Twitter is the best open social media network there is. Unlike Facebook – which openly states that they control your newsfeed – the basic idea of Twitter is that you follow and find the news, content, and people you want to see. That’s changing – partly because Twitter is a chaotic mess – and partly because it’s easier to consume “channels” of pre-packaged content rather than to find the curated ideas or hashtags that make Twitter great.
Twitter is weird. It is a place where you can find almost any interest represented. Twitter contains bots, it contains parody accounts, weather forecasters, pundits, celebrities, and regular people. And for the most part they all use Twitter in similar fashion – because they have to. Limiting posts to 140 characters remains a brilliant idea because it forces people to be creative and focused. Recent ways that people have changed the form of Twitter have been to use photos to increase the visibility of tweets and to use longer form “Tweetstorms” to express their ideas, stringing together 140-character ideas into longer proto-essays.
Twitter is also free. The combination of free and weird is not likely to produce the predictable revenue stream justifying billions of dollars of valuation. (Although you might look at some of the political movements that have expressed themselves on Twitter and rightfully conclude that there is a billions of dollars of societal motivation happening on Twitter, and that it’s just not monetizable yet.) So what would help Twitter to make money while keeping the service quirky and weird?
In the spirit of a Tweetstorm (where this idea started), here are a few ideas that might help to keep Twitter more open and less like the Walled Garden of Facebook.
1/ #KeepTwitterOpen by reminding #Twitter that in-stream purchase ads > controlling tweets that we see
One of the best ways to #KeepTwitterOpen is to remind Twitter that most people would prefer to be able to buy things from Twitter advertisers to pay for things rather than having the timeline that we either meticulously (or not so carefully) created get selected for us. It’s neat to have an area called “Trending” because that’s a way for people to learn about unexpected things. It’s not so neat to have promoted Tweets for things you don’t care about show up in your tweetstream.
If I follow a brand, I might want to buy things from them right from Twitter. And if there’s another brand out there who would like to engage with me, I’d rather that they start a conversation with an @ reply rather than serving me a promoted tweet or an ad.
2/ #KeepTwitterOpen by creating paid/advertorial curated streams (the Best of Twitter)
It would be nice if Twitter lists worked well. They’re a pain to read and to use unless you use a client that specifically makes this easy. I for one would rather have “advertorial” curated streams – something akin to a sponsored list – to show the best items on a topic. What, you say? #Hashtags are the way to do this – they are organic expressions of people’s tweets on the same topic. And hashtags sometimes also get spammed – it’s hard to know what you’re reading and whether someone is an active participant or just a troll.
Curated streams on a topic or an event are the future of social media – Twitter should figure out how to do this well and then charge a small event fee or a monthly subscription for the “best of” feed.
3/ #KeepTwitterOpen by creating reports on the way people use Twitter and selling those
Analytics are cool. Learning more about the way that people use social media is really compelling. If Twitter isn’t already creating specialized reports for individuals and companies based on the way that people use the service, they are missing out. These reports would be most useful when categorized by “People Like You” or “People in Your City” and would be less interesting to find out “things your friends favorited” since you might already be seeing this sort of content anyway.
4/ #keepTwitterOpen by reminding networks and publishers that many people voluntarily spend time on this network
Twitter has great engagement from the people who use it. Publishers who try to tell Twitter “what to be” and make “experiences” using the network are missing the point that social networks are … well … social. They consist of conversations with people and brands using this unusual format. Twitter has a private and public conversations happening at the same time. It has Tweets and SubTweets. And Twitter is confusing and wonderful and horrible and great. It’s a picture of human nature. Please keep Twitter weird.