Friday, July 18, 2014

Dear @Twitter ...

The past few months it has become more apparent that Twitter has a user issue.  Specifically, new users, and retaining them.  When Twitter reports their quarterly earnings at the end of July, you can expect to see their MAU's to likely be flat to perhaps up a few percent sequentially.  Twitter will ask analysts, investors et al to focus on other metrics, such as the billion + reach of their mobile ad network.  While I agree that Twitter will have an easy time monetizing, and showing great revenue growth, let's face it - Without user growth, Twitter is a dyeing asset.  It puzzles me that it takes such a large company, with likely product teams that are 100 people + so long to figure out how to fix it.

I believe that Twitter, and it's hoards of engineers might be looking at their product through colored glasses. After all, if you're Jack Dorsey, or Dick Costello and you use Twitter, you are likely using it as many narcissists do, or perhaps as your bully pulpit.  Who doesn't like the feeling of having thousands of followers who hang on every word, and re-tweet what you have to say? So problem number one is that Twitter needs to understand that for the average Joe (who may or may not have the false expectation that people will immediately flock to follow, and retweet them), the initial Twitter experience is likely to be a large disappointment if indeed that is how they intend to use it.

Instead, this is what Twitter needs to do to fix their user retention issues:
 Twitter needs to understand that most Twitter users (at least the ones that I am aware of) do not want to necessarily follow (or be followed by) their family and friends.  They have Facebook for that. So when on-boarding a new user, just offering to scour their contacts to recommend people to follow is not going to cut it. Twitter needs to 'learn' about who a user is, what their demographic is, and what their interests are.

As a new user, this is what one will see currently.
My first issue is how Twitter determined that I would want to follow that list.  Personally, I would not want to follow any of them.  Twitter should do a better job of guessing whom a user might want to follow, and not just draw from their location (I assume this is why it suggested the New York Islanders to me).

Here are two alternative methods that I believe would be a more welcome initial customer experience. Ask the user a series of questions, that better serve to 'profile' the user.  It is only at this time, that Twitter is in a more intelligent position to recommend who I might find interesting to follow. A second method might be to consider showing a user 'interests', not people to  follow.  For example, if a user selected current events, perhaps then Twitter should recommend CNN, and other news sources. Maybe a user would check off sports, or even more macro - automobile racing.  It this juncture, Twitter could recommend following NASCAR... you get the point - why doesn't Twitter??

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