Can a ship be sinking if it still successfully makes its trip from A to B while providing enjoyment to millions of daily passengers?
If you ask the shareholders behind the S.S. Twitter, then the answer is yes. If you ask the passengers, you will likely hear a laundry list of complaints and desired improvements, but with an implicit guarantee that they will be on board for the next 30 or so daily trips.
So, the ship may not be plunging towards the ocean floor prow first, but the waterline creeps ever higher. This sinking feeling accompanies investors who wish the ship would get bigger and passengers wishing it would get nicer. Yet, the S.S. Twitter sails on, even after soliciting open bids to pass it onto to someone else’s hands. Recent news that the company offloaded nearly a tenth of its workforce despite a modest bump in revenues exemplifies this trend of frustrating sideways growth.
In the end, loyal Twitter users may love the platform for what it is, but loyalty is cheap compared to the need to get more people on board.
A Rudderless Vessel
We recently wrote how Facebook has tacked on a host of new features for businesses and local sales listings. None of these additions improve the core offering of Facebook, but that was not the intention of the upgrades.
The actual goal is to create new offerings that sound like things users will get excited about. As these features roll out, stock shares rise incrementally, especially if adoption grows. The more of these doodads and bells and whistles Facebook adds on, the more they can claim to be a one-stop portal eating up even more of our time and attention.
Stage 3: Profit.
Twitter has attempted the same “bloat & benefit” strategy by giving people an excuse to sit on the service even when they have nothing to Tweet about. Twitter’s streaming deals with the NFL, Bloomberg and more all attempt to bring more people onto the service and encourage them to use it more often.
Initial streaming reports have been positive, with over 3 million users watching Thursday Night Football and a record number of daily active user interest for the third presidential debate. But these improvements offer little in the way of increased cash. Advertisers lack the exposure they need to incentivize them increasing their Twitter ad budgets, and in the meantime other advertisers flock to Instagram’s platform while user their growth remains strong.
So, in sum, the Twitter ship doesn’t appear to be going anywhere new or exciting even if the onboard entertainment improves. At the same time, Twitter’s reluctance to change in meaningful ways runs the risk of upsetting its most fervently loyal users. They offer perhaps no better example than their decision to scuttle Vine rather than pass it along, a decision we will cover in Part II of this topic on Thursday.
The result of Twitter’s mismanagement is an unfocused mess hurt by its own initial good fortunes and threatening to beach itself on the nearest rocks if the storm gets bad enough. But even if the ship did wreck, millions of people would still climb aboard that morning to talk about how wet their ankles are getting.
How Brands Should Feel About Twitter
Twitter remains a strong platform with immense reach potential for targeted advertising, but one that has not seen any major uptick in growth for years. Brands without a Twitter advertising component to their social media strategy should strongly consider the platform for both up-to-the-minute organic PR and paid display since both can potentially up their exposures by thousands if not millions of people.
However, like the Twitter userbase itself, SMEs should keep their ad spending on the platform mostly flat unless they see a particular reason to create a temporary campaign with a bigger budget.
EverSpark Interactive keeps a steady eye on the cruise itinerary for Twitter, including any major changes or departures. We can help small and medium brands manage their social media presence while optimizing their budget given the platform’s current charted course.