Twitter, the 140-character social network has struggled with stagnant user growth in the first three quarters of 2015. In the recent Q3 earnings, Twitter’s user growth was up only four million from the second quarter, for a total of 320 million. The total is only 307 million when you discount “Fast Followers,” the people mostly in the developing world who sign up using SMS.
While there is a very small growth in International waters for Twitter, US has been a surprise for the network considering it is a developed market. There has been almost no growth from Q3, 2014 and from 2015’s previous quarters the growth has completely stopped.
Twitter’s user growth problem has often been related to its inability to reach out to the masses like Facebook has done over the years. Twitter is still a very much loved platform by journalists and tech folks. During the Q2, 2015 earning’s call when Jack was the interim CEO, it had stated these challenges, “In order to realize Twitter’s full potential, we must improve in three key areas: ensure more disciplined execution, simplify our service to deliver Twitter’s value faster, and better communicate that value.”
Over time Twitter has tried hard to simplify the product or even tried mimicking Facebook at various occasions. However the recent product updates give the feeling that sooner or later there won’t be much of a product differentiation between Twitter and Facebook.
For instance Twitter recently launched Polls which Facebook had implemented long back; the feature has eroded away with time. The company introduced the polling feature in September and it was rolled out completely last month.
Twitter polling enables creation of a query with two possible answers. The poll is displayed within a tweet, giving users the ability to vote with a click or tap, and results are tabulated in real time. Each poll remains active for 24 hours, with the time left to vote being displayed on the poll. After the poll expires, results are given in percentage form and displayed.
“If you want the public’s opinion on anything – what to name your dog, who will win tonight’s game, which election issue people care most about – there’s no better place to get answers than on Twitter,” Twitter product manager Todd Sherman said.
By the end of September, reports were saying that Twitter is working on a product that would allow users to tweet more than 140 characters at a time. Recode reported that, “It’s unclear what the product will look like, but sources say it would enable Twitter users to publish long-form content to the service.”
Over the years one of the major problems a majority of users have faced is about the restrictive expression that Twitter gives. People love to talk and how can one express in just 140 characters is a key hurdle. Twitter is yet to confirm on such a development but if it does then it will risk losing the platform’s charm in place of simplicity of expression, like Facebook provides.
In addition to the long-form product, execs have been openly discussing the idea of tweaking how Twitter measures its 140-character limit by removing things like links and user handles from the count, multiple sources say. In fact the addition of the feature “retweet with comment” launched in April this year has given more room to comment on tweets they share.
In similar fashion the company also lifted the 140-character rule on private messages back in June. The new limit is 10,000 characters.
The latest to join the product roll outs is the replacement of Twitter Favourites to Like with a heart icon that looks more like a GIF. Earlier Twitter favourites had a star button but it has now been replaced by a heart being called as Like. Motive is simple, to make Twitter easier to understand for new users. “We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite,” Product manager Akarshan Kumar explained.
— Twitter (@twitter) November 3, 2015
Twitter’s move brings consistency to its three major social networks. It’s also adding hearts to its six-second video app Vine (replacing the smiley icon), and live-streaming Periscope has used hearts since its launch last spring.
Favourites with that star icon has always been confusing for old users too. In a way it is a much needed change to simplify and be easy to use for new users, specially the youngsters who are spending more time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, among others.
Like is synonymous to Facebook as the heart button is to Instagram when you want to show love for a post. Recently, Facebook completely rested the case of bringing in a Dislike button; instead it launched pretty cool Reactions. Facebook is now testing six emoji-based buttons in Ireland and Spain that give users the option to express sentiments other than like. The new possibilities—which appear alongside the Like button—include “love,” “haha,” “yay,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry.”
Facebook definitely has been late in the emoji game and Twitter is even more so. In a recent report from Emotional marketing platform Emogi stated that emojis are used by 92 percent of the online population, with gender being a larger factor in emoji use than age. However it remains to be seen if Twitter will walk the path of Facebook and do the same.
Not just Twitter, Facebook has also xeroxed features from Twitter but Facebook isn’t struggling with numbers or revenues. All the recent features do simplify the platform but at some point it is becoming another Facebook. Wonder if that isn’t a cause for concern for its stakeholders and users?