So What’s Wrong With Twitter?

Everything was going great at Twitter, what happened?
Everything was going great at Twitter, what happened?

Image Credit: Kooroshication

So here’s a question for you: do you “tweet”? By that question, of course, I mean do you use the social networking tool Twitter? During the course of an average day do you micro-blog and send out messages to your “followers” that are no more than 140 characters in length? It turns out that a lot of people do this every day and that’s why the company, Twitter, has become so big and valuable. However, now it’s looking like the product managers at Twitter might have a problem on their hands…

What’s Wrong At Twitter

Twitter’s famous right? You see those hashtags (“#eatSmart”) everywhere these days. Oh, and aren’t famous people getting in trouble all of the time because of inappropriate things that they have tweeted? The answer to all of these question is, of course, yes. However, the problem that Twitter is facing right now is that its growth is slowing and in the fast paced world of social media that’s the one thing that the Twitter product managers don’t want to happen.

Recently Twitter reported that its revenue increased 20% to US$602M. Most product managers would be thrilled with numbers like that and we’d love to add it to our product manager resume. However, this level of growth was the smallest gain the company has ever seen and it was the eighth straight period in which their growth has been declining. The company has had to tell its investors that they believe that the advertising market that they serve has less demand than they’d like and the next few quarters might see small growth also.

This is a big problem for a company that plays in the social media space. Twitter’s user growth has also stalled. They added 3 million net new subscribers in the past quarter and this was up only 1% from how many they had added the previous quarter. Right now Twitter has 313 million users who log into their service at least once a month. These numbers have to be compared to Twitter’s biggest competitor: Facebook. In the same time period, Facebook as added 164 million new users.

How Is Twitter Going To Fix This Problem?

The folks who run Twitter understand that they have a problem. They readily admit that “We’ve only reached early adopters and tech enthusiasts. And we’ve not yet reached the next cohort of users known as the mass market.” Clearly this means that the Twitter product managers need to update their product development definition. The numbers are telling: Facebook serves more than 1.4 billion monthly users—and upwards of 900 million daily active users—Twitter has to settle for a userbase of a little more than 300 million of which 250 million of those are overseas.

One of the big problems that Twitter has is that for people who don’t use it, they ask themselves “Why should I use Twitter?” People understand why they use Facebook – to stay in touch with friends and to share the things that are happening in their own lives. Things get more complicated when you start to talk about Twitter because your friends may not be on Twitter and you really can’t as easily share images or videos.

The Twitter product managers realize that they need to make some changes. What they are busy doing right now is creating new services that they hope will make it easier for new users to understand how Twitter works. These services include improving how users can find other people’s accounts so that they can follow them more easily. They are also creating a “While You’re Away,” service that provides a summary of tweets you missed while doing others things. Additionally, the product managers are working on what is being called “Project Lightning,” the upcoming Twitter tab that will include events-based curated feeds.

What All Of This Means For You

When we think about where we’d all like to be working as product managers, one company that may come to mind quickly is Twitter. Twitter is yet another one of those social media companies that seem to come from out of nowhere and grew to be a monster seemingly overnight. However, now their growth appears to be slowing and so the Twitter product managers have to use their product manager job description to find a way to solve this problem.

Twitter’s growth is stalling. Both in terms of the number of new subscribers and the number of people who are using the service, the number are still growing but they are slowing down. This is in marked contrast to Facebook which is still growing at a very rapid rate. A lot of the issues that Twitter is facing is because many non-users are confused by how you use the service. The Twitter product managers are trying to solve these problems by creating new services that will make using Twitter easier to use.

In order to recapture the growth that Twitter once had, the Twitter product managers are going to have to solve two problems. The first is to educate potential customers on how to use the service. The second is to create a real reason for people to want to use the service. If they can accomplish both of these tasks, then Twitter can once again start to experience the rapid growth that they are looking for.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What can the Twitter product managers do to make Twitter be different from Facebook?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The times they are a changing. As product managers it is our responsibility to stay on top of trends that are affecting our customers. One very important trend is just exactly how our customers are going about buying things. In the old days, customers would decide that they needed something, get in their car and drive to a store or a mall, go browse a store, find what they wanted, and then buy it. Our product management activities were designed around this behavior. Now things have changed. Our customers are buying more and more things online. We’re going to have to change our product development definition.