Over the past few of years, I’ve noticed that my experience on Twitter has drastically changed and not for the better. Plagued by bots, narcissistic self-promoters, push marketing and irrelevant advertising, it feels like a dying platform to me. There’s no doubt in my mind that Twitter has seen better days but maybe it’s just not for me anymore.
What went wrong?
Once upon a time you could ask Twitter a question and get answers within seconds. It was better than Google. You could also discover interesting content by just by following the right kind of people or doing a quick search on a site called Summize (acquired by Twitter in 2008). And then there were the conversations. Twitter was a real social network. So many of my current business and social connections were made through Twitter. I haven’t made any new real world connections through Twitter in several years.
Then there was the API. When Twitter started, it had a nice open API. Anyone could use their data for just about anything. It was amazing. You could integrate Twitter nicely into your own apps and even make your own Twitter clients, should you wish. They took all of that away when they realised that our data was their money.
The monetization problem
Arguably, many of the problems I see with Twitter are down to the lack of monetization in Twitter’s early days. When the service was created, it had no plan for monetization at all. Although the early adopters and nerds would have happily paid for the service, it needed mass adoption and the masses wouldn’t pay. The “social media should be free” mantra was echoing through the interwebs and that was that. If you wanted to make money from a social network, you either needed ad revenue or something more creative. Naturally, Twitter went for the lazy advertising option. As it turns out, that’s not going too well for them either.
Who still uses Twitter and what for?
From the looks of things, advertisers and aside, there are plenty of companies pushing their updates into the ether. Most of them are doing it just because it’s a thing they believe they should be doing. In most cases, the ROI is flaky at best but all the while social media agencies can fluff up the numbers and make it look like people are engaging, companies will keep on shouting.
Then there are the old hacks like me. I still tweet. I still share stuff I find interesting. I also use it as a place to write things I find amusing at the time. Nobody is listening, though. Admittedly, I don’t put much effort into building my follower base. I’ve become less narcissistic in my old age, so I don’t feel the need to promote my personal brand and I don’t really want to promote my business to excess. Most of my followers are also real world friends. They will soon bugger off if my account turns into another shouty business account.
Self-promotion has always been big on Twitter for both “celebrities” and normal folk. To some degree, that’s fine but these days, the self-promoters don’t even acknowledge your responses. It’s often the case that they aren’t even there to respond. They just squeeze a bunch of updates into an automation platform and let the apps do their thing.
There are lots of bots on Twitter too. Some are fun, entertaining AI bots; some are spammy wastes of space pushing updates about SEO, PPI or whatever the low-hanging fruit of the day happens to be. Bots make up for a fair bit of those figures agencies are using to prove your ROI.
Lastly, there’s the millennial. Millennials seem to be owning Twitter. They pump out attention-seeking emotionally charged drivel and bants (that’s what they call banter) like there’s no tomorrow. They don’t seem to converse much but they do interact by retweeting each other’s neediness. It also seems they’re only interested in responses that puff their egos. I guess that’s just the millennial way. I’m not a millennial. I don’t get it.
Should I delete or hold out?
Right now it looks like Twitter just isn’t for me but for now I will live in hope. It might be time for another reboot (I deleted and started again once before) but I can’t let go yet. I can’t help but feel that the world needs microblogging now, just as much as it ever did.
I am conflicted. I am Twitter ’til I die.