Twitter's Death Warmed Over

Twitter has been declared dead more than most of its digital contemporaries, finding itself in the unenviable company of BlackBerry, Yahoo, AOL, MySpace and Ello.

And don’t get me wrong, the challenges for Twitter are manifold. But at the same time, I do believe there is a place for Twitter in the digital tapestry. So why is it that Twitter gets thrown on the “failure” heap to the degree that it is costing people their jobs and shareholders their value?

One of the reasons is that many of its investors have seen Twitter as a Facebook and Google competitor — which comes with equally lofty ideas about user growth and active user base numbers, advertising income and profitability.
Let me be very clear, dear investors: Twitter is not — I repeat, not — a Facebook or Google. So if you would just throw your comparison charts out the corner office window and focus on what Twitter actually IS, we would all be much better off.

Let’s face it, Twitter is a news medium. As I have written before, Facebook is a general-interest magazine, Google is the Yellow Pages, and Twitter is a combination of newspaper and radio station. It delivers news real-time, really fast, often beating the actual news media by quite a bit. But it also has the same kind of fleeting quality, since yesterday’s tweets are truly old news.
Another way of looking at Twitter is to call it the real-time digital workplace water cooler or coffee machine. You used to have to wait for the next day to discuss the issues in the headlines; now it happens immediately, online.



Obviously, the old-world media comparisons are not perfect. But it is a fact that Twitter gets quoted more than any other social media platform by the other news media. Whether it was a space craft landing on an asteroid, the Boston Marathon bombing, Ferguson or Baltimore, Twitter was the place where people shared what was happening. It is where ordinary citizens and reporters go first to report, as well as read what is actually going on. It is the CNN of the new millennium.

And therein lies the challenge. When there isn’t any “real” news, Twitter is (like Facebook) a mishmash of meaningless status updates, shared video’s or photos and other random stuff that might be interesting to some, but is relatively meaningless to most. Just as CNN is struggling to get viewers to watch relatively meaningless content if there isn’t a major breaking story (and CNN’s ratings prove this fact on a daily basis).

And so we turn back to the investors. If Twitter = CNN, then it follows that it serves its audience with a targeted, specific product
and will generate revenues in line with that. This can be a profitable business to be in, but it will most likely not deliver the same kind of revenues as its broadly targeted digital contemporaries.

It is important for Twitter, and its clients, advertisers and investors to understand this fact. Perhaps part of the problem has been that Twitter was not clear itself about what it wanted to be, and tried too much to be like the others. Focus helps, even if it means scaling back unrealistic and misaligned expectations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

3 comments about "Twitter's Death Warmed Over".
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  1. Tim Letscher from Colle+McVoy, June 15, 2015 at 11:52 a.m.

    Any death knells are indeed premature. I'll say this too: Twitter's targeting capability with relevant promoted tweets based on my own feed/follows is far and above more accurate than anything Facebook has EVER shown me in my newsfeed. Facebook is such a catchall; current and past work colleagues, college and high school classmates, everyone. Their marketing product is much the same – broad. 

  2. Judit Nagy from FOX, June 15, 2015 at 3:04 p.m.

    In addition to support Maarten's and Tim's points, there is at least one other important role Twitter has in consumers' daily life. Twitter is a TV water cooler and part of the LIVE TV viewing experience (24/7). In the moment sharing of emotions and engagement with viewer chosen television content is something that no other platform can do and TV viewers would not have it any other way. There would not be Social TV without Twitter, engagement and enjoyment of TV shows let it be good or bad is best done on Twitter.

  3. Greg Alvarez from iMeil, June 15, 2015 at 9:50 p.m.

    (sic) "But it also has the same kind of fleeting quality, since yesterday’s tweets are truly old news."

    Come on! Sometimes I consider "old news" an article published at 10:30 A.M. the same day I read it four or five hours later. Just think the amount of twits generated during that time... hundreds... thousands.

    But hey, sometimes Twitter is better than Google itself, since Google "block you" when you try to search for articles/news in a different language than yours. For example, when I try to search for something in Português, SERPs only show pages generated based on my IP, meaning that I can only access to information generated in México, instead of that from Lisbon or Sâo Paulo.

    The same happens when I try to search for something in Russian... nothing or SERPs topic is very limited.

    Twitter doesn't block you and it allows you to find news/articles in any language you are capble to understand from.

    My 2cents would definitely go for Twitter... too bad investors (companies/brands trying social media) want to find that narcisist feature found on Facebook and Instagram...

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