Twitter shared earnings recently, and the key takeaway was not its return to some sort of revenue growth, but rather the social network’s limited ability to grow its user base fast enough. The social net’s numbers are great, by 99% of all terms for any company, and still growing, but not fast enough to satiate investors.

Like many that use the service, I’m an active Twitter user, but not a particularly active Twitter participant, with regard to posting content. Herein lies the issue for Twitter: how do you get new users to sign up for something that they might find complex and don’t think they’ll use as an active participant?

I have one idea that could work, and another that probably wont:

An Idea That Could Work

It’s OK to Watch

First, Twitter should begin to market itself more for what it’s core functionality is, and that’s what I call the world’s most elegant RSS feed. RSS feeds. Unlike Twitter, RSS feeds are a one way rivers. Twitter’s vastly superior to RSS feeds in many ways, including its brilliantly designed presentation of data. Also, and more notably, the two are different as Twitter offers the opportunity for interaction. RSS is simply a river you drop a bottle in and watch it float off down the single direction current. Twitter is a river where bottles with messages go in a million different directions with the river changing its current from one way to another – at the same time. Still, there is absolutely nothing wrong with standing on the river and watching the bottles/tweets float by without throwing anything in the river yourself. I do this five or six times a day.

Millions of potential new users likely have no idea they can sign up for Twitter and get all the info they want, on whatever interests them, in a matter of minutes with a well designed feed that requires nothing from them outside of logging in. Perhaps Twitter starts to markets this concept, and creates a few dozen personas that new users can chose from that automatically set them up with 100 accounts followed. I’d bet a good amount of the on-boarded newbies would turn into power users, but more importantly, many would likely tell others like them what Twitter is all about (in languages their peers can understand), and turn them into new users.

An Idea That Won’t Work (unless it happens organically)

Deemphasize #

You cannot go anywhere or see anything without a hashtag on it. Some people are #unable #to #post #on #twitter #without #them. You see the symbol on major endeavors, serving as what’s intended as an understated marketing element: #superbowl, #grammys or whatever big thing is going on. And from there on down you see the long tail eye roll inducing iterations we see here in Las Vegas, NV including #localtvstationrules or #ilovemydentist. While it’s fascinating that blue chip brands fall all over themselves to market another brand, I wonder at what cost. Is the # so ubiquitous that it turns off potential new users, with them thinking signing up necessitates participation, and then with participation requiring the learning of a new and mysterious language? This is a tough one, as the # has become an absolute fundamental in marketing – there are probably a thousand marketing pros pitching clients a #badhashtagidea right now.

The only way overhashtagification could end is if it happened organically. Events like the Superbowl and the Pepsi Half Time Show and others like them, stop dropping hashtags on everything, and then the fish of increasingly smaller size follow suit, as they always do. It may seem like a big loss for Twitter to lose the free marketing, but I wonder how much it really helps. Do people really join Twitter to hashtag a Ryan Seacrest moment, or a local swap meet because they see a #? Do they even know what that means? Or does this just engage a subset of users already on Twitter? Maybe the service would be better off with less attention and more focus on controlling its message.

Twitter has guys maintaining bowls of fruit and granola bars that are ten times smarter than I am, so I’m sure they have ideas of their own. I’ll enjoy watching what happens, from the river banks. And wishing them luck


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