Twitter has been around for just shy of a decade now. In that time, the company has gone from social newcomer to Facebook rival and household name. Since its conception, the company has amassed more than 320 million monthly active users; unfortunately, that’s part of the bad news that has put Twitter’s future at grave risk.
For the past year, reports have been surfacing which spell trouble for the social network on various fronts: Mediocre product and feature changes, lawsuits, mass staff dismissals, CEO step-downs due to stunted growth of the site, plummeting stock value, and its consistent fall from grace as one of the top social networks worldwide. Social applications Instagram, WhatsApp, and WeChat all now have more users than the little blue bird. And this is just the beginning of Twitter’s turmoil.
It recently was reported that four of Twitter’s top executives are leaving the company. Among those to jump ship are the senior vice-president of product Kevin Weil, senior vice-president of engineering Alex Roetter, vice-president of global media Katie Jacons Stanton and the vice-president of human resources Skip Schipper. In addition to this exodus, Twitter’s Vine general manager, Jason Toff, revealed in a tweet that he will also be parting ways with the floundering micro-blog to join forces with Google’s VR initiative.
With stocks at a near all-time low, executives fleeing the company, and dwarfed user growth (among many other issues), some are calling this Twitter’s last stand. Others would argue this narrative, but the facts remain that the company is in some majorly turbulent times. There is also one obstacle that outweighs all others; irrelevance. And this is something that most cannot argue.
In the viral age, there is far less brand loyalty than years gone by. There are now so many options available to the common consumer, no matter the market, that companies must fight tooth-and-nail to acquire and keep customers. In Twitter’s case, it is clear that people are finding other social outlets to be more favorable as its number of active users remains relatively stagnant. Additionally, the bird’s most compelling and valuable asset is its real-time feed that has come to be known as second-to-none in terms of reporting on current events and gaining a comprehensive snapshot of global conversations. The sheer number of journalists, reporters, bloggers, etc., that have found their homes on Twitter make this site a premier source for obtaining up-to-the-minute news on the latest world and social happenings. But the problem with this is that other social networks have become well-aware of the power and the people’s desire for this type of real-time engagement and many have adjusted their focus to harness this type of potential as well. In fact, Facebook may already be headed down that road with its amplified search function that will likely continue to be built out over time. And as for the younger Millennials and the inhabitants of generation Z, Snapchat has proven to be their digital community of choice.
The truth is, Twitter’s most valued feature can be duplicated by any social network that really focuses on providing a substantial real-time experience, and if Facebook were to be the site to do it, the content shared around these conversations would reach scores more individuals than it could on Twitter.
If this is the beginning of the end for this social powerhouse, how will online businesses be impacted? Let’s take a closer look.
What Happens If Twitter Flies Away?
This is a bit of a mixed bag with its pluses and minus. On the downside, journalists, bloggers, and businesses would lose out on their real-time conversational outlet which leads to massive amounts of retweets, likes, follows, and awareness growth. This is one of the main ways people are discovered on Twitter: Global engagement. If Twitter’s hive mind ceases to be, social growth of certain profile pages would likely not spread at the rate it does now. Also, many of these folks reside solely on Twitter, which means social followings would essentially need to be built from scratch once again.
On the upside, many would move on or back to other social networks, most notably Facebook. While Facebook is aimed to be a more intimate setting for its users and makes marketing products, services, and pushing content more challenging than on most other social media websites, the potential for engagement, growth, and social awareness is bigger than it could ever be on Twitter because Facebook houses more than 1.5 billion monthly active users; one billion of which are daily users. Additionally, with the implementation of Instant Articles, the social site is giving publishers more incentive than ever to build active communities.
But it isn’t just the reach or publishing benefits that make the potential loss of Twitter a bit less mournful; Facebook is more reliable in not allowing abuse and misinformation to spread. Twitter has been notoriously bad at dealing with abuse on its platform over the years, coupled with the fact that not verifying user identity on Twitter is not a bug, but a feature, which allows fake accounts to run rampant leaving massive amounts of hate speech and misinformation in their wake. With Facebook’s Real Name Policy, the company takes a very specific stance on the authenticity of its users and holds them accountable for their actions.
While the dust has far from settled, Twitter has a long uphill battle to fight if it wishes to survive. It’s far more likely to face a buy-out than a total demise, but no matter what happens to the social network, someone will step in to fill the void of real-time information as live streaming video and public demand of on-the-pulse news continued its ascent.
Do you think the end is near for Twitter? Or is this merely a speed bump on the way for the company to reinvent itself into a bigger and better commodity?