The focus for this month’s AI University issue is social media, and I have a confession to make: I don't like Twitter. Even at its peak, when it seemed the entire world was amidst a tweeting frenzy, I just couldn’t get past the limitations of 140 characters. I’m the sort who usually wants more information and details, not less. So I found Twitter’s appeal confounding.
But it was part of the social media Zeitgeist, so I hopped on board the Twitter train and gave it a whirl. However, Twitter has been in rapid decline over the past couple of years. Its number of monthly active users has become stagnant at 310 million, with no growth reported in the last half of 2015 and a minuscule 3 percent growth in Q1 this year. (By contrast, social media juggernaut Facebook has more than 1.65 billion monthly active users, and even Instagram has eclipsed Twitter with 400+ million users.) In January, it announced that nearly half of its key executives were leaving the company. And on May 3, its stock valuation plummeted sharply by 67 percent to an all-time low of $13.90.
To add insult to injury, even God (@TheTweetOfGod) abandoned Twitter.
How was this once-mighty king of social media toppled from its throne?
Some might attribute it to the multitude of problems it’s suffered, ranging from cases of vicious online harassment (Gamergate, anyone?) to numerous hacker attacks, but I believe its main problem is a far more fundamental one. Plainly put, it’s too difficult to use. Newbies signing on to Twitter have a hard time attracting followers (unless they’re a celebrity), and get frustrated by the effort involved in tweeting to make it worth their while.
To increase Twitter’s “stickiness” for newbies and improve its user interface, new CEO Jack Dorsey has made some major changes: Last fall, Twitter launched Moments, which curates the day’s most popular content; it recently toyed with ways to expand the 140-character limit by excluding links and photos; and launched an algorithmically based timeline to the user’s home page. But, frankly, I think these changes are too little, too late: Moments has not gained traction since its debut; no one is particularly excited over the 140-character expansions; and its key people continue their exodus from the company.
So all this begs the question: To tweet or not to tweet? I’d say it depends on how much your tweets resonate with your patrons. You can evaluate this by using Twitter’s “Tweet Activity Dashboard” tool to measure engagement, impressions and mentions. Track it for a while, then decide if the effort you’re putting into Twitter is worth it.
As for me, I stopped tweeting a while back. But if they can get God to return, maybe I'll give it another go.