Can @Jack make Twitter more engaging or is it #RIPTwitter?
While the reports of Twitter’s death have been greatly exaggerated; this February, Twitter is getting no love.
CEO, Jack Dorsey, is being pressured by stock traders to grow monthly active users and keep them engaged longer.
IMHO, Twitter’s recent Shareholder Letter was promising:
- $710 million in Q4, up 48% YoY
- $2.2 billion in 2015, up 58%
- advertisers up 90%
- revenue from advertising, data licensing, U.S., international all up!
Twitter also added:
- native video
- launched Periscope live streaming video
- expanded direct messaging
- Google, Doubleclick ad bidding integration
- self-service for advertising
- Moments for keeping up with trending stories as they happen
This is all goodness; but I’m a glass half full, product guy; Wall Street, not so much. What has the bankers/gamblers spooked? two metrics:
Monthly Active Users, MAUs, in Q4: 320 million, up just 9%
User engagement, measured as percent daily logins: 38%
This is not a financial blog; short term stock price is not of concern to me, but it does present an interesting product design problem. So let’s dig in!
How can Twitter increase users and keep them coming back, more often?
Address users’ biggest complaints, I mean, not rocket science. Home is where the heart is; let’s focus on how they can fix these issues with updates to Twitter Home Page.
Complaint #1, “Twitter is too confusing.”
To the uninitiated, Twitter can be drinking from a firehose: too much information, all at once overwhelming, quickly streaming past.
Give users more control of their feed, make it easier to find information.
The Home Feed should be more like Twitter Search, clean and well organized; it gives users control to find information, make refinements, even save searches. Breaking Twitter users into Hunters and Gatherers, the Hunters have Twitter Search, the Gatherers have been neglected. Updating the Home Feed algorithm to copy Facebook’s little known “Top Stories” or “Most Recent” News Feed options is a good start, but should be further developed; give users more control of their feed.
As a Gatherer I want different ways to filter my feed, shape it based on my interests at any moment. This would give Twitter a “remote control” so I could change “channels.” So in addition to “Most Recent” feed I should be able to shape my Home Feed by:
- Most Popular - similar to Facebook’s “Top Stories” this re-orders my feed based on popularity algorithm within my personal Twittersphere
- Most Relevant - of the Tweets in my feed, based on my interests, tweets I like, topics I tweet about, #hashtags I mention, places where I tweet...
- Photos - most recent and most popular images from all of Twitter, not just my feed; make it beautiful!
- News - display most recent news related tweets; this could rival Google News. The Hunters already have this in Twitter Search, let’s give it to the Gatherers as well.
- Near Me - nearby tweets; to see what’s happening around me
- Top Tweeters - show me the tweets from the most popular Twitter star accounts
Complaint #2, “I can’t express myself with 140 characters.”
I’m a purest, I like the 140 character limit, but if going bigger will expand the audience and increase user engagement then, let’s do this! But please, show some decorum, keep it civilized. If this turns my feed into a messy list of diatribes? I’m out!
Keep the visible portion of tweets 140 characters, with an option to expand for more. If 10,000 characters is the magic number, also used for Twitter Direct Messages, then let the 140 character tweet be the head with an option to extend to 10,000 as the tail. Ten thousand character tweets, #10Ktweets, will give more room for expression; could result in deeper engagement; but may even be an affront to Twitter founder, Ev Williams, and his startup, Medium, a site for longer form posts; more Twitter drama?!
Complaint #3, “I have no voice on Twitter.”
Sure, Twitter has been a lightening rod for enacting large scale social change, see The Arab Spring, but it falls short for regular people trying to be heard over the “din” of tweets. So if I want to ask Donald Trump:
“@realDonaldTrump EXACTLY how do you plan to make Mexico pay for your wall?”
If my question gains popularity it should make it’s way to his excellence, The Don. Likes, sorry, ‘“loves” should be used to promote tweets (especially questions) to the @mentioned people, companies, organizations. So if my tweet to @realDonaldTrump was well loved, voted up, it would eventually bubble up in his Twitter Feed. This feature brings with it the promise that anyone could challenge public figures, raise awareness, exact change through use of crowd wisdom to democratize the public Twitter Feed.
Sure, there are other issues to address like safety and privacy, but they’re less linked to user growth and engagement; this is a focused, quick-hit blog, so maybe some other time. And, yes, there are other ways to grow users and keep them engaged, like live streaming video; but we’ve already covered that, twice, check back, we may cover these again soon.
With some well crafted product enhancements to the Home page, Twitter could be more engaging, less confusing, and more interactive. With a solid Q4 finishing out a good year, Jack and the team should be able to grow users and keep them engaged; and start the #RIPTwitter hashtag trending downward.
24 FEB 2016
Twitter agrees with me that it's time to redesign Twitter Home. They have a job posting; are you up for it? Or they could just use this blog and be done with it. ; )