As of last week, I own a piece of Twitter, Inc. I probably have a smaller stake than just about any other shareholder, but that’s okay.
When word came out that their user growth is slowing, I started to think about the future of Twitter,
Their biggest challenge is teaching “normal people” how valuable Twitter can be to them. They’ve had a hard time shaking the “I don’t care what people are having for lunch” perception that people have about Twitter.
I think the newspaper is the perfect analog comparison to help Twitter better market and develop their product.
Twitter would let users create sections, instead of having a single timeline. I think mine would probably break down into sections like “business,” “sports,” “friends,” and “celebrities.” The people you follow would be sorted into these sections. Users could name the sections. There could be a “favorites” section that would act like the front page of a newspaper, filled with your closest friends and favorite people. On mobile, users would swipe to get the different sections. On the web, Twitter would have to be a little more creative with their interface.
Organizing people you follow on social media isn’t a revolutionary thing. Twitter has lists, although I think their execution has been poor. Google+ has circles. Facebook has lists, too. Setting those up feels like work, though. I see Twitter sections succeeding by making it suggested/automatic. So, if I follow @bijan, Twitter will be able to tell that he probably belongs in my “business” section, based on how similar he is to other people I have in there. Of course, you’d be able to manually edit the sections, too. Also, Twitter’s Discover feature would be baked into each individual section, helping you keep them filled with new, interesting people.
Twitter-as-a-newspaper would help it “click” with normal folks. If I want to see what’s happening in the NBA, I don’t want to scroll through an entire timeline of tweets. I want to swipe to my NBA section. If the morning newspaper came in 1995 and you wanted to read about the Sox, you would flip right to the sports page. You wouldn’t read the entire paper front-to-back.
Onboarding would be so much easier. Twitter could ask, “which of these are you interested in?” and have topics like the NFL, movies, politics, etc. You’d click them, and it’d suggest users right away to help you populate those sections.
Twitter has a forward-thinking product team. It wouldn’t surprise me if they thought of something like this and decided against it or tabled it for now. I have no doubt that they’ve considered of all sorts of possibilities. Still, I think it’s worth discussing.
Twitter users know that It’s the best media consumption product there is. Twitter sections would help the rest of the world realize it.
P.S. Twitter should change the “favorite” button to “like.” People understand “like.” The “favorite” button is so undefined…there’s no telling what it’s supposed to be used for. That was fine for Twitter in 2008, but not in 2014. In addition to the change to “like”, I propose that Twitter buy Pocket, one of my favorite products on the web. There would be a “pocket” button on each tweet, and clicking it would save the tweet for later reading - perfect for tweets with links that you don’t have time to click. Pocket would remain a separate app and continue to function as a link-saving service for the rest of the web, too, which would give Twitter a strong foothold in real-time content and longer form pieces.
Quick, someone send this to @dickc before Zuck throws $100m at Pocket.