Twitter has a huge self-esteem problem.
Project Lightning is an ongoing rollout of updates to make the website a true platform for content curation, as originally intended. Moments and the recently swapped out “favorite” for a “like” button were some of the newest features to debut in a slew of updates as Twitter made a mad dash to resurrect its platform and grow its user base. But is Twitter’s cycle of reinvention going to be what ultimately saves it or wrecks it?
In addition to Moments, Twitter launched Periscope in March as a separate platform for live video feeds, added a retweet with comment option to allow more engagement, introduced the While You’re Away feature, and began discussing plans to remove the iconic 140-character limit from tweets. The 140-character limit hails back from when Twitter started as an SMS-based service, but serves no practical purpose these days and has been the source of much dissent, causing many new users to drop off from using the service.
Regarding the character limit in particular, there’s no guarantee that any of these revisions to Twitter’s platform and interface will actually affect whether new users are attracted to the product.
Twitter, at its absolute best, is about the curation of content, but there had been no clear way to tame and track the chaos in a streamlined format for easy digestion. The Moments tab went live in the Twitter toolbar on October 6. For many, it replaces in purpose what the defunct Discover tab failed to be.
According to Madhu Muthukamar, Moments product manger at Twitter,
“Every day, people share hundreds of millions of Tweets. Among them are things you can’t experience anywhere but on Twitter: conversations between world leaders and celebrities, citizens reporting events as they happen, cultural memes, live commentary on the night’s big game, and many more. We know finding these only-on-Twitter moments can be a challenge, especially if you haven’t followed certain accounts. But it doesn’t have to be.”
Moments takes the biggest stories on Twitter and a newly established team of editors from within Twitter that collect the tweets, videos, and images that best tell that story as it happens. The Moments tab categorizes these into tabs for easier digestion; Today, News, Sports, Entertainment, and Fun. Each Moment contains a brief synopsis of the trending news item, as well as the date and time it became relevant, and a subtopic like Trending, Movies, or Politics. You can even choose to Follow some Moments, populating your timeline with relevant content as the event continues to unfold.
For instance, last month on the afternoon of Oct. 21, Ferrari’s IPO success at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) that morning became a trending story, and its Moment features tweets from the official Ferrari Twitter account, Money Morning (an online investment publication), and firsthand reporting from inside the NYSE. Hillary Clinton’s congressional hearing was a live Moment on Twitter with the option for follow updates over the course of the 11 hours in which it unfolded. Other Moments of the day included live tweets during the airing of an episode of the popular FX show American Horror Story: Hotel, the #BoycottStarWarsVII hashtag controversy, and those celebrating Back to the Future Day in honor of the 1989 sequel film.
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The last update for Project Lightning, the new hearts button to indicate Likes, went live on November 3rd, after much testing and the success of hearts on Twitter’s Periscope app. It would seem that the platform has stabilized for now, although the outcome of the website is still yet to be determined, pending the results of growth after the fourth quarter of 2015.
The biggest problem that Twitter faces is that new users don’t understand it. Twitter was launched in 2006 and for many; the user experience is still intangible. CFO Anthony Noto has cited this as the reason for their low active monthly user count in the past. And he’s right.
Here’s the deal. If you still think Twitter is a social network, then you are one of the people missing the point. Twitter is not supposed to be like Facebook and it’s easy to see where the confusion comes from since they tend to get lumped together. Twitter is a social medium and its purpose is to connect you to the content that you care about; like breaking news, social trends, and the airing of your favorite HBO show or sporting event live on TV. Let me say it again… it’s about content curation.
Twitter empowers you to find content that is relevant to you and the Project Lightning Updates will help you to filter out everything that isn’t. It means you are sharing and putting out content that is brief, snappy, and relevant to the users who make the choice to follow you. The 140-character limit forces you to be succinct and boils your content down to just the necessities, locking in to the fact that the average attention span is only 8 seconds. If you can snag your audience’s attention with a quick tweet, the reward is a click-through to your website whether that is a blog article or a sales pitch.
So, as a business, why should you tweet?
Your business probably has a blog, right? Or, produces other content that you might want to share with the rest of the Internet? Twitter is an incredibly easy way to distribute that content, sending people to your website and providing a boost to your SEO. Your content is only going to come up in the timelines of people who care about you.
How do you inform your marketing decisions? How do you currently stay aware of developments in digital and traditional advertising? On the online presence of your competition? On stories, articles, and news items that your audience might be interested in hearing? Content curation allows you to find and publish, rather than having to create all original content for every single post, saving time and money while connecting you to your followers.
You want to stay abreast of the latest trends in the world and in your specific industry and Twitter is one of the only ways to do that in real time. Its brevity and immediacy is unmatched. And, if you stay ahead of trends and breaking news, you can piggyback on that to push your original content.
Until Twitter reaches the mass market and grows its active user base, using the Promoted tweets, Twitter’s paid advertising service, is not going to be an overly fruitful endeavor. Some businesses make it work, but until then, the users who follow you on Twitter are going to be your biggest advocates. They are choosing to follow your business because you are saying things that they find interesting and want to hear more about.
Do not use Twitter to enlighten the world about your breakfast. Do not use Twitter to connect with friends. Twitter is what is happening and it’s up to you to find out (and tell your brand story).
We believe in you, Twitter.
Sources: Twitter, NY Times, Financial Times, Wired, Recode