Tom Webster, writing and speaking

The Tools Twitter Needs To Survive

Added on by Tom Webster.

I am going to suggest something that, depending on your attachment to Twitter, you might find controversial, or at least mildly vexing. Despite high awareness, Twitter has not crossed the chasm from early adopters to the early majority, and unless some yeomanlike efforts are made to change course, history says it never will. History also tells us that technology products and services that don't cross that chasm simply go away, because early adopters move on. Face it, when you have the founder of the heavily Twitter-inspired 140 Characters Conference suggesting that location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are already becoming more relevant than Twitter for some, you know the Twitterati are already getting restless. The majority of online Americans have their status-updating and connection needs met by Facebook. That is what it is. Whatever separates Twitter from Facebook has yet to be articulated in the minds of mainstream Americans. Some of you reading this may be able to passionately elaborate on those differences, but the undeniable truth is that many of those differences have not been positioned as important or meaningful to the greater online public. For most Americans, Facebook is not a marketing platform, or a way to interact with brands, or a way to otherwise "promote" their interests. The basic use-case for Facebook is simply to reconnect or maintain connections with people they already know. That may or may not be why you use Facebook, but it's certainly why that big ole' bulge at the top of the bell curve does.

Twitter needs to find similar use-cases, and more meaningful tools to demonstrate its value to the folks in the middle of the adoption curve. There's no better place to start than with the tools being developed around Twitter's platform. Next month, a host of Twitter developers are gathering at Chirp, the company's first "official" conference. As someone who has spent his career researching and monitoring the media and technology consumption trends of everyday Americans, I'd like to offer those developers some unsolicited advice that represents that vast middle of the bell curve heretofore underserved by Twitter:

Stop making tools that allow users to schedule Tweets to broadcast messages around the clock. Stop making tools to measure "sentiment" on Twitter. Stop making tools to mass follow or mass unfollow other users. Most people don't need these, because most people aren't "broadcasters." Most people aren't marketers, either, but there sure are lots of tools built on Twitter for marketers to market to other marketers. Stop making tools for social media enthusiasts--and start making tools that make real peoples' lives easier or better. Make the tools that will get your "less hip" older sister, or your sort-of-cool uncle interested in Twitter. Find ways to articulate the genuine value of OAuth without using the words "protocol" or "extension."

More people read and send SMS messages than use any single social networking web site. Tap into that.