Twitter Building Product for its Customers – Brands

I am sorry to break this to you. Despite the fact that you have 15K tweets, 100K followers and call yourself a power user, you are not a customer for twitter. At best the term user describes you and I. At worst we are the raw materials. The real customers are those who pay for its value. So brands that pay for the data, get in front of us with messages and get us to do something are the real customers for twitter.

There is nothing wrong with that. Just making it clear.

Three recent major product announcements from twitter reflect their realization and focus on its customers.

  1. Direct Message Changes –  They removed the 140 character limit on DMs and added group messaging capability. I do not have data on how many DMs are exchanged between non-brand users as  way of communication. Anecdotally I can say all DM I received are promotional messages sent using a third party broadcast tool. I do have data on length of email messages that serve as proxy for DM length.
    We most likely will use twitter DM only as a mean to communicate privately with those with whom we do not have other connections – i.e., no email address, whatsapp, phone for text etc.
    There is no reason to believe DM pattern will be any different from emails. A recent analysis by The Journal says our median length of emails sent from mobile phones is 20 words. At an average word length of 6 (with spaces), 140 characters is more than enough. And more and more of our usage is moving to mobile and tablets from laptops.

    So the the only possible explanation for a DM feature couched as user experience enhancement is to help brands send longer messages.

  2. Moments – It is positioned as a way to get those new to twitter get to know it. For “power users” a way to find hand curated happenings. Do we really lack ways to find what is happening and popular? The different News apps use algorithmic ways to serve us what is popular and (remotely) relevant. That is a crowded field and some of popular darlings like Flipboard are being crowded out by platform players like Apple. So the only possible use case is for brands to insert “Paid Moments” and have Moments integrated into the timeline.
  3. Poll – This is a annoyance to all of us, users. And if you are a marketing research practioner you will be up in arms about how silly it is. It is as scientific as Fox News poll asking its viewers if Hillary Clinton is hiding something. Don’t even bother publishing your results from a twitter poll you did on your followers. The only valid use case is for brands to get people to interact with it. The results the brand will collect are immaterial but a crazy enough poll question will get the question and the brand in front of more people. A simple click of button makes it a low calorie effect than typing a reply. Brands will use it simply as awareness generation tool. Our timelines will be filled with such silly polls.


Overall I see three new product features that are not about users but about brands. That is fine as twitter has to build products for its customers. The focus is on customers not users. That explains the declining user numbers.


2 thoughts on “Twitter Building Product for its Customers – Brands

  1. So, really, Twitter is no different than a TV network. You and I are just viewers of a TV network, because the real customers are the advertisers.

    But a TV network can’t generate advertising revenue without a base of viewers–and arguably, a growing base of viewers, whether that’s in terms of # of viewers, amount of viewing per user, or both.

    And so really, Twitter is a content company. Where you and I–the users–are content producers. Now here’s the problem: You and I suck at generating content. Well, not “you and I” as in Rags and Ron (because, really now, the two of us are the best content producers on Twitter), but “you and I” in the generic sense.

    And so, if Twitter wants to ensure that more of its customers–i.e., advertisers–pay more to them, Twitter has to do a better job of driving more usage, which means driving better content.

    99% of the time, Twitter content sucks. It’s mostly people pushing a link to something they’ve written, read, or like. 1% of the time it’s really engaging, like following comments to the political debate, a TV show, or some other event.

    Twitter’s got a real problem ahead of them.

    Liked by 1 person

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