It seems that Twitter isn’t feeling so well. Last week, The Financial Times spoke about Twitter’s revenue – dwarfed by that of Facebook – and a few courting attempts by Salesforce et al that ultimately didn’t result in an offer. Gary V described the lack of engagement that he gets on Twitter – and an explosion of attention on Snapchat. Finally, Justin Kan who spoke at an event in the Computer Museum in Mountain View today put up a little tombstone for Twitter – anticipating a death in 2017. What is the death going to look like? Why is this happening? Of note, I saw all of these pieces (FT, Gary and Justin) as videos – on Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat). Hmm…
Twitter isn’t growing, but it sure is useful, even for people who joined late. A huge portion of traffic to my various websites comes from Twitter. It would never occur to me to advertise of Twitter. I think the reason people don’t like it is that it is full of bots and censorship. Gab.ai is evolving to take care of the censorship part. I wonder if it will fall on deaf ears if it is built to resemble Twitter and come out in 2017. Justin Kan suggested that it is down to the fact the Twitter didn’t have a “second act”: Facebook went from profiles to newsfeed, Snapchat added video, whereas Twitter didn’t. I am not sure I can 100% relate to that logic: I think the problem may even be that Twitter went in too many directions and didn’t really stand for any one single thing. Facebook can probably be accused of a lot of this kind of thing too. So yeah, I think it is down to the inauthenticity – the bots and the spam that is so prevalent on Twitter. You cannot go anywhere without getting followed by 10 social media marketing experts.
It is like a biological system. A new species evolves – with a new DNA. It takes time for the viruses to evolve to hack into that DNA – the viruses being the likes of bots and other spammy entities (including marketers!). There are fewer of them on Facebook – due to the nature of Facebook, and I think that’s why it has done better. Twitter has a particularly vulnerable DNA.
Millennials and generation Z have a special place in their hearts for authenticity. We don’t seem to respond as well to traditional advertising – or anything that spams our attention, anything that we didn’t seek out ourselves – and thus we *perceive* it as being manipulative. Of course, all it means is that we prefer to be manipulated in more elegant ways.
I think that in the last 10 years we’ve come really yearn for authenticity. Instead of accepting interruptions with TV ads, we’ve come to realise that we can curate our own content. From that point, advertising that interrupts and pushes things has become unacceptable and rude.
Let’s take 2 extremes. Snapchat seems more authentic compared to a TV ad. Why? There is a perception that if something is snapped live – it is less likely to be contrived and edited. It is different every time – and we all love variety. Let’s compare it to Instagram. It is more informational – a video says 1000^2 words. IG stories are catching up, but they seem to be an auxiliary feature. Having said all this, Snapchat’s revenue is still pretty small compared to the established behemoths. There will come a day when we are mourning Snapchat too. Snapchat has a vulnerable DNA, but it is far more niche than Twitter and hence has a more loyal crowd that are likely to stick with it. Perhaps people have a natural affinity for video – especially if we can get it in VR – that will happen in the next 10 years I assume. Snapchat is the new TV. For how long? It went books-radio-TV-blogging-YouTube-social. I hope the next step is something other than being plugged into the matrix. Promethean fears aside, the productivity of receiving information is constrained not just by the delivery method, but by our means of receiving it. **Elon Musk spoke about how he hopes to be able to expand the bandwidth of the human ability to perceive information.** Like, that’s genuine Matrix territory. Video seems to be winning in the social media game because how efficient it is as delivering information (entertainment, whatever it might be). VR is the natural upgrade from that. Justin Kan says that the big break in VR is going to be a computer game. They already exist of course. They aren’t as much fun as they should be because they constantly break immersion.
Matt Mullenweg, who developed WordPress at a time when there were already multiple blogging platforms, is a hero of the early naughties that is mentioned less often than Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, but may well end up a bigger deal. He says that VR is at stage of the hype cycle where the expectations are way out of proportion. The next few years of VR are going to be boring. My intuition is that we will see VR go mainstream, I mean Facebook-of-2007 kind of mainstream no earlier than 2020. Perhaps, VR is going to grow B2B rather than B2C at first.