Story contains updates added after publication; details at the end.
News has broken this week that has confirmed what social media marketers have long suspected: the Twitter experience is largely meaningless to its user base and the company is haemorrhaging value by the hour.
Twitter’s leadership recently began efforts to sell the social network. There were a number of interested parties – Google, SalesForce, Apple and even Disney initially expressed some level of enthusiasm about the possibility of buying the network for varying reasons. This week, though, has started with all of those companies rather choosing to end the pursuit of the purchase and rather leave it to someone else to try and rescue the flailing Twitter.
Twitter’s founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, has been opposed to the idea of a sale since it was suggested. He’s not exactly in full control of the decision, though; he has shareholders and an executive board to get past, and everyone else seems to be keen to rather sell the network and cut their losses. Dorsey, meanwhile, has been suggesting that the rollout of new features would reinvigorate the user base and get growth going again. One of his suggestions is the introduction of live video, where events could be streamed alongside tweets about them in real time. This, of course, is only suitable for nations with reliable and fast internet that isn’t as expensive as it is in South Africa.
Twitter’s user base has stagnated in the last few years, with the active user numbers hovering between 300 million and 350 million. By comparison, Facebook has 1.6 billion active users out of a total user base of about a quarter of earth’s population.
The question for us as marketers now becomes how the network adds any value to businesses at all. The user experience has degraded into one characterised by abuse and falling interaction numbers, so even from a personal perspective, being on Twitter is an experience that has little substance. It is becoming increasingly less likely that users will appreciate or even notice sponsored tweets when there is less and less reason for the users to be on the network at all.
So where to from here? A lot hinges on the decisions of Twitter’s executive board and shareholders. Jack Dorsey’s efforts to save his network might be valiant, but there may well come a time where he is forced to rather accept defeat and cut Twitter loose. That doesn’t mean the network will shut down, though: a buyer – for example, if Google were to take up the helm – might integrate it into an existing service and make it into a valuable and more interactive experience. A more passive company – Disney, perhaps – would be more likely to keep Twitter as it is and rather add its own set of features to it to tweak the network into something that benefits its own product range more directly.
In short, things are unclear on Twitter these days. Much like the overall experience of being a Twitter user, as far as 350 million people are concerned.
UPDATE, 11 October: Following the revelations that almost all of the potential buyers of Twitter are no longer interested, the value of the social network’s shares fell 15% in trading late yesterday. Overall, Twitter’s stock value has fallen by 27% in total this year. No serious buyer is currently interested in purchasing Twitter at all.