Hey, Twitter: Stop Trying To Be Facebook!

A long time ago, I was a marketing and advertising student in my native Amsterdam. It was the mid -‘80s (yeah, I know: I am dating myself!) and one of the things we learned was the importance of having a unique selling proposition, or USP, for your brand. Just around that time Al Ries and Jack Trout came along with their “brand positioning” concept. The two ideas are actually not in conflict with each other, and laid the groundwork for the current evolution of “brand personas” and other tools to further define a brand.

Regardless of what you call it, everyone knows the importance of ensuring that a brand stands for “something.” This “something” can literally be derived from the benefit or utility the brand delivers: think of how American Airlines versus (for instance) British Airways or Emirates Airlines all conjure up completely different brand promises. Other brands “train” consumers on their personas. If you do this consistently and cleverly, everyone will at some point know what you stand for, if you’re, for instance, Coca-Cola, Nike or Starbucks.



The stronger this USP/positioning/persona is, the better it is, as consumers spend very little time making conscious decisions on most purchases or interactions. And even if they did go through a thorough purchase orientation process, the purchase decision is very often driven by far more irrational considerations and justified rationally afterwards (that Porsche in your driveway was bought for its resale value, right?).

So with all this in mind, I am confused about Twitter’s approach to try and be Facebook. Twitter’s latest effort is the integration of photography in its timeline, as the company just announced in an email. It really offers almost verbatim Facebook’s photo-integration, and very cleverly brings together photo-sharing options like filters and tagging (like Facebook/Instagram), private sharing (like SnapChat) and even framing of multiple photos in one post (like those from InstaCollage, Frametastic and others are offering).

This comes on the back of Twitter’s overhaul of its timeline, which now looks remarkably like Facebook’s as well. So I ask you, Twitter: Why? I know your share price got hammered last week because, in the eyes of the street, you didn’t deliver enough growth in users and usage (even though your ad revenues grew and Twitter ad agency SocialBro shared data that advertisers have upped their Twitter ad budgets this year by as much as 50%).

But you started life as Twitter, not as Facebook. Your purpose and role in life was that of a newspaper. The average tweet, like a newspaper article, has a lifetime of less than 24 hours. The minute something is tweeted, it is old news. Do you find yourself going back to yesterday’s tweets very often? I don’t.

And if Twitter is a newspaper, then Facebook is a general interest magazine: a little news, a little gossip, some entertainment and recipes and generally more pictures. Its content has, at least in my mind, a slightly longer shelf life.

But now Twitter is trying to be Facebook. Will that suddenly spur the growth it’s accused of not being able to deliver? Will it pull advertisers over the line who, until now, have been sitting on the fence? Why is it even important to grow the user base to the same number as Facebook’s?

I think Twitter could and should be successful by being Twitter, not something else. This does not mean it shouldn’t innovate, but in my book, innovation does not involve copy/paste.

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