Is Twitter Out Of Control?

Has Twitter lost control of its most valuable asset?
Has Twitter lost control of its most valuable asset?
Image Credit: Pietromassimo Pasqui

Hopefully you are well aware of just who Twitter is. The micro blogging service has over 313 million monthly users (just think about adding that to your product manager resume). If you turn on just about any television program, they are always talking about what is being discussed on their Twitter feed. This is all very impressive, but a bigger question that the Twitter product managers have to answer is just how many people are seeing all of those tweets? The answer is that they don’t know.

A Loss Of Control

So what’s going on over at Twitter? We all know that Twitter is very, very popular. How many causes / ads / companies have you seen lately that are promoting a hashtag of some sort that they’d like you to start using on Twitter? What all of this attention means is that there are a great number of people who are using Twitter. However, that’s where Twitter’s problems with their product development definition start to show up. It turns out that Twitter’s content is reaching a lot more people than actually have Twitter accounts or who engage with Twitter on a daily basis. The Twitter product managers have no way to count these people.

Twitter does try to measure the reach of its service. The Twitter product managers believe that the total reachable market for Twitter is 880 million people. This number includes people who are exposed to Twitter information outside of the main Twitter webpage and mobile applications. This can happen when people see Twitter information embedded in a website or a particular news article. There is no way to include all of the television shows where the hosts comment on and read off twitter messages.

What we need to understand here is that the Twitter product managers have a massive problem on their hands. Twitter likes to brag about its influence, but the problem is that they really don’t know how many people they are reaching. The reason for this is that a great deal of the content that is on Twitter is being consumed outside of Twitter’s applications so they have no way to measure it. Twitter does have valuable content, but because they do such a bad job of bringing it to the surface, an entire industry has sprung up to provide apps and data mining services.

What Twitter Needs To Do

The Twitter product managers are dealing with a fundamental problem here. Their company is very popular, but it is struggling. Twitter has not yet turned a profit and they recently reported that their growth in new membership in the past quarter was just 1%. The problem that Twitter is facing is the same problem that just about all media companies are currently facing. They do a great job of creating content that people want to see. However, they are losing control over how people consume their content.

The good news is that Twitter’s product manager are taking steps to try to solve their problem. They have implemented a new algorithm that organizes the tweets that a user is looking at. The problem with what the product managers are doing is that the incremental changes that they are making simply are not enough. The problem is that Twitter contains a great deal of very valuable information that its users just can’t access quick enough.

This need to change how things are done has placed the Twitter product managers in a classic situation. What they need to accomplish is to radically change how their service operates in order to gain new customers while at the same time not alienating those people who currently use the service. Perhaps Twitter’s biggest problem is that all of its tools are built to both create and capture content. Since so many people just want to read content and not create it, perhaps it’s time for Twitter to divide these functions up and accept the fact that the majority of their content is created by a minority of their users.

What All Of This Means For You

Twitter is an amazingly popular service. A great number of people have signed up to use Twitter. These people produce a great deal of content each day. What is even more amazing is that more people than just that large group of people who have signed up read Twitter content each day. This is where Twitter is running into a problem and the Twitter product managers are going to have to consult their product manager job description to find out what they need to do.

The twitter product managers know how many users they have. They even know how many active users they have. However, what they don’t know is how many people are consuming Twitter content every day. The reason that they don’t know this is because a great deal of the consumption of the Twitter data is happening outside of twitter’s applications so they have no way to track it. Twitter creates great content, but they have no way to track how it’s being consumed. The product managers are taking steps to try to create tools that will do a better job of providing users with the information that they want, but it may be too little too late. What Twitter needs to do is to separate the tools for consuming content from the tools for creating content.

Twitter is a very good service that is used by a very large group of people. Now all their product managers need to do is to determine how to make all of their great content available to the people who want to consume it. If they aren’t careful, outside firms will end up doing this better than they can. Let’s hope that the Twitter product managers get the message!

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

Question For You: If Twitter separated their tools into two groups, how could they convince more people to create content?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The world of automobiles stands on the edge of a brave new world. Due in part to a big push by Google along with a number of universities and other car manufactures, the era of self-driving cars is fast approaching and this is going to dramatically change the product development definition for what a car is. As you can well imagine, the complexities associated with creating a car that can navigate the real world of our streets and highways are huge. However, it’s starting to appear as though most of the big issues have been solved. What this means is that product managers have to start to get ready for the arrival of self-driving cars.