Some companies succeed by innovating, continually improving product quality, and listening to their customers. And some succeed despite not doing any of those things.
Twitter is in the second camp. Despite choosing to squander development time building a new, preschool-ish, wildly unpopular user interface (UI) rather than fixing functionality gaps that become more glaring the longer they go unaddressed, the company reported surprisingly strong second-quarter financial results. Both revenue and earnings per share (EPS) exceeded expectations.
The trend in user growth is a bit more difficult to parse, since the company switched to using a metric called “monetizable daily active users” (mDAUs) rather than the more common active user metrics reported by other social platforms. Though Twitter says mDAUs are a more accurate reflection of performance, the switch has been questioned by analysts recently and in the past.
In the B2B world, Twitter and LinkedIn reign as the most effective social media channels. B2B marketers rely on Twitter to be a leading source of traffic to blog posts, events, case studies, and asset download pages, as well as a vital channel for influencer marketing. But as the missteps pile up while obvious gaps remain unfixed, those marketers are concerned about the longer term.
What Twitter Has Done
First, there’s the disastrous #NewTwitter UI. Looking at large numbers of tweets about it over different time frames, it appears sentiment is running roughly nine to one against the new look.
Here are a few typical responses (safe for work; there are lots of tweets that use considerably stronger language to express displeasure about the new UI).
— ScoutTheSock117 (@ScoutTF117) July 18, 2019
I think, legitimately, that showing "related tweets" first instead of replies might be, without exaggeration, the most ill-concieved idea on a social media platform I've ever heard. #NewTwitter. Please, @Twitter, do *not* make that a permanent change. Please fix that. pic.twitter.com/P1E7XyFrEE
— Jabelz Wavelz (@JabelzWavelz) July 15, 2019
— ? Inkubun Art ? (COMMISSIONS OPEN!) (@inkubun) July 22, 2019
— Emmy Marie ?? (@EmmyStar79) July 18, 2019
It will be interesting to see how (and if) Twitter responds.
Second, they continue to expand a marketing team that appears to lack passion for, or even basic knowledge of, how Twitter works.
Their most recent hire is Gap Kim as head of global business marketing. Mr. Kim did not have an active Twitter account at the time of his hiring. He does now. His account has 99 followers and 21 total tweets.
Kim reports to Twitter’s VP of marketing Brad Ramsey, who opened his Twitter account more than 10 years ago (which is good). However, in more than a decade on the platform, he has amassed just 651 followers and tweeted a total of 229 times (an average of 1.8 tweets per month).
At the top of the Twitter marketing org chart is CMO Leslie Berland. She has an impressive 39,000 followers, but like the rest of the platform’s leadership team, isn’t responsive to customer outreach.
Now, I don’t personally know Gap, Brad, or Leslie, and certainly don’t mean to disparage any of them. Quite the opposite, I’d welcome an opportunity to talk and learn / share more about what’s happening inside Twitter. The brilliant Chris Schenk even came with this very creative idea, creating the hashtag #whereisleslieberland in the process:
If she is I hope she will be sighted and will reach out to you.
Until then, hopefully someone out there will see her.
— Chris Schenk (@chrisschenk) June 28, 2019
So far, no response.
Third, the company has failed to react as a disturbing number of B2B tech company accounts have gone dormant (details about this to come in a future post). Anecdotally, it’s gotten harder for brands to build a following and organic website traffic from Twitter has slowed considerably over the past five years.
Twitter has more complete data on these trends, but again, the company isn’t sharing that information.
What Twitter Should be Doing
First, LISTEN TO USERS.
Second, rather than wasting development time and resources on a UI “upgrade” users despise, fix some of the actual technical shortcomings of the platform:
Fix Twitter search (1): Briefly, it sucks. Let’s say you wanted to find Brad Ramsey, Twitter’s VP of marketing as noted above. If you search for “Brad Ramsey” on Twitter and click “People,” you’ll get 30+ results (the Brad Ramsey you are looking for is number eight). But if you simply search for “Brad Ramsey on Twitter” on Google, his account is the top result.
Fix Twitter search (2): It’s absurd that at this stage it’s still impossible to search on Twitter for users by title, job role, or company (all basic functions on LinkedIn). For example, want to find all the employees of General Motors or Citibank who have accounts on Twitter? Good luck with that.
Fix typo handing: Spell check and “did you mean” functionality have been around for years. Yet Twitter still chokes on the simplest typos.
For example, suppose you are searching for Twitter CMO Leslie Berland, and you’ve got fat fingers (as we all do at times), and type “leslie berlanf” instead. Twitter will simply tell you that account doesn’t exist—no help. Google will figure out what you mean:
Fix ad targeting: Audience targeting options on both LinkedIn (company, matched audiences, company size, role, seniority, etc.) and Facebook are far more sophisticated than the limited targeting options on Twitter.
Give people a reason: Like the stock market, business social media use is driven by two forces: greed and fear.
Twitter marketing needs to use both in order to attract, retain, and win back business users. Being active on Twitter means more website traffic, knowledge, engagement, brand awareness, and leads.
Ignoring Twitter means missing out on breaking news, failing to see and address customer issues, less website / blog traffic, and reduced brand visibility.
Back up those messages with numbers and Twitter can remain a top social network for B2B marketers. Fail to make the case, and active use will continue to decline.
Twitter remains a powerful traffic and engagement driver for businesses. Its list functionality is unmatched by other platforms.
But for the company to remain viable and avoid becoming the next MySpace, leadership needs to fix the platform’s glaring functional issues, listen to users, and respond to constructive feedback.