The trouble with Twitter

You can read elsewhere about the troubles facing Twitter, I have linked to some of the best analyses I found out there at the bottom of this article.
If you don’t have time to go through them, here’s the ‘CliffsNotes’ version:

  • Management turnover. Three different heads of engineering in 18 months, five different product leads in the past two years, three CFOs in 18 months and 2 COOs (mainly because the role was left vacant for over 12 months)
  • Growth in user numbers has been stagnant in the U.S.. The three published quarters of 2015 showed U.S. active users at 66 million. The last two quarters of 2014 were steady at 64 million
  • Growth in user numbers globally has been a modest 11 percent. Growth outside the U.S. was just 13% year on year in quarter three of 2015

James Whatley and Marshall Manson called the user number plateau ‘Twitter Zero’.

There have been product-related issues:

  • The ‘Promoted Moments’ advertising option is confusing to look at
  • Will it, won’t move beyond 140 characters
  • Algorithmic filtering of the timeline
  • Utility of the news feed is becoming diminished for the digerati
  • Likely reduction in user engagement
  • Likely uptake in bot content publication
  • Inability to deal with community issues like #Gamergate
  • Twitter’s auto-playing videos are barely more than a rounding error in the battle between YouTube and Facebook for video supremacy

What less people are talking about is what trouble at Twitter means beyond Twitter.

Advertising purchases are a near-zero sum game. Facebook and other high growth native advertising platforms gain from Twitter not winning business. But for marketers this is not all good news. Facebook is poor at giving marketers actionable insights and intelligence. There is no Facebook firehouse of data. Facebook only provides aggregated data.

The OTT (Over The Top) messaging platforms (WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE, KakaoTalk, Kik) are data black holes. Commercial dashboards on some accounts allow you to see how your account is doing. There is no insight of what is happening across accounts. There is no measure of influence beyond follower numbers and click-throughs.

Twitter’s declining relevance, has a direct effect on social media monitoring and analytics platforms.

Social media analysis of Twitter data is widespread. From consumer insights / passive market research to brand measurement and financial trading models.

I had seen data which showed a direct correlation between brand related market research conducted by respected market research firms and social media analysis using Twitter data. The implication of this was that Twitter data could provide a more cost effective alternative. 

All of these research benefits are moot if Twitter is in decline or becoming irrelevant.

Twitter data has its use beyond market research. It is the source of breaking news for the western media. Twitter’s firehouse also goes into making smarter phones. Apple’s Siri sources Twitter content to answer news-related requests.
Siri using Twitter as news
A poor performing Twitter has implications across the tech sector beyond online advertising. There are no obvious substitute solutions for its data waiting in the wings.

Perhaps Twitter’s earning’s call on February 10 will give a hint of improvements at the company. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

More information
Twitter Inc. quarterly results
How Facebook Squashed Twitter – Stratechery by Ben Thompson
Can Twitter turn stagnation into progress, or has it hit the wall? | Technology | The Guardian
Twitter’s Fiscal 2015: Up, Flat, And Down | TechCrunch
Twitter is teetering because it has turned into one big pyramid scheme | Andrew Smith
Twitter Might Ditch The 140-Character Limit: What This Means For Marketers | SocialTimes
Daily Report: The Tough Realities of a Twitter Turnaround –
Next Twitter boss faces complex challenges, says departing Dick Costolo | The Guardian
Twitter data show that a few powerful users can control the conversation – Quartz
Twitter’s Jakarta office is now open. Here are 6 reasons why Costolo is focusing on Indonesia | Techinasia
Inside Twitter’s plan to fix itself
How efficient is Twitter’s Business Model?
Black Widow | Dustin Curtis – interesting analysis of Twitter and a warning about APIs

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