Where does Twitter go from here?
We spend a great deal of time here at Testify monitoring online social conversations; tracking online buzz and trying to make sense of the often huge volumes of mentions relating to a brand, event, or campaign. We know from first-hand experience that there is an often overwhelming amount of noise out there, and sifting through it all to find the ‘signal’ is as time-consuming as it is crucial to what we do.
Most of online monitoring and analysis currently pitches its tent within Twitter, it is the information avalanche to Facebook’s walled garden; a constant free-flowing stream of millions of comments, accessible through an increasing number of platforms, each allowing for a varying inflow of the Twitter ‘firehose’ of information. But Twitter itself constantly finds itself in the same predicament; as the company grows, they try to find new and better ways to define what exactly their service is, and how exactly to develop, modify and sort the sheer weight of information, not to mention find ways to make money out of it.
There was a great article in the New York Magazine about this last week. It provides an in-depth look at Twitter – where they’ve come from, where they are now, and where they’re trying to go. It’s a fascinating read and showcases a company with constant concerns and an almost obsessive need to stay one step ahead.
I took 3 key points of interest away from the article:
Twitter’s primary concern is trying to find a feasible way of monetizing the service. They need to figure out how to do this in a way that doesn’t change the fundamentals of what’s made Twitter so popular, nor chase away users. This is especially important when services like Google+ are attempting to bridge the gap between Twitter and Facebook, and Facebook themselves are essentially ‘Twitterising’ their service with new ‘subscription’ options and the real-time ticker feed. Twitter have thus far focussed their money-making efforts on subtle advertising. They realise that beyond marketing services already available to the branding elite, like sponsored tweets and sponsored trends, the holy grail is finding a way to insert advertising into the streams of the Twitter influencers, (a top Hollywood star disclosing what coffee they prefer etc.) and allowing and facilitating celebrities, brands and marketers to develop and position themselves as these influencers.
Twitter have started to realise that they are much like a television network, and their influencers are the talent, the shows and the entertainment. A Yahoo study showed that on an average user’s Twitter stream, roughly 50% of the tweets came from one of just 20,000 users, i.e. there’s a small collection of influential people, and the rest of us are merely paying attention to them. Twitter needs to keep these people (‘the talent’) happy, and continue to find ways to cultivate these ‘influencers’ and make them the core of the service. It seems unbelievable to think that in these current times of Twitter being the fashionable celebrity must-have mouth-piece, that they would ever abandon the service. But then the spectre of MySpace hangs over most social networks as a stark warning not to get complacent. Twitter are well aware of this, and the influencers are crucial to their plans for monetizing.
‘Surfacing the content’
Apparently this is the dominant phrase heard around the Twitter offices, and is what Twitter refer to as a way of filtering the most relevant information to the top of the stream. It’s about developing the platform to more than it’s current state of just a chronological presentation of information. Facebook has made moves in this direction with a reorganisation of their news feed, ‘intelligently’ learning what stories you find most interesting and bringing them to the top of your feed. This is the next big step in fully utilising the endless stream of information bursting from the consciousness of millions of user worldwide. At Testify we still believe that there is nothing really close to an adequate substitution for the human eye; the human understanding of the nuances and tiny inflections present in Tweets and any written form of human expression. But the sheer scale and volume of information flying around every second of the day means that such developments are more and more necessary, and one that the minds at Twitter and beyond are obsessed with cracking
It will exciting and interesting to see what happens next with Twitter, but for now and the foreseeable future it is still the main source for tapping into the collective thoughts of literally millions of people worldwide. Whether it’s monetizing, creating influencers, or sourcing accurate insight and the true sentiment of the crowd, Twitter will continue to be the unrivalled ‘information network’.