Twitter (TWTR) has a problem. The company isn’t ratcheting growth nearly as fast as they need to. Now that the company has gone public, they’re got the pressure of the investing public to start churning out some serious revenue. Problem is, while Twitter is monetized, and deriving cash from a diverse array of revenue streams, they’re simply not growing at nearly close enough to the rate they need to be. Twitter needs to change. The question is, in what way?
Concerning which direction they take, they have two options. They can go the Snapchat route, and adapt a more cutting-edge platform that embraces trends like “exploding” messages, and go after the youth set.
The other is to go the Facebook (FB) route and work towards becoming more palatable and friendly to a wider demographic. Quit chasing the teenage demographic, go for mass appeal, and become the chocolate to Facebook’s vanilla, so to speak.
With Twitter’s two most recent moves – first hinting they would “move the scaffolding” of hashtags and @-replies out of the 140 character limit, and launching a redesign that favors bold visuals and utilizes a cover image – it’s become clear they are planning on going the way of the Facebook. And for now, it’s the right thing to do.
Picking the "Olds" Over the "Youngs"
To be sure, Twitter’s redesign incorporates trendier elements of teen-targeted social media. As part of the redesign, tweet sizes will now be adjustable. This ability to alter text to broaden the palette of text messaging has already proven a hit with teen-favorites Snapchat and newcomer Frankly. That feature makes sense for a platform as snippet-friendly as Twitter. However, nearly every other move Twitter is making is straight out of the stodgy old Facebook playbook.
Twitter is emphasizing photos, making product more universal and less bogged in the tweet jargon of which Twitter themselves have been critical. They’re emphasizing a less rigid algorithm, allowing users to highlight specific tweets in their feed instead of just relying on a chronological timeline. And they’re going with the three-column page, neatly separating photos, timeline, and trending/suggested topics.
On the surface, it might appear that Twitter is delegating themselves to second place by favoring imitation over innovation. But a company beholden to its stockholders cannot afford to take major gambles. They need to broaden their reach, and there’s worse ways to do that than by stealing the ideas of Facebook, a juggernaut with a $158 billion (and growing) market cap.
Eventually, New Twitter Will Just Be Twitter
Twitter has little chance of inexplicably becoming popular with the 12-18 set that Snapchat has such a firm grip on. And while there's certainly a lot of overlap in their user bases, if Twitter is to change one way or another, they are better off becoming bigger and buying the Snapchats of the world than trying to be one themselves.
The redesign is currently being tested on a few profiles before rolling out universally in the next few weeks. While there’s some outcry now, after awhile its most dedicate users will forget it looks any different, and New Twitter will just become Twitter. Just more like how Facebook's redesigns have long been forgotten, and now are just accepted as a part of the experience.
So Twitter is becoming Facebook. If the enduring power of Facebook is any indication, that just means Twitter will become even more popular.
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