When it comes to Twitter, there are probably as many ideas for how to fix Twitter as there are users on the platform (302 million and counting). Now that Twitter’s Dick Costolo has stepped down as chief executive, investors are increasingly anxious that Twitter really has lost its way after its high-flying IPO in 2013. Now it’s time for Twitter to reinvent itself.
1: Double down on what Twitter does best
The best solutions for how to fix Twitter have come from the social network’s loyal base of users, many of whom have been around since 2006, back when
. Case in point – a long, spirited defense of Twitter from venture capitalist Chris Sacca, who is one of the biggest fans and investors in Twitter. In a more than 8,500-word blog post in early June, Sacca outlined all the ways that Twitter could tell its own story better and win over investors.
Sacca divided his arguments into three basic categories – usability, participation and engagement – and then outlined the types of specific, concrete steps that might lead to change in each of these categories. To make Twitter more usable, for example, Sacca suggested adding channels or even a “save” button so that users could get exactly the content they want, when they want it. To make it easier for users to engage on Twitter, Sacca suggested creating a new type of “favorite” button or even adding a new “hearts” function to make users feel valuable. And to boost participation on Twitter, Sacca suggested new ways of prompting users on what to write for a 140-character tweet.
2: Pivot Twitter into a hot field that’s taking off now
The advantage of this approach, of course, is that it firmly recognizes that Twitter fundamentally needs to reinvent itself – just tweaking what users see in their Twitter stream or adding more characters to the classic 140-character tweet won’t make a big difference in how users view the social network. Instead, Twitter could re-imagine itself as a gaming platform or a messaging platform – two areas that are taking off right now.
Another big idea is mobile commerce, given Twitter’s large percentage of mobile users. As Mary Meeker pointed out in Slide 21 of KPCB’s May 2015 Internet Trends presentation, new buy buttons could be optimized for Twitter’s mobile platform that would minimize the friction to purchase at the moment of use. The genius of mobile commerce, of course, is that it means immediate revenue. Twitter might lose some users who are turned off by the company’s renewed focus on brands and advertisers, but it would get what Wall Street wants — higher revenue numbers.
3: Transform Twitter into the “live experience” company
What Twitter has always done better than any other social media company is capture the energy and passion that its users have for capturing live experiences. That’s one reason why Twitter has always been beloved by journalists — there’s nothing quite like the buzz and excitement of seeing a story trend live, with other Twitter users adding their commentary in real-time. Perhaps Twitter can survive by owning the “live” experience, wherever it’s happening in the world.
What’s makes this option even more attractive is Twitter’s acquisition and launch of Periscope, the live streaming app that gives users the opportunity to broadcast their activities anywhere they are on the planet. Periscope could become an attractive platform for engaging fans around live experiences — watching a sporting event, a fashion event, or a press conference. That energy and passion could be transferred to just about anything that’s best experienced live — and best of all, it could be done anytime, anywhere.
4: Get even bigger by finally turning Twitter over to the celebrities
Wall Street wants Twitter to get even bigger, and one of the only ways Twitter can realistically do that is if it appeals even more to the casual user. One way is by doing even more to attract and engage celebrities. Fields such as sports, music and entertainment are naturals for Twitter, giving the social network the type of cachet that’s not possible by just being a pure technology platform. The more that Twitter experiments with multimedia, the more that it should just admit that it’s a media company and not a technology company.
With that in mind, here’s one suggestion of a media celebrity that Twitter might think about courting – Snoop Dogg. The day after Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced that he was leaving the company, Snoop Dogg suggested that he was up to the task of running Twitter. While #SnoopforCEO might not be the most realistic option, it does hint at a future for Twitter in which it widens its appeal to a broader class of users by blending the worlds of entertainment, media and technology.
5: Go really niche and forget about those 300 million users
The population of active twitter users (302 million) would make it the fourth largest nation, between Indonesia and US.— Kaushik Basu (@kaushikcbasu) June 14, 2015
Twitter often portrays its 300 million users as one of its biggest assets. But what if they are actually the company’s biggest liability? They force Twitter to appeal to the lowest common denominator, constantly looking for ways to make the user experience easier and more intuitive, all in a losing effort to catch up with Facebook.
Moreover, one could argue, many of Twitter’s 300 million users really aren’t worth having in the first place. They are inactive accounts, seldom used accounts or just plain bots. Or, even worse, they are trolls who ruin the Twitter experience for everyone else. Getting rid of 10, 20, even 30 percent of the company’s users might not be such a bad idea after all if it pushes up engagement and participation. That might enable Twitter to create new types of user experiences for specific niches or verticals.
The fact that there are so many different ideas out there for how to fix Twitter should be seen as a net positive. In less than 10 years, Twitter has built one of the Internet’s most important companies – now it just needs to figure out how it plans to spend the next ten years.