I’ve been thinking a lot about twitter lately based on the many articles written forecasting its demise. I really hope they’re wrong, but I think they might be right. The main reason I think it will die, is because so many people are saying it. The same people who espoused it’s virtues when it arrived in 2007, are now nostalgic about a time when twitter really, really mattered. The problem with this sentiment, is that it will probably come true even if it isn’t. It’s a bit like a run on the banks. Here’s a short Sammartino definition:
A bank run happens hen a large number of a bank’s customers withdraw their deposits simultaneously due to concerns about the bank’s solvency. As more people withdraw their funds, the probability of default increases, thereby prompting more people to withdraw their deposits. The end result is the bank’s reserves may not be sufficient to cover the withdrawals. A bank run is typically the result of panic, rather than a true insolvency on the part of the bank; however, what began as panic or opinion can turn into a true situation.
If enough people think there is no engagement on twitter, then more and more people will stop making ‘engagement deposits’ on twitter. Those who are there will get less engagement as a result. Then they’ll leave, which makes it less useful for others and before we know it we have another MySpace on our hands. It’s classic behavioural economics.
For me twitter has been valuable the past 8 years or so – I joined in Jan 2008. While it sounds kinda weird, I met a lot of my current friends through twitter, I built my personal brand there, and it became a tool for discovery and learning. It really helped me find people who cared about what I care about. It was an incredible tool, and my favourite brand for many years.
But if I were to think of one reason why I believe twitter started to stumble it would be this:
Delayed Tweets. Yes buffer, I blame you and cohort.
It’s a bit like this. All of us were at this really great party. Some of your friends were there. You met some new and interesting people. Everyone was really interested in what you were doing, and you interested in what they were doing. We helped each other, built a great eco system and it was all very give and take. But the party was so valuable and fun that no one really wanted to leave. People didn’t want to miss out on sharing a cool idea. So people started to talk more and listen less. After a while it became hard to hear and be heard. People even started sending messages when they were’t really in the room. It was like everyone put up a cardboard cut out of themselves, with interchangeable speech bubbles attached to them. The conversation turned into a noisy nightclub where no one could hear anyone speak. You’d try and have conversations with people who weren’t really there. It lost its authenticity. Slowly but surely, the value declined, and less people turned up.
Honestly, I don’t know if this is the cause, but it’s how it feels for me. If someone shared a blog post of mine it used to mean they really liked what I wrote. Now it probably means they have an IFTTT recipe set up. I’ll probably still hangout at twitter for a while yet, I might be one of the last to leave. But if there is any lessons for business people it’s this: Twitter is classic reminder that we can never be sure of a channels long term survival. We should all be trying to build things we own and control so we have independence. We need to be our own media channel and have a place to talk to people who want to hear from us. It’s probably a portable email list. If people don’t have a reason to follow us on our own channel, then maybe our we need to create something more compelling.