A More Elegant Question About Twitter

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What should Twitter do?

Do you have an opinion? Do you know what they have done in the past year? It has been a year of change for the platform that allows people to share 140 characters with one another. Still, after their quarterly earnings call this week, we see a very different Twitter than one we have known to date. In June, it will be one year since CEO Dick Costolo left (and was replaced by co-founder, Jack Dorsey). The online social network is still not profitable, and even though it got five million more users this quarter (they are at around 310 million total), it’s still considered relatively flat by industry standards. It also looks like Facebook is eating anything and everything in comparison (have you seen Facebook’s results this week?). With that, Twitter has tried… and is trying. They have done everything from a television ad campaign and the launching of Moments to improving their tools around harassment and abuse. With that, they have opened up the algorithm to sort tweets by user quality over recency, allowed for longer direct messages beyond the 140 character limit and integrated their live, streaming platform – Periscopeinto their general timeline.

Is all of that enough?

Video. This is the “be all” and “end all.” Whether it’s Twitter’s announcement of NFL streaming or the need to push the growth of their Periscope acquisition, every pundit feels that the future of Twitter is video. Video is hot right now. Live streaming video is even hotter. So, everyone wants to know if Twitter has what it takes to evolve, to improve their product and grow (like Facebook is doing). I’m left wondering if this is possible… is this a fair request? It’s easy (for everyone) to say that video is the here, now and future of online, but Twitter built a legacy on being the first mobile-first social network. It really was the first social media platform that was better, more interesting and easier to use on your mobile device than the desktop. In a world where Facebook and YouTube were offering a “lesser than” product on mobile, Twitter gained traction and audience because of how intuitive and glorious it was (and still is) on the smartphone. Consumers never felt like they were missing anything on the mobile version. The other aspect of Twitter’s hyper-growth was the simplicity in content creation: 140 characters. Much easier than blogging and much easier (at the time of their initial growth) than posting a photo (let alone video). So, where does this net out? Twitter was about mobile and simple text. Now, everyone’s shouting that Twitter needs to be about video.

Shoot that video. Make that post.

Have you seen what is going on over at Snapchat? Snapchatters (this is what all of the cool kids call them 😉 are watching close to ten billion videos every day. The growth is staggering, and this is what the pundits are comparing Twitter to (be like them!). If Snapchat can grow like this, why can’t Twitter? Twitter is newish to video (everyone is new to video). Twitter’s users are blurting in text message format. They’re (occasionally) posting pictures (granted, it seems like Instagram and Facebook own that whole mobile, social photo sharing space with Snapchat). Are we asking too much of Twitter? Jack Dorsey believes that Twitter is all about “live.” He believes that Twitter is a leader in live and video. Is this where consumers go to post video and share videos and create live streaming videos? As a brand, that means something. Still, instead of trying to figure out what Twitter needs to do next, we need to ask another question…

A more elegant question about Twitter: can we expect a platform that mastered the art of 140 characters of text to also master the realm of live and streaming video?