Why Twitter must find the fine balance

RIPTwitterAfter an online backlash over a news report which claimed that Twitter was bringing in algorithmic timelines, and a (mildly successful) attempt by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to douse the fires, the micro-blogging site has introduced algorithm-based timeline changes, after all!

The #RIPTwitter backlash that followed after the said report were quelled in a way when Jack used the medium to allay fears, affirming that Twitter will remain ‘live’ and ‘real time’.

Much ado about nothing

If some skeptics still remained doubtful, those doubts were laid to rest on Wednesday when Twitter rolled out its algorithm-based timeline. In a blog post titled ‘Never miss important Tweets from people you follow’, what senior engineering manager Mike Jahr announced was nothing more than an extension of the “while you were away” feature.

“Here’s how it works. You flip on the feature in your settings; then when you open Twitter after being away for a while, the Tweets you’re most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline – still recent and in reverse chronological order. The rest of the Tweets will be displayed right underneath, also in reverse chronological order, as always. At any point, just pull-to-refresh to see all new Tweets at the top in the live, up-to-the-second experience you already know and love,” the post said.

We’ve already seen that people who use this new feature tend to Retweet and Tweet more, creating more live commentary and conversations, which is great for everyone it added.

Twitter opt-in screenshot

Episode underscores Twitter’s basic challenge

However, the episode underscores the challenge that Twitter faces. It shows how sensitive the loyal and unyielding the legion of Twitter followers are when it comes to tweaks and changes in the core product. It exhibits the supreme levels of adoption of the platform by its users, for whom Twitter is now an integral part of daily life.
While these elite power users—journalists, editors, celebrities, sportspersons – love the product to bits, it is proving to be tough to get more users to adopt the platform. Twitter’s fundamental struggle is to remain interesting to Wall Street, while not alienating its core users, or moving away from the core product. The common refrain among those who protested when the news of algorithm-based Twitter timelines broke, was that Twitter must not become another Facebook.

Folks at Twitter seem to believe that to get new users to adopt the platform; it must simplify existing features, and make them easily intelligible. However, any tweak with its core features has provoked similar reactions from core users of the product.

At Digiqom, we are tracking these changes closely. Our #MakeInIndia launch coverage trended on Twitter gaining a billion online impressions across 103 countries with 100,000 people creating content about it in the first 10 hours. And while we have successfully trended a number of Hashtags, and thrown our weight behind the 140-character micro-blogging platform, we are all too cognizant of the stagnating adoption by new users, who are veering away towards click and share platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, which incidentally are also performing better in garnering advertising revenues.

Twitter’s challenges are many – plummeting stock prices, declining number of new users per quarter, stagnating user growth, obituaries (which are becoming too frequent).
But, its biggest challenge is to find the fine balance between Wall Street love and love of its users!

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