Twitter: Where have all the users gone?   

Do you have a hard time navigating Twitter? Are you exhausted by having to tweet every day? Are you annoyed at having to sift through fake news? Are you disappointed by Twitter’s lack of innovation? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Compared to other social networks, Twitter has been underperforming regarding its user growth. As seen in the graph below, Twitter’s monthly user growth has stagnated, and from quarter one of 2018 to quarter two, the platform lost one million users (see article here). There are three possible reasons why Twitter has been losing users (1) degradation of trust due to the spam and automated accounts that dominate the platform, (2) frustration with the platform’s usability, and (3) disappointment due to Twitter’s lack of innovation compared with other social media platforms.

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Degradation of Trust

Just this past Wednesday, Twitter released “10 million tweets and more than 2 million images, GIFs, videos and Periscope broadcasts” (see article here). This data is from 3,841 accounts that have links to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), a company that generates spam content on behalf of Russian business and political interests, and from 700 accounts that have links to Iran (see article here). Accounts like these are why individuals are beginning to lose trust in the platform. To combat this problem, Twitter began removing fake accounts in May 2018. In May and June of 2018, the company removed 70 million fake accounts to reduce the flow of misinformation. This effort continued into July as seen by Jack Dorsey’s tweet below. Twitter initiated the “purge” of these fake accounts after announcing that its machine learning tools were able to identify 9.9 million potential spam or automated accounts per week (see article here). In this blog post, Twitter outlines the steps it is taking to eradicate these existing accounts and to prevent new ones from coming into existence.

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Frustration with Platform Usability

Some Twitter users find the platform limiting, challenging to navigate, and exhausting to use. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter places a limit on the number of characters you can use when you post updates. Back in 2017, Twitter increased this limit from 140 to 280 in an attempt to acquire more users (see the announcement below); however, some still find these 280 characters restricting. Another complaint with Twitter is that it is difficult to find the content that interests you due to the mostly chronological nature of the news feed. As a result, many users are left feeling overwhelmed and like they have to put in extra effort to keep up with their friends and family. Even Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, has admitted that the platform can be difficult to use. At the 2018 Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Dorsey, referring to using the platform, stated “It’s a lot of work right now” (see article here). Finally, some users find the expectation that they must tweet every day too demanding, as the New York Times reported that users “are becoming exhausted by the social media platform (see article here).

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Disappointment with Lack of Innovation

Unlike its counterparts, Snap and Facebook, Twitter has been slow to innovate. In 2017, Fast Company ranked Snap the fifth most innovative company and Facebook the sixth. Twitter did not make the list. Unlike Snapchat which seems to be constantly releasing new features and products, Twitter’s product development has had to take a backseat while the company has focused on eliminating spam and automated accounts. In 2013, Snap launched its stories feature on Snapchat, in 2015 it introduced the discover page containing news and other interesting content, and finally in 2016, Snap launched its camera glasses product, Spectacles. On the other hand, Twitter’s only significant innovations since the company’s founding in 2006 have been Moments, a section of the platform that highlights the most talked about topics and live stream video. With the changes that Twitter has made to its news feed, the company has mainly followed Facebook’s lead. Twitter has altered its algorithms so more personalized content is included and has placed advertisements within the feed.

Looking Forward

As of July 2018, Twitter was ranked the fourth most popular mobile social networking app behind Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger (see article here). It will be interesting to see whether Twitter will be able to hold this position, will increase in popularity, or will be overtaken by another social networking app like Snapchat. To increase its popularity, Twitter will have to continue to be vigilant in monitoring its platform, but at the same time, be as innovative as Snap. I wonder whether Twitter will be able to drive for innovation with Jack Dorsey at the helm. He is also CEO of Square, a mobile payment company, which was ranked third on Fast Company’s 2018 most innovative companies list. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for an individual to be a visionary for two companies. Will Jack Dorsey be able to remain as CEO for both Twitter and Square?

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2017/03/09/4-reasons-twitter-will-die-and-5-reasons-it-wont/#7f26b54b39d8

https://thenextweb.com/twitter/2016/09/19/twitter-finally-relaxes-140-character-limit-catch/

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/18/twitter-problems-jack-dorsey-silicon-valley-technology

https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/05/05/copying-facebook-helped-twitters-user-growth.aspx

https://www.businessinsider.com/twitter-is-slowly-delivering-ads-to-other-publishers-sites-which-hints-at-the-companys-broader-ambition-to-challenge-facebook-and-google-in-programmatic-advertising-2018-9

https://www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2017https://www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2018

https://www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2018

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Twitter: Where have all the users gone?   

  1. Interesting read Amy. I found it really shocking that in just one quarter, Twitter’s users dropped by a million. Personally, I never really noticed Twitter’s lack of innovation until I read this post, but now that I think about it, it really is true. When I first got a twitter in middle school, I remember it having (for the most part) the same exact features it has now. I know Twitter has stepped up its privacy controls, but it is really interesting to see how this lack of flexibility and innovativeness has caused the company to suffer.

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  2. It never occurred to me before reading your post but it is very true that compared to the constant and often frustrating feature changes of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, twitter has remained relatively the same for quite a long time. I would think that for some older users that would keep it easier and more friendly, but it could seem boring after a while. I deleted my twitter long ago (before creating another for this class) as I found no practical use out of it and it served a very niche purpose that I didn’t need. Nice post and presentation!

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