140 Characters or Less: Twitter’s Struggle To Stay Relevant

Twitter has had a pretty interesting history. It taught us to how to be concise and brief in our thoughts. It has exposed the age gap with those who have no idea the difference between a direct message and a public time line. It has spurned revolutions (most notably the Arab spring), and has become the go to arena for breaking news. As a constant user, I have to say, I get the majority of my information from Twitter. Yet, even with all these funny and important characteristics, Twitter is floundering. This past week Twitter announced that they’re changing some of it’s structure to allow pictures and links to not count toward your 140 character limit. But with every late response to users’ murmuring, there is another that is ignored; i.e. editing tweets, which is expressed amazingly here.

In any industry a flat-lined consumer expansion is a death knell. For some reason Twitter has been able to survive these past 2 years with very little movement. To make matters worse, it’s ad revenue has had almost non-existent growth for almost the same period. Couple all that with a still confusing app structure (from personal experience the older you get the more you will gravitate towards Facebook, although some of these baby boomers are really loving Snapchat), and you have a cause for concern. When apps are changing with the times i.e. Facebook with it’s Trending News and Snapchat with Discover, Twitter has virtually stayed the same. Literally outside of changing the concept of “Favorites” to “Likes”, Twitter has pretty much stayed the same since I started using it in 2008. This past year, Twitter to combat stagnation graced us with ‘Mentions’, which honestly is a better version of the troubled Facebook ‘Trending’ (under fire for potential bias). Regardless, Instagram has already overtaken Twitter in users, and the only things that have kept them relevant (in my eyes) are their new offshoots, Periscope and Vine. Vine, a video service that lets users upload videos, generally humorous, has created many small screen celebrities (sucha as Jimmy Tatro and KingBach) as well as being used as a unique avenue to market movies, television, and music. Periscope, which allows users to stream live to anyone in the world, has also become a burgeoning form of media, establishing already rising media stars like Mashable’s Sam Sheffer, and Amanda Oleander . But is it all enough to stop the drowning? I think it’s still too early to truly state.

With over 320 million users, and a hold on the breaking news game (sorry Reddit), Twitter is not going away any time soon. But going away isn’t the issue, it’s staying relevant. There is nothing worse than slowly fading away into indefiniteness. User Experience is huge in the age of digital media, with any minor flawed design destroying an application. Lets go back and ask MySpace, which has become the poster child of not keeping up with the times, what they would have done differently. Jack Dorsey should ask Tom (Thomas Anderson of Myspace) for some friendly advice before we get a meta situation of Twitter’s death in their own ‘Mentions’.


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