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The shady future of Twitter

In a lot of countries Twitter has become mainstream and is mature.  But we see a lot of fanboys dropping out.  Twitter is being abandoned by the traditional supporters.  Does Twitter have a future as a social channel?  And what direction should they take to survive?

The past

In the beginning Twitter was a platform that was mainly used as an information sharing tool.  The early adopters shared links to interesting or important articles and kept their peers up-to-date.  The idea was that you would all benefit from this joint effort to share information.

And for a few years Twitter was very successful at this.  I was one of the early adopters and learned a huge deal through Twitter.  When in doubt I asked my followers who mainly had a similar profile as mine.  We were a tight community that organised events to meet in person (Twunches, Twitter Parties, JongTuig, …).

But these events became less and less frequent and the idea of being one community faded away with the fact that more and more early adopters “leaving Twitter”.

 

Today

Today a lot of early adopters that were once very active on Twitter either left, are very dormant or communicate in a different way.  While Twitter gained importance and became more widespread and mature, it attracted different groups of people.

1. Brands became aware of the platform and started to use it as a new marketing platform.  Though not very successful a lot of brands saw a new opportunity to reach the younger audience through Twitter.  They started sharing offers and promotions, toptopicals and branded images.  And Twitter also embraced this, offering marketing deals with promoted tweets and Twitter ads.

2. Not really related to age, but rather to mindset a new group also familiarised itself with Twitter.  Let’s call them the “LookAtMe’s”, they already existed on Facebook (and before that on MySpace), but these are the kind of people that want to glorify or show themselves at every moment.  They tend to post every thing they do throughout their day.  Some other platforms like Foursquare helped them with this, while they allowed this group of LookAtMe’s to share their life story.

3. Celebrities were the third group to come on Twitter, gaining a giant outreach at a very short period of time.  But soon they turned out to be LookAtMe’s in a lot of cases.

These three groups made that the value of a tweet became way less important than in the old days.  And it scared away the early adopters (or even worse, turned them into LookAtMe’s).

 

The future

At this moment me and a lot of my friends are only using Twitter to kill time and chitchat with who’s not yet left of the old community or to complain about a product or a service.

And this is a strong and undeniable signal to brands being on Twitter.  Twitter has never been a marketing channel.  And the only way it will survive is by offering valuable information to clients.  So the sole future for a brand is to use Twitter as a customer service channel.  This turns Twitter into a mainly reactive or live communication channel with pro-active added value information, which it was in the beginning.

Turning complaints into an offer for help, gaining credibility with your audience.  This way the old early adopters might be lured back to Twitter, and they are the best influencers imaginable.  They are very sensitive to good customer care and impeccable service.

Does that mean that a brand cannot offer marketing deals on Twitter?  It does indeed mean that unless you have a very clever idea that is tightly linked to your influencers and to the interactivity of your community, marketing/sales is a no-go on Twitter.

Kristof Drossaert

Digital Strategist