Why tweeting is far from all there is to Twitter


Twitter has just announced a new VP of product. It’s a job role not unlike being the drummer in Spinal Tap, somewhat of a revolving door (I’m fairly sure Twitter’s product VPs just have difficulty with the job and move on rather than explode though).

The latest appointment, Keith Coleman, is causing a bit of a stir. For an odd reason — he doesn’t really Tweet.

Seems a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? A head of Twitter product that doesn’t tweet?

Well, no, actually. I’ve no idea whether Coleman will hang around longer than his recent predecessors, but I don’t believe the measly 143 tweets to his name at time of announcement will be the problem (if there is one).

To see why I believe this, you only have to look as far as what Twitter has said publicly about its marketing strategy. It’s no secret that the company has struggled with growing its user base, and the research based strategy it announced back in July cited non-users belief that they would ‘need to tweet everyday’ as a misconception.

The key positioning statement in the announcement was “Twitter is where you go to see what’s happening everywhere in the world right now.

Not where you go to share what’s happening where you are. It’s where you go to see what’s happening elsewhere.

To understand this shift you have to look at the full history of Twitter. Current Twitter CEO (another revolving door, albeit slightly less rapidly) Jack Dorsey has always considered it to be more of an information and news site than a social network. For him, this ‘new’ positioning is not new. Read Nick Bilton’s Hatching Twitter and you’ll understand that this goes right back to the very inception of the product — share what you are doing, versus discover what is happening. Jack always thought the former mundane, but the latter a powerful idea. And I happen to agree.

I work in social media, so obviously I’m a Twitter user, but my 6,795 tweets over the eight years I’ve had my account amount to only slightly more than one a day. Hardly a heavy user by that criteria. However, I am on Twitter a huge amount — Tweetbot’s open throughout the working day, it’s my go to app on my phone on my commute.

What am I doing with all that time if I am not tweeting? The same thing that 90% of other users are doing. The same thing that Twitter’s product and marketing team are intending to gear the product towards. Browsing the fastest news and information source on the planet.

This would have made total sense in the early days of the internet, when we all used forums and understood the 1% rule — just 1% of users are creating your content, 9% are interacting with it, but 90% are basically passive. We talk about everyone being an oversharer, but I’m not convinced this is the case — I know plenty of people who would love to have access to news at hyperspeed if there wasn’t the pressure of a follower number by their name.

Put it that way, and appointing a VP of product who, like the 90% he’ll be adapting the product for, doesn’t really tweet, seems more sensible than giving the job to any power user.


Image credit to https://homethods.com/