Twitter is a great way to find first-person accounts of developing stories.
The network celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2016 and has grown to have over 300 million using the platform every month and tweeting over 7 000 times a second.
It’s video platform Periscope is one year old and growing.
For those that don’t know it, it is most often compared with Facebook even though the platforms have a fundamental difference. Facebook is focused on connecting with people you know, Twitter seeks to connect you with conversations that you are interested in. Some even say that Facebook is for people you know, Twitter for people you would like to know.
That comparison to Facebook has stuck and investors had hoped that it would grow into the billion plus behemoth that Facebook is. It had a very successful IPO in 2013 with share price highs of $69, but has not been above $20 for 2016 with a current market cap of $11 billion.
Last year it made over $2 billion in revenues but even though it has reduced losses the company is losing money to the tune of half a billion.
While there are multiple complex reasons that would help or hinder a business, here are two that are playing a role.
The disruption of the disruptor
Twitter was a significant disruptor of news media, able to get stories out instantly via eyewitnesses broadcasting what they were seeing. It was built for the mobile world and it attracted a lot of attention as a news source and a source of news. When you become successful others try do what you are doing and Facebook noted just how important mobile would be.
The hashtag, trending topics, replies, mentions and short videos are all elements that Twitter helped make the norm which were copied by almost every other platform. Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram benefited from the innovations.
That is not to say Twitter did not try copy others too. Twitter bought Vine and Periscope to make the most of video which appears to have been a great bet. The latest effort is to get the rights to stream TV via Twitter.
It makes sense because Twitter is most popular with live events and televised sport or TV shows gets lots of comments via the so-called second screen.
The Hype Cycle
The second reason relates to the Hype Cycle mentioned on Business Unusual before. It took off as a way to share the best of the SXSW in 2007. Attending the annual conference are the great and good of tech and media and the story that year was Twitter.
Reporters found it was a great tool to both source and file stories.
With the encouragement of media, celebrities joined and together they made the network grow rapidly. Fans could have a conversation with their heroes and on occasion get a personal response. swoon
Fans began to self-organise giving rise of the Beliebers and Directioners and a host of other groups.
It did not take long for politicians to see the value of connecting with an engaged younger audience resulting in most world leaders having a Twitter account.
But with all that hype, how would a new user hope to compete with a celebrity for followers or hope to say anything interesting enough to get noticed.
The top 5 accounts on Twitter via Twittercounter.
There is a general rule that suggests 90% of people on the internet will only ever read, 9% would share and comment and the remaining 1% will create content. It may sound small but with over 3 billion people online that still leaves over 30 million people posting content.
That expectation of investors for the growth assumed more and more people would sign up and start engaging, but tracking live events and celebrity pearls of wisdom is not everyone’s idea of a great network.
There has been fair coverage of people being fired for what they posted (which is justified) which has lead to some opting not to say anything. While at the same time the ability to be anonymous allows for trolls to scare even the most ardent fans from the network (see Stephen Fry)
To illustrate, Microsoft launched an AI bot to engage with Twitter users hoping to learn about how young people have conversations and what they talk about.
It did not take long before the machine was posting very inappropriate content. It paused for a few days and started again and within hours had posted that it was smoking dagga in front of the cops.
Microsoft say the machine was tricked.
A new user's experience might look similar to the unfortunate robot.
Jack Dorsey the founder and returned CEO knows they face an uphill battle, but he seems to have a good idea on what needs to be done to make it work.
Focus on the live events and make it safer and easier for people to engage.
Offering accounts a way to show their value to the network besides follower counts will also help encourage people to take part again, even is just by actively reading and sharing what they find.
For business,the principal opportunity is customer service. Egypt Air demonstrated the value in providing updates and being able to respond during an emergency for the benefit of individuals and media.
Advertising opportunities are growing with lots of potential for product launches to start a conversation. The important thing to remember though is that brands don't control the conversation so expect your product to have both the good and the bad being discussed.
In time and assuming they can address the issues, Twitter will be the World's town hall for quickly finding views on any subject while being able to track a variety of live events. It will not replace other media, but will probably be the best destination for a quick catch-up on anything.