Prediction: Twitter is (and will remain) “Biased”, “Flawed” and “Unrepresentative”
Almost 6 years after it was written, nearly every word of Steve Faktor’s Forbes piece on Twitter holds true. In fact, it wasn’t even meant to predict anything; it was a snapshot. But one so accurate, that it stood the test of time.
“Twitter has 200 million active users, but is definitely not a social network. Though it looks social, it’s more hyperactive than interactive. Of the billions of tweets sent, 71% get no response, only 36% are worth reading, and a majority is generated by a tiny fraction of users. Twitter is a personal announcement system that captures the collective pulse of a world screaming for attention – or revolution, or discounts, or Kanye. Twitter is a tiny, evolutionary step towards a “global mind”. Making sense of that mind has spurred a gold rush of mind-readers trying to sell you shovels, pans, and a donkey. Of course, Twitter itself is evolving and like any analysis, this is a snapshot in time.”
A smaller, younger group of over-Chirpers reveal way too much. Eventually their tweets will be called ‘Exhibit A’.
What sometimes vexes and disappoints top Networkers is their massive time commitment and big stats produce little real influence. Twitter’s dirty little secret is that real influence almost never happens in 140 character nibbles. It must happen in the real world first – building a great company, writing a bestseller, saving Darfur.
“While the act of tweeting has become simpler, the reasons why you should have not. Twitter could facilitate a revolution or it could save you $10 on flowers, but most discover a big, empty desert with a few oases. That means the Twitter crowd isn’t particularly wise or diverse, yet. Until that changes, Twitter remains a tantalizing database with incredibly high bias and potential for flawed, unrepresentative analyses. So feel free to weaponize those incentives for existing Twitter users, but extrapolate at your own peril.”
Since this was written, lots and nothing happened to Twitter.
Jack Dorsey returned to rescue the company, but material changes are hard to find.
What remains since this analysis:
- Unclear strategy
- Stagnant user growth. Unclear mass-consumer need.
- Unrepresentative nature of 10 types of users still stands. No diversification is coming.
- Network is still infected with bots, spammers and fake news.
- As expected, it is now “Exhibit A” for almost every celebrity downfall and #mob attack
- Interface tweaks – embedded video, tweet storms, emojis, GIFs, and double the characters!
- First profitable quarter in Feb 2018
- Push into video content – NFL, MLB, Bloomberg’s TicToc, BuzzFeed’s AM to DM, etc. Impact unclear.
- More marketing tools, but limited knowledge of users, beyond broad interests.
“But we already know what Twitter is, you protest! It’s a lightweight, real-time information network or platform that allows users anywhere to post things of interest and reach a potential audience of millions. Within that description, however, lies a multitude of experiences — a hall of mirrors in which my version of Twitter is nothing like your version, and nothing like that of the person sitting next to you on the train or the airplane, or at the basketball game.”
“When Twitter started it had so much promise to change the way we communicate. But now it has been ruined by the amount of garbage and hate we have to wade through. It’s like that polluted beach that all the swimmers have to use at the Olympics, in more than one way. Both are examples of the possibility of new tech changing everything, but now are full of literal and figurative sewage. While hashtags were actually one of the most exciting parts of Twitter when it was first announced, they have also fed into the rise of the spam problem. And it continues to go unchecked by the platform, because even less-than-reputable growth is still growth.”