Five-point plan to save Twitter

So, Twitter could really do with some good news right now. There has been a series of high-profile departures recently, and their share price has been on a downward trajectory for some time…

Twitter share price

It seems nobody has much faith in a network I regard as being the most free and expressive. The problem they’ve had is that Facebook is just much better at the business of social media.

I’ve written previously about my personal experience of Facebook outperforming Twitter on video, and I’ve recently seen the same trend (no pun intended) happening across follower/like and traffic campaigns.

And it’s not by small margins. It’s often by a factors of five or six, sometimes more.

And if I’m noticing it, you can be damn sure everyone else is too.

But that’s enough negatives.

What I’m interested in there is what Twitter is going to do next. I want to create an action plan, if you will. Just for, er, fun. This is FUN.

1 – Sort out the filtering

I used to hate the idea of my Twitter feed being filtered like Facebook is. I wanted to be the filter myself. I liked the idea that I could see everything that was going on in my interest areas and decide for myself what was important.

But hey, guess what? It works and get over it Tom. As Daniel Kahneman outlines in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, our brains are lazy by their very nature. We mostly think in a lazy way because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have any time to do anything except analyse every detail of everything we ever see or do before making any decisions.

What I’m getting at here is that a filtered feed, as opposed to a chronological one, is actually a better extension of the way we think. And the better a social network mirrors the way we think, the easier we will find it to use and the more we will tend to use it. Probably.

And Twitter’s filtering really isn’t good. I can’t be sure how they work out what we’ll see in the “While you were away” bit that comes up when you open Twitter, but I don’t think it’s a rich data set, and I don’t think it’s algorithmically innovative. I just tend to see posts by the people I’ve replied to in conversations. What about clicks? What about dwell time? What about EVERYTHING ELSE??!

There is a gaping chasm between the quality of Twitter’s filtering and the quality of Facebook’s, and they need to start making that up.

2 – Sort out the back end

Twitter’s ad platform is buggy and difficult to use. Getting the most out of their targeting system takes ages and you can’t upload photos properly on Chrome. Or I can’t, at least. And I know of at least one other person who can’t. That’s TWO TOO MANY.

ARGH.png

I don’t want to have to switch browsers just to post a Twitter ad and neither does anybody else.

3 – They have awesome data – so should use it better

When I was working as a digital sports journalist, I’d get the occasional press release about some stats Twitter had run. They were great. Often interesting and insightful.

The problem, though, was that everyone else obviously had the same statsfrom the same release. What I really wanted was a platform that would allow me to run the same kind of full-data analysis that Twitter itself seemed able to do.

Various different systems exist that try to do this to some extent – Twitter opened up full archive search API to partners like Sprout Social and brandwatch last year – but I’ve yet to find a truly open platform with high enough quality deep-search to be useful.

(Perhaps I’m wrong? Let me know in the comments)

4 – Deal with the trolls

Another thing I love about Twitter is its sense of freedom. It has never forced anyone to sign up with real name information, and people are broadly allowed to say what they want.

troll

But there has to be a balance. Trolling on the site, particularly that directed at women by angry, faceless men, is really damaging Twitter’s brand.

The site is increasingly at risk of becoming a dark, seedy social underworld, where decent people just don’t want to be anymore. It has allowed its strength to be turned into a weakness.

Of course, if cutting out trolling altogether was easy, they’d have already done it. But we should be seeing a far more concerted effort. In my time working for newspapers I saw first hand how frequent the really nasty comments can be and can only imagine how much worse it must be for women.

The site doesn’t need to go censorship crazy like Facebook, but there must surely be a middle ground.

5 – Incentivise users to use real information

A controversial one, this. But it is clear that Twitter would be of far more use to brands (a.k.a £££££££ 🙂 $$$$$ 😀 €€€€€€) if the information it held on its users was real. A large proportion of its audience are almost impossible to target to because the platform has no idea who they are.

Brands want to go where there customers are, which is why effective targeting through search and social has revolutionised advertising. Twitter needs to catch up if it’s to survive.

But how to do this? Forcing people to subscribe with real info won’t work – there would be an exodus of miffed, angry users who simply don’t want to give up yet more of their private information to yet another digital aggregator.

tick

Incentives, though, could work. These could take myriad forms. How about an intermediate verification system that awards a ‘green tick’ to people who’ve substantiated their online details (using Facebook or LinkedIn)?

This wouldn’t be absolutely reliable, but would be a damn sight better than what they have now.

Green tick users would have the benefit of having their tweets seen higher in search, and seen more often by blue-tick verified users. They would, therefore, be more involved in the high profile conversations that happen every day. They would also be incentivised against trolling, because they have an online reputation to uphold.

It would promote truthfulness and courtesy, help everyone to ignore the hateful trolls, and give brands far better information to use in their targeting.

Just an idea…

 

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