Recently I’ve seen a headline or two suggesting Twitter is dying. Those pieces might suggest that it’s for the following reasons. I haven’t clicked many links to find out, but thought I’d add some thoughts here in the hope that there is a groundswell of consensus around the issue.
Apparently over in the US Twitter is really struggling. It failed to add any new users for the second quarter in a row. At the end of September, Twitter had a core audience of 307 million active users, adding just 3 million worldwide during the three months since June. Mass market appeal it seems is no longer there.
That could all be related to things like this.
@MrBobBusinessMentor is now following you!
(Sorry if you exist @MrBobBusinessMentor).
When alerted to a new Twitter follower these days, it tends to elicit instant cynicism. I am fairly confident about what /who I will see.
This isn’t unchartered subject matter for the pages of this blog, but my now fully established prejudgement about almost every new follower these days is that they are a quite boring robot who churns out possibly programmed updates. At a rough guestimate, I’d say nine times out of ten this is the case.
Business profiles of individuals on Twitter often look like an utterly impenetrable wall of turgid noise. Especially if they have several thousand followers, and even if they don’t follow that many in return, and even more if they are supposedly verified with the blue tick.
Why would someone with the sacred blue tick of truth follow me – someone with not that many followers and not much influence?
Perhaps it’s because their account is managed by a team of people, PR account executives, or programmed to follow other Twitter accounts if they should tweet an update containing a certain word.
Usually it’s part of an ongoing project to rapidly scale numbers by following a lot of people then unfollowing a lot of people. This is a strategy many users employ in the hope of achieving a big looking number of followers. People can point to the large number in a boardroom and use it as ‘evidence of reach’ (or some such) to someone senior, or indeed the named person in question, who doesn’t know or care any different.
See? It’s really difficult to really trust anything on Twitter anymore.
Around 2010 users could be more open to professional followers and making new business contacts through Twitter. You could trust that there was actually a single individual human behind an account. Now that’s not the case.
These days I don’t actively seek out and follow others, or engage much, which could be another reason why my business engagement has generally dropped off.
All those businesspeople accounts, teamed with the relentless tide of empty updates, ‘blah blah news headlines, images and links’: this has sucked life from the platform for most business purposes. It has siphoned off much character, personality and usability.
Numbers Of Instagram
Naturally people do still judge accounts and other people based on those key numbers. But in the realms of business they can be misleading, or devoid of any meaning at all. Equally bewildering is an image sharing platform like Instagram, said to be the fastest growing with the biggest numbers of active users, 400 million and counting.
Within a minute of posting an Instagrammed photo which has been hashtagged with relevant tags, hundreds or thousands of ‘likes’ can be instantly registered.
Plenty of users also have thousands of followers. My ten year old cousin has hundreds more followers than me. This is upsetting because he’s been on the planet for much less time than me and, I’ll be honest, his photos aren’t quite as good. Also, like Twitter, I am too lazy to sit there mindlessly following hundreds or thousands of people, or seek out whatever clever programmatic robot thing is available. It doesn’t seem fair, but does it really matter?
Are all these impressively high numbers all that significant to the world of business? Not really. How many of these users are influential businesspeople with budgets? I’d bet not many. Still, you get sucked in, and start quietly hating yourself for hashtagging enjoying the hit of Likes from mostly spammy accounts. Much of today’s manipulated digital world is slightly ridiculous.
“Hey, Mark! Thanks for the follow. Looking forward to sharing some thoughts and ideas via Twitter!”
Also slightly ridiculous are automated direct messages. Eurgh. No, really. I can’t wait. (Me and the guy who sent this DM haven’t shared any thoughts and ideas via Twitter yet). Automation is partly to blame in the dwindling power of Twitter, scheduling of updates which may, but probably will not interest a following, a lack of value given to interaction and personality.
Outside of business, for casual users there remains purpose. Like Facebook, there are plenty of users who barely ever post an update but read the platform a lot, following celebrities or media outlets, or people they know like it’s a passive online television channel. For those people it’s not such an issue.
For people who did once upon a time use it for business, it’s dying. Strangely, you could argue that it’s the number of social media gurus, all the agencies and commercialisation of social media itself which is largely responsible. As well as all the programming and technical development.
Is this irreversible, or can it be checked? In terms of solutions, might it be possible to make programming harder, for Twitter to try defending it more keenly, culling the robots? I don’t know. Might it be possible to promote the idea that having thousands of followers, regardless of how many people you’re following, looks fake, alienating and boring? That too is probably impossible, such is the broad desire to be followed by thousands and millions, to appear a big deal, and to be a big deal.
Ultimately the real proof of quality or humanity is in the tweets themselves – and it must be remembered this will always be subjective. So I could be totally wrong about everything.
Now, I have to rush off and tweet a link to an amazing blog post. Or maybe I won’t.
Please tweet @mawkins if you’d like to comment on this post.