon has seen a surge in new users.
The noise problem Twitter faces
The biggest problem I have with Twitter, the biggest problem many have with Twitter is the noise. Twitter has a massive noise problem, so much now that it basically feels like talking through a loudspeaker. People are trying to shout over each other and accounts are being transformed into link sharing platforms.
My own account at this stage is probably 90% links to content and 10% interaction, I interact with people who reach out on Twitter because you never know when good things may happen. Then I look at a platform like Instagram, Snapchat or hell even Facebook which is a link sharing machine – but there is no shouting to be found here.
You don’t feel like you are talking through a megaphone, instead there are actual conversations taking place. Granted none of them are perfect but people are actually talking to each other and actually connecting with each other. How can Twitter fix that problem? Honestly I don’t know, I have no idea what they could do or what they plan on doing.
You know why I hang around Twitter? Because even as frustrated as I am with how the platform has gone it still has a special place in my heart. It always will and I will hang out hoping for change that could spur them to greatness. Even if I never talk about it there is always a part of me rooting for Twitter to win and wanting them to win and prove all of us wrong.
I can’t wait for the day when I can write a blog post about Twitter titled, “Twitter proved me wrong and rose from the ashes” but I never know when or if that day will come.
The platform itself may be far from dead right now but they could be heading in the direction of MySpace and we all know how quickly things can change. and how platforms can vanish fast. Remember how big MySpace was at one point? It happens.
I don’t even need it for business anymore…
I wrote a piece a few months ago titled, “Twitter is no longer what I signed up for, business keeps me there” and it went into detail about the growing cynicism and negativity you face from Twitter users every single day. I wrote it on the back of the Irish Times publishing a piece about the “Alt Right” and subsequently getting jumped on by Twitter users trying to outdo each other with vile comments. The whole thing quickly dissolved into a rampant mess and is just one of many instances taking place on the platform these days. What really sucks about all this is that Twitter was once a place of positivity, it was a place where you could find strong community ties and bonds.
I know that there are people living in a “Twitter bubble” and the platform is still wonderful for them, they sell it to businesses telling them, ‘oh you need to be on Twitter!’ (you can if you want but you don’t need to be there) and preach the values of the network and the connections they have. Great, if you are in a Twitter bubble then I would say enjoy it, make the most of it and have fun because the bubble is going to pop soon unless there are radical changes.
I don’t even stay on Twitter for business anymore now, I stay because I am passionate about the platform and I write posts like this because I am passionate about the platform. I want to see Twitter grow and thrive and be a social media power house. I’m not going to bury my head in the sand and tell you everything is great. The simple reality now is that Twitter drives next to no traffic onto the site at this point, maybe a few clicks per day because content gets buried so fast. If I decided to dump Twitter tomorrow it would have little to no effect on the traffic to the site because clicks now are coming from Facebook, Instagram and search engines.
I’m not even there for the business anymore…
”You are doing it wrong, let me show you how”
Believe me, I know how to grow on Twitter and if I wanted to put in all the time and energy to growing a massive account with 100k followers (and following 95k because that seems to be how it works these days if you want to scale really fast and not put the real work in…) then I would. These growth hack tactics are the same tactics deployed by automation tools such as Social Quant which I trialled for two weeks. The simple reality is this, I drive more traffic to my site through Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat than I do on Twitter and the engagement levels on other platforms is easily beating the engagement on Twitter. Like I said before, people are talking to each other more on other platforms. I can pick out a handful of Twitter accounts, even people I know and which are not bots and the feed is like a link sharing farm.
People struggle because they are confused, because the platform is now struggling to provide value
People are finding Twitter to be a struggle because it confuses them, it is a clatter of noise, it is overwhelming. Verified badges are no longer rewarded to maintain authenticity as they were originally intended to be, instead they are handed out to accounts like candy. Some people with a blue tick think they are entitled to more than others and hold a special status on the platform, users are obsessed with the numbers game. To try scale rapidly they do the whole follow for a follow trick which never works well in the end. You can brag about 200k followers but when you follow 198k…well it just looks silly to be honest and the engagement from that 100k is probably next to none, a few retweets now and then, maybe a few passive comments…you can achieve that on an account with 100 followers.
People struggle because they are confused and intimidated by Twitter, while you can jump into random conversations there is now a risk you could say the wrong thing or jump into the wrong conversation and start feeling the heat real fast. Kindness seems to be lost in many places around Twitter and when you are trying to onboard new users to a platform where they are confused, intimidated and struggling with the noise problem then you are going to struggle to retain them.
Can they turn things around for real?
My heart says yes and my head says no. I will hang on to Twitter until the bitter end but how much I use it as time passes remains to be seen. I can tell you right now that my usage on the platform has declined rapidly over the past month simply because I don’t value the platform as much now as I did a month ago.
On Instagram and Snapchat I am having much more fun and constructive conversations with people and to be honest that is where I prefer to spend my time. Its not easy to sell a platform to clients when they literally can’t sell themselves, I took a client off Twitter at the start of the year and had her focus more on Instagram, her sales and leads through social have gone up since.
I cling on hoping they get it right and maybe they will. I had faith when Jack returned, I really thought that he could change the fortunes of Twitter but the struggle goes on. I have shared this interview a number of times from Chris Sacca and it is a perfect note to end on because he says it best and it comes from a man who was so invested in the platform.