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By Kit SmithSep 21
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Published December 13th 2016
2016 was a difficult year for Twitter. Mind you, it was a difficult year for most of us, so I can forgive it. And actually, I think Twitter’s demise has been overstated – revenue and usage are up, even if the numbers are small. Plus it remains the best network to discover and discuss breaking news.
Having said that, there have been some genuine struggles in recent times, with rampant trolling, slow growth and the potential sale collapsing. Perhaps 2017 will see the network turn a corner.
It has already begun to refocus on its core strengths. The shutdown of Vine and the reduction of the workforce seems to be a streamlining of the service. The renewed emphasis on live news, events, and sport is proof of this focus.
The recent US presidential election was a timely reminder of the power of Twitter. The openness of the platform makes it a unique network for discussion, and often the serious conversations happen there. While people on Facebook are sharing funny LADBible videos, Twitter users are discussing world events.
It is difficult to write a post of Twitter predictions, as the company keeps its cards close to its chest. With Facebook or Instagram, there are constant updates, tests and press releases that hint at what is to come.
Noticing Twitter trends takes a little more detective work. Looking at recent events, combining it with CEO Jack Dorsey’s recent statement leads us to the following five predictions.
Twitter is what’s happening, and what everyone is talking about… We’re the people’s news network.
Twitter was one of the early adopters of live video, buying Periscope before the service had even launched. Other networks have since rolled out similar features (Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram all have live video now). Twitter has moved in a different direction, signing a deal to live stream 10 Thursday Night Football games worldwide for free.
This brings us to the first, and perhaps most obvious of our Twitter trends: more live broadcasting. Live streaming sport is a new approach, but it makes sense when you read Dorsey positioning Twitter as the people’s news network. Millions of people ‘second screen’ with Twitter during sporting events, so bringing broadcast directly into the platform feels like an extension of this.
Twitter is a natural forum for discussions, and sport does tend to lead to a healthy debate. I wouldn’t be surprised if they signed more deals in the future. New users might be attracted to the platform for the free broadcast, but then engage in a live debate that demonstrates the value of using Twitter.
Healthy debate is not always a term you would associate with Twitter. 2016 saw trolling prominent in the news.
When Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones quit Twitter after being subjected to extreme, coordinated trolling, Dorsey stepped in to rectify it, banning Milo Yiannopoulos from the service. There was some debate about whether it was the right thing to do, but it was also acknowledged that there needs to be a better long term solution than the CEO noticing your troubles.
Hi Leslie, following, please DM me when you have a moment
— jack (@jack) July 19, 2016
In July, Twitter opened up the verification process to every account. The little blue tick was previously exclusive to celebrities but may become a marker for genuine, high-quality accounts. Could this be a step towards removing anonymous accounts, or at least making them less prominent? As Twitter says;
Our goal with this update is to help more people find great, high-quality accounts to follow, and for creators and influencers – no matter where they are in the world – to easily connect with a broader audience.
It could be the beginnings of a clamp down on the anonymous nature of Twitter that makes trolling, and multiple accounts, so easy.
Recently, Twitter added filtering tools to the platform to combat the trolling problem. This new tool means users can avoid certain accounts and keywords, which is the biggest step Twitter have taken in relation to the trolling problem.
Customer service has been a natural fit for brands and Twitter. Even where brands have not embraced it, their customers largely have, forcing the brand to engage. The desire to complain in public has driven many people to Tweet a company rather than wait on hold to a call center. This niche may be under threat, however.
With chatbots coming to Facebook and Whatsapp, Twitter needs to retain its reputation as the place for customer service. If the customer service representative can be replaced by an AI bot, and on the messaging platforms hundreds of millions of people already use on a daily basis, it could spell danger for Twitter.
Twitter has decided to bit more effort into shoring up its position. New customer support features will help users and brands. The accounts which provide help will be labeled as customer care accounts, will have opening hours to let customers know when they are most active and have an enlarged Direct Message button.
The spread of fake news in the post-truth, President Trump era was a huge story in the aftermath of the election, and while the majority of the story has centered on Facebook’s algorithm, Twitter needs to address this problem too.
Part of the problem appeared to be Twitter bots spreading fake news, along with prominent politicians spreading misinformation. Mike Flynn, Trump’s former incoming national security adviser was caught spreading false news at least 16 times in 2016.
If Twitter views itself as the “people’s news network“, they need to make sure that the news being discussed is actually true, otherwise, their credibility goes out of the window.
This is the big one. Twitter is still too difficult for a new user to understand, and it can take quite a while to realize the value of the service. That was the idea behind introducing Moments, just over a year ago.
Twitter needs to release more product updates, and while they have been pretty slow at this, I would find it hard to believe that they are not working on it behind the scenes.
The only recent product update was the introduction of QR codes, which seems rather pointless. Here’s hoping that was a project to keep the intern busy, and the real brains at Twitter are about to revolutionize our use of the platform.
Dorsey’s comments about being a news platform suggest that the company is going to focus on maximizing their core experience.
Those are the Twitter Trends we think will continue into 2017. There will no doubt be a lot of change in the year ahead, and maybe Twitter have something up their sleeve that we haven’t thought of. Stay glued to your phone to find out!
Combining high-quality mobile survey technology, a robust polling methodology, and expert data analysis, our bulletins will be essential reading to get the pulse of the nation.