Monday was a monumental day for everyone at Twitter as the company dove into double-digits. An entire decade has passed since co-founder Jack Dorsey posted his first Tweet:
In 10 years, Twitter has become one of the most powerful social media platforms to report news, spur change and spread a movement in 140 characters or less. It is the pop stars like Kanye West, politicians like President Obama and countless other social figures that have made Twitter what it is today. And for that, Twitter said thank you on Monday and remembered some of its most meaningful milestones.
Starting in 🇦🇺 on 3/21 and moving across the 🌍, we thank you for 10 incredible years.
— Twitter (@twitter) March 20, 2016
While it is a time to celebrate, unfortunately for Twitter, this 10th birthday party is not all about presents and cake. Several issues have been plaguing the company recently that have left analysts and the public asking: will Twitter survive?
Birthdays are a time to reflect not only on the great memories but also what you want the next years to bring. I decided to dive in and take a look at what’s gone wrong for Twitter and think about what’s to come in the next decade.
What’s gone wrong?
1. Lack of Growth
User growth has been completely stagnant, plateauing at 320 million monthly users. (Compare this to Facebooks 1.6 billion monthly users…) Not only is this number low relative to competitors but it’s also not increasing.
2. Turnover of Management
Since 2014 when former CEO Dick Costolo replaced several key executives, the c-suite at Twitter has been in what seems like constant motion. Costolo resigned from CEO in June of 2015 and since then 16 high-level managers have left the firm and Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, has taken back the lead of his company. Dorsey is confident that he will hire the right people who are on board with Twitter’s mission yet the shifting of managers and lack of a cohesive team is extremely unsettling.
3. Stock Price
It’s no surprise that because of #1 and #2 Twitter’s stock price is essentially tanking. The stock price dropped 70% over the past year alone and is trading 30% below its IPO price. Lack of growth and unstable management make investors wonder if the initial high expectations for Twitter were simply over inflated.
4. Product Development
Twitter is known as a social media platform that has been shaped by its users. Twitter’s product development has been more like a “hack-a-thon” rather than a strategy. Twitter’s culture is known as “more reactive than visionary” as many of their changes and added features have been in response their users or created by users themselves. Critical features including reply and retweet features where only added to the platform due to user demand. Across the board, one of Twitter’s major criticisms is that the platform is difficult to use and hard to learn. User experience is lagging.
5. Lack of Vision
Many people, even after 10 years, are still asking: what is Twitter? And to this question, management doesn’t seem to have a clear answer. This seems to be the biggest problem facing Twitter right now and one that Dorsey is doing all he can to answer.
“It’s hard to overstate how much companies like Twitter live and die by their products—the apps and websites they build and their constant improvements to those offerings. It’s critical, according to Silicon Valley wisdom, that the products have a clearly defined “vision.” Even more critically, products must emphasize user experience.”
After reading the press about the uncertainty in answering the question “what is Twitter,” I was curious to look back and learn just what the initial intention for Twitter really was. In his Ted Talk in 2009, co-founder Evan Williams explained that the fundamental idea behind Twitter was to give users a platform to “share moments of their lives whenever they want..as they happen, which allows people to feel more connected despite distance in real time.” Based on his talk, it is clear that Dorsey and Williams never intended for Twitter to become a worldwide news-reel for major events or a platform for businesses to market their brands. Instead, it all began as a way for everyday users like you and I to share quick and trivial status updates about our days. They never anticipated these global applications from their simple system. A lot can change in 10 years…
Rumor has it that many changes are in the works for Twitter, specifically an algorithm-based newsfeed and increasing the 140 character limit. The newsfeed changes have already been rolled out with features like “While you were away” and the Moments tab which allow users to see posts most relevant rather than relying on a chronological feed. The ultimate goal is to make it easier for users to follow everything going on in their feeds without being attached to their screens 24/7.
It stands out to me that these two features are so unique to Twitter. Isn’t the platform all about quick, right to the point updates about live news? An algorithmic news feed where you can post more than 14o characters seems to turn that idea upside-down.
Dorsey is committed to making his baby live long past 10. He’s working hard with his team to revive Twitter, making it more intuitive and easy-to-use, as well as looking to the future by focusing on investing in live-stream video, as shown by the acquisition of Periscope, which I see as a great long-term opportunity. There’s a lot to be done and it’s still questionable whether or not Twitter can make a comeback.
For now, it’s time to blow out the candles and make a wish.