Is Twitter really dying?
. . . and is its decline a harbinger of social media fate?
I’m sad to say it, but I agree with a recent article: A Eulogy for Twitter – Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer – The Atlantic The title mostly says it all (you should still read it), but the writer correctly lays no definitive fault on Twitter itself.
Why isn’t Twitter at fault?
I opened my Twitter account in 2010 when it became evident it would stay for the long haul. At that time, new social media platforms appeared regularly, and just as regularly dropped away. No one knew what anyone really wanted from a social media platform – creators or users. No one yet grasped the potential functionality nor could define a real purpose.
Twitter’s success has always been from its immediacy. If a celebrity died, a natural disaster wreaked havoc, or a government takeover was in progress, Twitter was “Da Man!” But, as followers grew exponentially, tweets quickly became buried in a stream of fresher posts and news could be lost.
Hashtags evolved as a remedy – an immediate and comprehensive sourcer for any topic of interest. Twitter later coached searching along by not requiring a hashtag to search. Trending Topics entered and quickly became a font for sourcing streams to increase user visibility and encourage new followers. Soon Twitter decided trending should be local, too, and small businesses learned how to utilize trending for increased visibility.
After a myriad of tweaks over the years, in retrospect, perhaps Twitter should have left itself alone. After all, the demand for change was rarely from the Peeps. As usual, change occurred for the purposes of monetization, a necessary evil for users to endure for the reward of free access. But no platform can run for free. Monetization is a must.
Content for the sake of content?
But, in this recent year, content has suffered. Twitter is laden with over-processed content and spam. Popular threads and Tweetchats do still thrive, but for how long? Perhaps Twitter acceptance by multimedia news and entertainment produced a shallower environment. Perhaps users grew tired of having to compress thoughts into 140 characters (or less if we wanted an RT). Perhaps the spontaneity gave way to scheduling apps like Hootsuite. It’s hard to peg the current problems on any one cause.
Perhaps the same principles apply to any FREE medium?
Free access network television dominated the airwaves for decades. Paid Cable came along and turned it upside down. People were/are willing to pay for better quality content, and the ability to view without frequent and loud interruptions. Sponsored network television were forced to recognize viewers with a choice were leaving the pedestrian network fodder for quality viewing on cable. It became apparent the show content and quality had to improve to compete. In the meantime, cable channels multiplied exponentially, and many had to embrace some form of advertising to survive as the pallet of choice broadened and exclusivity no longer generated the necessary funds per channel. After all, how much would a consumer be willing to pay for more and more channels – especially since all channels were not a universal fit to every demographic.
So, the network broadcasts (still free to consumers) had to compete with better content and coverage to increase advertising and viewers. Add new rivals, Tivo and the DVR enabling viewers to skip ads. The networks were losing $$ to technology. Solution? Create entertaining advertising for viewers to enjoy the ads as much as the shows they supported. Compete with the quality content of premium cable networks by attracting strong feature film directors and producers for high quality programming such as “Good Wife.” And, entice viewers with On Demand viewing convenience, but with no option to speed past ads. Here we go again. For the viewer, 1 step forward, 2 steps back as Free options fight to survive.
So is Social Media facing same?
My Free TV example was an attempt at an analogy to illustrate that FREE is always a problem. It is never FREE to those producing the tools and content. Offering free products and services as an introduction is effective for enlisting subscriber business, but maintaining free is always a problem.
While Facebook is often recognized to have an inferior user interface, it still reigns king. Timing is everything, and they began at the right place and time to produce many and loyal users. Facebook has also been more effective with monetizing their platform. Why? Because Facebook is easy. Facebook is ubiquitous. Facebook requires little from us except tolerance for ads. And content is more accessible and even lingers.
Interestingly, it appears Facebook’s cagey methods and well documented inaccessibility has lent users to acquiesce to their monetizing tactics. Users post complaints at every tweak of their pages and profiles, unendingly threatening to leave, but never actually doing so.
What about Google+?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Google+. Yes, the CEO has given up (?) after 8 years, but G+ is not going away. It’s far too valuable for generating better SEO. After all, Google is genius in its integration of Google tools and apps. Even if we don’t understand how to use them all, we do understand that ANYTHING we use from Google will generate better search rankings on Google – the premier search engine. There are crawlers and bots aplenty Google utilizes to maximize their effectiveness. Perhaps despite the lack of public receptivity of G+, it is gaining ground in another area Twitter used to dominate – the Tweetchat may eventually give way to the Google Group Hangout. Again, ease of use is tantamount to popularity in any platform gaining ground.
ironically enough, it will not be the users who will dictate the demise or growth of any platform. Technology will. And at the rate these technological changes are occurring, everything could change. Maybe texting could be transformed into social? Maybe software will evolve to pre-sort and pre-qualify content for best use. Impossible to imagine every possibility.
The growing demand and technology’s advances in ease of use for Visual content has eased the proliferation of text (which overwhelmed users). A visual truly is worth a thousand words, and everyone’s time is valuable. But users still have something to say.
Social Media platforms may die, or simply evolve for the better via improved technology. At any rate, as technology advances, any prediction of social media fate really is folly.