12.04.2016 Twitter: An uncertain future?

Despite recently celebrating its tenth birthday, Twitter’s future has become increasingly uncertain as of late, with critics calling into question the direction the social network is heading. The New Yorker even went as far as to declare that the ‘end is nigh’.

So what’s gone wrong?

Back in February Twitter announced its financial figures for the last quarter of 2015, reporting revenue of $170 million and a net loss of $90 million, leaving it with profits higher than the previous year. Although this might seem largely positive, Twitter also revealed that its number of active users had fallen for the first time, from 307 to 305 million, and the overall user number had ceased to grow, sitting flat at 320 million. The news didn’t go down well and Twitter’s share price fell by a staggering 13 per cent in the following hours. This plateau will no doubt be hard to swallow for Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, who only returned to the company last October.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 12.51.10

Prolific tweeter Caitlin Moran

One of Twitter’s best-loved and most prolific users, author Caitlin Moran, says in her latest book ‘Moranifesto’: “I have no doubt that Twitter will soon be replaced by something with an entirely different atmosphere – where the rat-tat-tat adrenalised bullet-delivery of tweets will be replaced by something far more relaxed and discursive.”

So where are the users going?


Users want a more visual social experience

Despite the apparent lack of growth from Twitter, the same can’t be said for all social media platforms. Instagram, which at five years old is half the age of Twitter, now has over 400 million active users and is expected to continue growing in 2016. The popular picture and video sharing app Snapchat is also experiencing success, with over 100 million active daily users who view a staggering 8 billion videos a day. These trends suggest audiences are now demanding a more visual experience when using social media, which doesn’t exactly fit in with Twitter’s micro-blogging format.

What can Twitter do?

Although we’re not gearing up for Twitter’s funeral just yet, we do think there are a few things it needs to tackle.

The company has repeatedly come under fire for not doing enough to tackle trolling and harassment on the site, with many celebrities and public figures speaking out against the abuse they have received. Some influential tweeters, such as Stephen Fry, have left Twitter altogether because of it. While Twitter introduced some tough new rules in January to address the issue, it needs to be seen to be following up with action if it is to restore its poor reputation in this area and with it, its users’ faith in the platform.

Recent attempts to improve its products have also received a mixed reaction from Twitter users, leading many to argue it is trying to fix something that isn’t really broken. The introduction of Twitter Moments, the like button and the increasingly controversial timeline changes have been met with a mostly negative reaction from critics and users alike.  The strong reaction to changes across the platform could be seen as a reflection of how vital Twitter is to its users’ lives.


Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

However, the rising popularity of visual social media shouldn’t be ignored as more users flock to the likes of Snapchat and Instagram. Jack Dorsey recently confirmed Twitter would be investing in the technology behind the video-broadcasting app Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, hinting that there may be more visual elements included in the future. This would fit in with the mission statement of the site as an inherently ‘live’ social media channel, and maybe provide an opportunity for more seamless combining of text and visuals.

What about brands?

As we have discussed in previous posts, we believe Twitter is an invaluable tool  for businesses and other organisations to connect with existing and potential customers. A positive and active social media presence not only strengthens awareness of a brand and bolsters its reputation, it also allows it to communicate and engage directly with consumers on a much more personal level. Brands such as Tesco have received huge amounts of coverage and praise for their witty and helpful responses to customer service enquiries, for example, while others suffer reputational damage from refusing to engage. This interaction works both ways, as recent data revealed that 20-30 year olds prefer to use Twitter for customer service support to any other platform, demonstrating Twitter’s fantastic capability as a B2C communication service.


The future of social?

Brands could in some ways determine the future of Twitter. If they continue to see the platform as a vital customer service and communication tool and invest their efforts accordingly, then its future is more secure. If, however, they decide that other social platforms – Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp – offer a better alternative, then its prospects will look less bright.

The future?

In a recent interview Jack Dorsey dismissed the negativity around the future of his company by declaring it a ‘fundamental service’ and saying it was looking towards its 20th and 30th birthdays.

Whatever the future holds, we’ll be sure to keep you updated on Twitter’s next moves in its battle to stay relevant,  loved and used.