Last week I attended Social Media Week and found myself questioning the lack of panels about Twitter. I had already been to two that covered Snapchat, and while Twitter wasn’t the fastest-growing social media platform in 2015, it is definitely the one struggling the most. This is a discussion that I was sure warranted its own panel.
“How could they not mention that Twitter is dying,” I cried. The girl sitting next to me turned and gave me a look of skepticism, and with the air of someone who already knew the answer, she asked “do you really believe that?”
Well, yes, I thought. I said it, and I meant it. I have written about it. I use it. “Twitter has been losing millions of dollars over the last few years. And people aren’t using it anymore,” I shot back. She just smiled and shook her head, clearly not convinced. But then I considered her words, and I wondered: Can a social media platform really “die?”
Of course, we say a lot of things are dying. Print media is dying. Television is dying. While they might not be thriving or growing like they once were, those two mediums still have a market and still have an audience. The New York Times and HBO might be finding different channels they can monetize, but their core business is still here and isn’t going away any time soon. Brands and companies can live on in their medium while also exploring new, more lucrative avenues.
You might think that social media brands can’t really do the same. If people stop using their platform, they die. However, consider that not even MySpace–probably the greatest social media “death” of all time–ever actually died. It was just repurposed. Go Google MySpace; something you probably haven’t thought about in years, and you’ll see a completely different platform based around music. When Facebook took over as the social “home” for the online world, MySpace’s only option was to adapt and change and become something different and new.
People are fleeing Twitter because it doesn’t give them what they want fast enough. If you want pictures, you go to Instagram. If you want video, you go to Snapchat. If you want to stay in touch with friends and family, you go to Facebook. Most people use Twitter to get quick pieces of news and updates on niche industries. Twitter is a strong platform as a news resource, but is failing as a social network because it is far too open and too easy to end up speaking into a void if you’re not part of a niche group or trending conversation. Twitter is an important tool for journalists covering news, tech, gaming, and sports when they need to get information out quickly, but the platform is not a good place to house content from publishers, which is why they can’t make any money.
At this point in the game, Twitter still has a purpose, even if they’re doing a very bad job of building toward that purpose. Put it this way: If your customers want orange juice and you’re trying to sell them apple juice, is no one buying because you have a bad product, or is it because no one wants what you have? People know what they want and Twitter needs to realize that. Their platform is less about being social and more about following the news, influencers, and publishers. It’s more message board than network. This realization needs to occur before Twitter can be properly repurposed to meet the way people actually use the product. When people stopped socializing on MySpace, the company saw that it was still being used as a place to upload and share music. After some alterations, the new MySpace has seen a resurgence in recent years.
So, is Twitter really dying? Probably not. You hear “too big to fail” about a lot of things, but mainstream social media networks are “too big to disappear” at this point. Twitter still has its uses, even if the brand’s reputation has been dragged through the mud recently. Maybe I don’t believe Twitter is “dying” anymore, but it sure isn’t thriving. Maybe instead of dying, it’s on the verge of change, evolution, and metamorphosis.
This sounds ridiculous to even suggest, but maybe Twitter needs to follow in the footsteps of MySpace. Just, you know, before they lose all relevance. Maybe Twitter gets smart enough to realize it, or another company comes along and repurposes them, but change is needed and change is coming. I think maybe that’s what that girl at Social Media Week was trying to tell me. Maybe.