Problem Two: Mess and Noise
One of the biggest, and rising, criticisms of Twitter is that the platform has become a haven for spam and junk, to the point of being useless as a news and information source. Spend any time on Twitter and you’ll see this; people who connect with you just so they can hit you with spam messages via DM; automated bots tweeting out the same, promotional messages over and over again; link-dropping that’s so repetitive it becomes totally meaningless. Check out the stream linked to any trending hashtag and you’ll see dozens of off-message, spam tweets with the associated hashtag tacked on, trying to hijack attention. It’s annoying, for sure, and a side-effect of the platform’s popularity, but can it be stopped or negated somehow?
+Commentary: Above is the only on-point message in a rather long piece about the woes of Twitter and how they can fix it. The thoughts are in-line with a lot of the social media punditry and highlights from a marketers point of view on certain areas of concern. Of course my pet peeve is the amount of spam/junk that accompanies any new follow, any popular hashtag, or any visibility on the platform.
What none of the silicon valley reportage, social media marketers, or even manic-street preachers who call them selves tech evangalists gets right, or discusses is the obvious. While Twitter’s adoption rate has flat-lined, meaning that they aren’t “growing” at a rate that makes Wall Street happy, there is a very simple reason. Sure, as the above article points out they are gaining internationally, they are not capturing the US market in a sizable way.
They always talk about and measure new signups, or MAUs (Monthly Active Users) et al…when doing this, but there doesn’t seem to be a thorough analysis of why it has flat-lined. Like, ever. No they just seem to think that people aren’t taking to the platform, and there aren’t new signups. End of Story. They think there is something, some feature, some enticement that Twitter HQ can offer, or some change they can make that will make the platform more appealing. While ignoring the elephant in the middle of the room.
People have signed up, and if we looked at them from the beginning, and imagined that people have used the service, then found it wanting, then never to come back, we might get a clearer picture of the problem. Harassment, open/public (often vile) trolling, frequently violent attacks upon users out of nowhere that make it a less than optimal tool to use. Even if you have protected tweets, you can find them featured in a magazine/newspaper article against your wishes.
These things create a user experience that comes with a great deal of risk (losing jobs, followers, getting doxxed) that doesn’t seem worth it to a great deal of people. Plus, when you add to this the rise of what I call ‘Generation Screenshot’ ~ anything that becomes wildly popular on Twitter can make its way in an unattributed screencap onto Instagram, Tumblr, or even Facebook getting the thief all the exposure, clicks, and engagement they want without any of the work. It is common to find a tweet, just an hour from when it was tweeted on Tumblr with more notes than the original tweet had in likes/retweets. It happens daily, and since it is an image, the words do not show up in any search for it.
So the users who have abandoned Twitter, will they ever come back? It is very doubtful, and as such Wall Street has every right to believe that their user numbers will not grow in a way that they are used to other comparable social media platforms. For once you’ve been burned on Twitter, it is wholly unlike the sort of experience you might have with the other platforms.
If they are hoping to become or increase their ad revenue then a larger pool of users is necessary. To remain vital and to command the best rates they will need to constantly draw ever larger base to choose from. This is a television/broadcast or even print-media template, and I’m not sure how much that actually applies here. Personally using the app on my phone irritates me constantly as every third swipe up brings me a new ad. That is too much since each swipe probably comprises 3 tweets at most. That ad targeting, or messaging cycle is overkill. The last time it happened too, was during the crisis in Paris that involved bombs & shooting. A particularly bad time to try getting me to entertain a marketing message.
Even the broadcast outlets tamp down their commercials during a crisis, but Twitter hasn’t quite learned how to do that. On the desktop (which is 99% of my usage) there is an ad blocker which filters out all those unwanted messages. So they are rarely seen, and hence never commented on. The recent ‘improvements’ like editorializing with a human staff to create ‘Moments’ is a forward step, but still enough in its infancy to not actually merit any applause.
Once you’ve had a bad experience on Twitter, how likely are you to return? How many people actually lurk without saying so much as Boo? Twitter has always catered to, or been embraced by a small pool of power users, who tweet at rates the general public would/could never, and gather the most engagement, get the most exposure speaks to this inherent flaw. Celebrities will always have the highest followers, get the most retweets/likes, and all they have to do is say anything to get this. Reaching out to, and making this a source of free PR, a platform for them to speak directly to their audience or the world at large is evident.
Yet for the rest of the people, the majority, what is the experience like? It is miserable, by and large, and they know this. They know there is a problem with harassment, yet want there to be ground-breaking conversations about politics/race/equality which only fosters more of the same terroristic tweets. Until they actually fix that problem, all the others will be tangential to their main goal of getting more users.
Getting people to “come back” and try them again seems like a nearly impossible task. There are many UX/UI studies showing this hurdle to be the biggest among applications & their users. It is easy to get them to download & use once, but getting them hooked & using it requires there be a sense of community, a shared purpose, and rewards that outweigh the penalties for usage.
Monitoring activism, small business, and art usage of Twitter as a focus shows me that it can be an invaluable platform for having meaningful conversations. Yet, it would be hard to imagine that there are a bunch of people who still haven’t tried Twitter that will suddenly be coming to it and using it as an active platform. Worldwide, certainly. The mobile angle of the platform will find its adoption continue to grow, but perhaps not at a pace that will keep its investors happy.
The problems seem, when being wholly reductive, down to these major points:
- On-boarding/Adoption: a slow and agonizing curve
- Noise/Spam and other annoyances — almost immediate & never-ending
- Mess: Trolling, Doxxing, threats/violence, and little to no recourse
- Representation: Overprominence of power-users/celebrities/twitter-famous
- Muting/Blocking: Good idea with many holes in actual execution
Tell us below what your concerns are, especially those ignored by the so-called gurus of Twitter adoption.