What's happened to Twitter?

Does anybody else think Twitter is having an identity crisis?

Back in 2006, when Twitter was first launched, I loved that the platform was doing something different. Unlike other social media sites, it restricted the number of characters account holders could use to post updates. (Back then, you only had 140 characters to work with, not the 280 of today.) This was a pretty big deal. Every letter had to count. You had to really think about what you were putting out there.

With such little space to work with, creating meaningful engagement was tricky. However, despite these limitations, microblogging took off, and Twitter was a hot bed of activity. This was largely because it made it easy for a global network of users to discuss all kinds of weird and wonderful topics (via hashtags, of course), without having to go through the social etiquette of sending a Friend Request before they could access somebody’s content.

In fact, while Myspace and Facebook were packing feeds full of photos and giving people pretty in-depth snapshots into each other’s lives, Twitter was out there creating much more detached connections between its users. You could follow the accounts that interested you and join the conversation, or you could be a timeline voyeur and watch these discussions happen from afar. It was totally up to you – and whatever you chose was OK!

Fast forward to now…

Zoom past the Noughties and the Tens to 2021, and Twitter has evolved to become a bit of a copycat network, in my opinion. 

I get that there’s strong competition between social media networks, and each platform needs to keep innovating to stay ahead of its rivals. The ever-changing digital landscape is something that keeps me on my toes, for sure – and I love how it keeps the industry fresh! But Twitter seems to have got a little lost in its bid to introduce new features and take back a bigger slice of the market.

Take Fleets, for example. The Fleets feature used to let Twitter users post full-screen photos, videos, reactions to tweets, or plain text that disappears after 24 hours. Remind you of any other apps, by any chance? Snapchat, maybe? Facebook? Instagram?

Thankfully, Twitter realised that this functionality just wasn’t in demand amongst its regular users, and it certainly wasn’t enticing people to migrate across from other networks. Fleets disappeared in early August 2021. Thank goodness.

Twitter is still experimenting, though, in a bid to increase its audience and keep its users engaged for longer. Spaces – Twitter’s Clubhouse-esque audio function – is now available to accounts with more than 600 followers. Plus, the platform has recently tested the water with a paid-for subscription service, Blue, which delivers loads of handy features to users who want to better organise their content. It’s only been rolled out in Australia and Canada so far, but I’m sure it won’t be long until the rest of us can start taking advantage of bookmarking tools, enhanced customisation features, better customer support, and more.

They’re interesting improvements, sure. But they’re not what Twitter is about. To me, Twitter’s simplicity was what made it so addictive and so fun. I’m just not convinced that changing its proposition on what seems to be a yearly basis is going to keep Twitter at the top of its game.

What kinds of businesses thrive on Twitter?

Alright, alright… I’m being a little harsh here. Twitter might not be my cup of tea anymore, but that’s not to say you should write it off within your own social media marketing plan. 

Twitter works brilliantly for companies (and individuals) that:

  • Want to introduce their product, service or personal brand to one of the biggest online audiences in the world – without having to create actual connections to the same extent as on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. It’s the ideal PR platform and it makes light work of reaching out to the communities that will appreciate what you have to offer.
  • Have the time (and energy!) to keep up with Twitter’s incredibly fast pace. Depending on the number of accounts you’re following, you can expect your feed to update as often as every few seconds. While this is great for the bold and curious amongst you, it does mean that the content you’re putting out there is quickly buried. If you want to succeed with Twitter, you need to be prepared to act quickly, post regularly, and not get too put out when the platform is particularly busy! 

It’s not the best fit for you if…

  • You’re worried about getting – and dealing with – customer complaints in such a public forum. Most people will head straight to a company’s Twitter account if they want a fast answer to a problem, or they want to express their anger or frustration at a certain situation. Some business owners are happy to tackle the negativity head-on, but if you’re not one of them, steer clear of placing Twitter at the heart of your social media strategy.
  • You don’t log on often. If you’re only active a couple of times a day (or a couple of times a week!), Twitter will move too quickly for you to make your mark. 

Are you still in love with Twitter, or do you think it’s had its day? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!


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