Yesterday I spent the day showing a Professor the ins and outs of the world of Twitter. He’d had an account for a while, but only ever read tweets from the few people he’d chosen to follow and even that was sporadic. For this purpose, we were creating a brand new account, i.e. not using the account he had some history with.

I’ll not go into the details of the training, but it ranged from crafting compelling tweets to building an audience. We followed a few relevant accounts and then looked at the Prof’s timeline to see what they were sharing.

As we scrolled down, the Professor stopped…

“What is that? I don’t understand, I’ve not followed that account!”

It was an ad. There were at most, 10 tweets in the timeline, punctuated by an ad. The Professor really didn’t like that. The ad was completely irrelevant to his interests and no wonder – a brand new account has not given Twitter enough data for it to accurately target ads. Prof found the whole thing rather distasteful.

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Twitter has a huge problem!

Like any plant I’ve ever murdered, I mean owned, it’s struggling to grow. Jack Dorsey came swooping back into town in October and immediately cut 336 jobs. The platform has around 300 million active users, making it less popular than Instagram and waaaay behind Facebook which sits at 1.4 billion users and recently had its first ever day when a billion of those were active. In July this year it revealed its slowest ever rise in monthly active users. Can Jack turn it around? That remains to be seen.

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A key issue for Twitter is retaining the interest of people who sign-up for the first time. Some reasons for that:

  • The on-boarding process is pretty painful, despite recent changes
  • When you first sign-up for Twitter, it’s pretty tough to know what you’re supposed to do! That isn’t well addressed either
  • I’ve always felt that Twitter struggles to really nail down it’s real utility – what’s it for? Staying in touch with friends etc? Nope, there’s far better options for that. Keeping on top of news etc – yes it’s great for that, but other platforms such as Facebook have rapidly risen to that challenge. There’s no singular reason to spend time there over the other key platforms

Then, as was the case with the Professor, they immediately serve ads to new users, and not only that, completely irrelevant ads. The vast majority of the social media user-base isn’t keen on being to advertised to at all, never mind being hit with ads that serve them no purpose.

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Twitter needs to stop this practice right now. Allow users to become accustomed to using the platform and then bring them into the advertising fray. They can’t possibly decide what is truly relevant to that user until they follow a strong level of accounts and interact with or tweet about certain topics etc. As an advertiser on the platform, I don’t want my brand being put in front of people that are immediately going to have a severely adverse reaction to it. It’s a hard enough struggle to get people to accept that social media ads are here to stay. Deliver the best Twitter experience first!

You’re turning new users cold Twitter. Cold new users = creeping growth and falling shares!

I sometimes wonder how entities of the scale of Twitter can get away with showing such a lack of common sense.

How’s your current Twitter love? Still a big fan? Using it less? Do share…

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