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Viewpoint: The End of Twitter?

by Randall Craig on March 25, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Risk, Social Media, Viewpoint

Tagged as: , , , ,

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Twitter is in its death throes. It won’t be around in just a few short years. And when this happens, there will be no shortage of pundits who: “saw it all coming”, or perhaps “Twitter is dead – long live Twitter!”

It wouldn’t be the first Social Media death. Consider those who have come (and gone) before: hellotxt, retaggr, timely, booktour, Google wave/reader/orkut/iGoogle, LinkedIn Polls/Answers, and many, many more.

Here’s the argument:

1) Encroachment by messaging apps: Twitter’s functionality is being nibbled away by a number of more compelling competitors. Twitter is not the only game in town anymore.  Direct messaging apps, for example, make it really easy to have point-to-point (or group) conversations. Every message on iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and others means one less Tweet on Twitter.

2) Encroachment by social apps:  Many Social Media apps have effectively duplicated the status and microblogging functionality that previously was only available on Twitter. LinkedIn and Facebook are most notable; Facebook has even incorporated hashtags and trending topics.  Every status update on Facebook and LinkedIn is one less Tweet on Twitter.

3) Learning curve limits growth: None of these competitors are hampered by Twitter’s arbitrary 140 character limit, nor are they required to learn the arcana of hashtags, DM’s, Retweets, and more.

4) Commercial viability: As a public company, Twitter’s finances and stock price have plummeted from a high of $69, to below $20.  But beyond Wall Street’s valuation, are there other commercial factors that suggest Twitter is teetering?  Here are a few: where are the advertisers, and where is the growth in users? And is the staff complement growing or shrinking? On all of these dimensions, Twitter appears on shaky ground. It was late to the advertising game, and will never catch up to Google and Facebook. The number of monthly average users is no longer growing, and depending on the measure, may actually be shrinking. And there has been significant disruption in the management ranks. And before that, layoffs.

While a counter argument may be made in Twitter’s defence (existing momentum, huge behavioral database, direct connection to media) does Twitter’s condition merit a change of strategy for those who use it? Our recommendations:

  • Seek to capture the Twitter relationships within a CRM, Marketing automation, or email system. While this should be standard practice already, it is also an important defensive move.
  • Broaden the user engagement across different social platforms. If Twitter isn’t the only game in town anymore, then it shouldn’t be your exclusive playing field either.
  • Tighten the purpose of using Twitter. For example, rather than using it as a general purpose social platform, use it exclusively for customer service, media outreach, and risk discovery.

Twitter has successfully extended the “texting” metaphor to the web, and whether it lives or dies as a business, no one can argue its influence.  But again, no one can argue the influence of MySpace either, and look where that platform ended up.

This week’s action plan: Twitter’s instability is just one example of the fluidity (and fragility) of the social space. This week, consider the “impossible”: how would your marketing and engagement plans change if any of your key social platforms shut down?

Marketing Insight: The core issue is not about Twitter or any other specific platform: it is all about two things: ensuring that you have a mechanism to discover the platforms where your target users are spending their time, and then using social as an on-ramp for driving their commitment.  In other words, fish where the fish are.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

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Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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