I’m writing to you as one of your biggest fans, who truly cares about you, your platform and your future. You see, we are deeply connected and my integrated digital marketing success depends on your success, so I wanted to tell you some things that frankly, you need to hear.
I realize that you are a business now, not just some fun idea that raised a ton of money and made you famous. I think it’s awesome that you are growing up, albeit by force, and I believe it is time. So here are some things I want to talk to you about.
Ask And Listen:
One of the incredible things about growing up is that most of us begin to listen to people who might actually know something about life, rather than forging ahead on crazy things we think we already know everything about. Maturity is displayed in wisdom and often it’s not our own wisdom, but wisdom that comes from those that care about us the most, people who are intimately familiar with our strengths and weaknesses. We should seek people who understand us better than we know ourselves and will selflessly tell us things we really need to hear. I am going to do that for you today and it is my sincere hope that you have matured enough to not only hear, but listen…
I would really like to see you reaching out to some of your heavy users and advocates that are NOT celebrities or huge corporations, in order to get some boots on the ground insight into your own platform. There are a lot of people like myself who are heavily invested in your platform on a daily basis and have a lot to say about how to make the platform more effective for you as a business and for those that use it. If you stop listening to social media celebrities, big brands and some of your board members and get input from those of us that have a realistic perspective, the insights you will gain will help transform you into a more effective social platform and more importantly a profitable business.
Develop Things We Need/Want:
If I have not offended you so far my dearest Twitter and you are still reading, it may continue to get more difficult for you from here. However, if you are opening up to the idea I outlined in my previous section above, this next section is something you can consider tough love.
We have watched you and your legions of coders continue to develop new features and capabilities, all the while we scratch our heads and wonder if you really understand the vast majority of your users and how we use your platform. The latest leak that seems to point to your potential removing of the 140 character Tweet limit has galvanized my belief that you really don’t. You have always been unique, short and provided brevity where other platforms drone on, yet you think it would be great to change this?
There are so many other things your platform badly needs developed or improved, yet you seem to be grasping at straws in hopes that some quick-fix magic change will solve your problems. I can assure you, it will not.
We all know you have millions of users and receive high praise and mentions on the news and with every Hollywood celebrity, but without critical mass, you will not be able to compete with Facebook, Instagram or even LinkedIn for revenue. Without critical mass, brands and marketers will not be able to easily get results, did you know this?
If you understood social networking, you would realize that simplicity is what the masses need. If new users are going to add Twitter to their daily online activity, at rates you need them to, you’re going to have to make it easier for them to on-board and use your platform, seamlessly becoming part of their routine.
I could go on about the numerous changes and developments that should have your attention, but without a commitment on your part to actually listen to the things you must do to compete and build upon revenue, I guess we are at a stand-still in our relationship.
Make Tough Decisions
I saw that you have taken the bold step to fire hundreds of your staff members, in what can only be described as a cost cutting attempt to improve your financials. Business requires tough decisions sometimes and I get that, however I believe you may have fired the wrong team members. Getting rid of staff that are executing failed strategies, rather than the leadership that gave them the failed strategies to execute is a part of your misguided problem.
Now I realize that cost cutting in difficult times is important and should be conducted as a part of prudent business management, but there are several other tough decisions that you probably need to make. Here are just three of many I could discuss with you…
To Algorithm Or Not To Algorithm – It may be time to consider some kind of newsfeed algorithm, similar to all other successful social networks. As a heavy user, this is NOT something I want to see, but I promised I would be selfless, so maybe it is time. This is a tough decision that needs serious consideration based on data. We all know you are not short on that. I think you need to use your data to figure out a clever way to make your newsfeed more strategic, rather than simply linear.
Acquisitions – Stop all acquisitions of new companies. It is very clear that most of the technology and/or companies you have purchased did not add value to your platform, its users, or your bottom line revenue. Furthermore, it seems every decision you make on the acquisition front is followed by a competitor in the direct competing space out executing you. Stop throwing money away and start innovating yourself.
Segmentation – Every other successful social network has two specific things that you are lacking. 1) segmentation of individual and business. 2) very specific location functions. These are two badly needed components that you need to flesh out and implement within your system that will begin to make you ad platform more appealing. Beyond the user and business advantages, this is where your revenue will be coming from in the future. The longer you wait to improve these segmentation components, the longer you will continue to struggle.
In closing, I want to reiterate my love and affection for you Twitter. I am not looking to break up with you, I am simply attempting to conduct an intervention with a platform I care about. Your addiction to cowboy leadership, mistakes and clear lack of understanding of key users needed some tough love and I hope you take a moment to stop, listen and consider changing the direction of your company before it is too late.
P.S. If we are still friends at this point, I would love to take this discussion offline and talk further. Myself and many others I know and respect in this industry could be incredible allies who can help you make your future much brighter. I think you probably know how to reach me.
Bravo and well outlined here, Robert. Thank you for speaking up and putting things so succinctly! I really hope that Twitter reaches out for more of your wisdom, borne of experience and maturity on your part.
You have always been a common-sense voice in building business strategy that is based in reality.
Fingers crossed, Twitter looks up and asks for more insights from you – and REALLY LISTENS!
Thank you so much Lynn. I appreciate your enthusiastic support. We shall see if we hear from our beloved Twitter :-)
With a million articles about pre-launch, post launch, what to hack, what not to hack, etc., it’s curious that there is so little available surrounding how to keep your maturing start-up from going off the rails, yet most do. Groupon did, Facebook has more than once and Twitter is pulling a Starbucks/Apple by bringing back the founder who probably barely recognizes what his baby has grown into. Thanks, Robert for saying what needs to be said. It’s probably not just required reading for Twitter, but for all rapidly maturing startups who end up with too many cooks in the kitchen who never spend any time with their actual customers.
hahaha well said Scott. I thin Twitter is unique in these examples in that it is fairly simplistic from a technology perspective and still has huge room in the market. Additionally, they don’t even have to reinvent the wheel as the general industry has clearly shown how to make their user base and social ads profitable. What they do need to do is listen to the right users and really understand their platform from that perspective and then model what Facebook and LinkedIn have done successfully and put their unique twist to it. I have faith that they will come around. #CrossingFingers
Thanks for jumping in Scott.
Interesting commentary about Twitter. I wonder what you think about Twitter’s new Moments feature Robert.
I would rather see Twitter make some more improvements to their direct messaging feature. I think it has the potential to be much more useful. Interesting that LinkedIn messaging has now changed to look more like Twitter and Facebook’s messaging window. The world keeps evolving.
Thank you Rick.
I think moments is lack luster and barely useful for marketing or anyone but power users. The problem is that they are simply perpetuating popular content which the platform already has done for years. What it SHOULD be doing is helping users discover new, exciting things outside of popularity and within their own personalized experiences. THAT has unique value and is not reflected in moments.
I like and agree with pretty much everything you’ve written, Robert. I especially like your point about the need for Twitter to listen to its biggest users and not only big businesses (though often these are one abc the same). I also think its search features could be strengthened. Dorsey’s return is a step in the right direction – ala Jobs’ return to Apple – but we’ll see if Twitter follows through in its path to maturity.
Thank you Kent. I agree there are many things that need attention in the platform, but it needs to be based on facts and suggestions from the right users. More fluff features and confusing development will make matters even worse.
Thanks for speaking up Robert!
As you know, I love Twitter too, so heartily agree.
It begs the question: Why have they not paid attention before?
They must become both relevant, and dominant, on mobile, so it’s time to grab the high ground and embrace voice too, there’s plenty of competition, but the extra effort would, I believe, be worthwhile.
Yes, remain 140 at the front; relaxation to 10k in DM still has to be proven as a “good” move.
Look forward to following this story!
Thanks for the support Howard.
I’ve kind of lost the loving feeling for Twitter. It used to be my favorite platform. I can be wooed back, but they’re going to have to woo!
Further, they need to start working with tools that are tangible to them. Showing them how best to work with them. There are a good handful of “tools” attracting the unknowing and ruining my Twitter experience. Other companies take this approach to train the partners, and it works well.
Right now, my heart pounds most passionately for Instagram. But I want it to flutter for Twitter….
I totally understand what you are saying Keri. Twitter and Jack would be wise to start listening and doing outreach with users that could help them.
My sentiments exactly about making the platform comprehensible to new users. It’s hard to decide that a platform is useful before I know what to do with it.
I almost feel like writing you a letter, @fondalo, to tell you how much I love you for writing this letter.
Let’s see if the little blue bird listens :)
So far they have not listened Marciano. We can hope though.
Thanks for the support!
The unfortunate thing is that I think Twitter is in the process of dying.
I have been an avid user of Twitter for for as long as I can remember, easily since 2011, what I am seeing at the moment as a personal user is advertisements that are far too frequent and far too intrusive, there is censorship and it really is not a fun place to be anymore.
I fear that over the next 12/18 months Twitter will go the way of MySpace et al.
What can be done, well perhaps I am unusual, but, I would gladly pay a nominal fee for an AD free experience and it needs to go back to its roots and do what it does best, – fast dissemination of news and information.
As a platform it cannot be everything to everyone and needs to find its true purpose in life.
I agree Anthony. With a leadership team unwilling to listen to it’s most avid and effective users, there is no hope for them. So many mistakes that are catching up with them.