Open Letter To Twitter: In Response to Josh Constine

by Joshua B. Hoe Joshua Hoe eating lunch

Josh Constine posted a really good if pessimistic article about the future of Twiter.

For those that are in the dark, this week Twitter responded to a drop in its stock price by deciding to apply a more algorithmic approach to how users view its timeline on the site.

I agree with much of what Mr. Constine says, it is unlikely that this will have much of a positive effect on Twitter adoption, but have a bit more optimism about Twitter in general.

Twitter has some inherent strengths.

For most users, Twitter is awesome because it is NOT made up of pre-baked communities full of people you already talk to (or are reconnecting with).

Twitter creates organic communities where none existed before, as a result, I have connected with literally hundreds of people with similar musical tastes (and many now read my blog as a result).

I have interacted with artists as diverse as Belinda Carlyle, Kim Gordon, Killer Mike, Keith Levene, and hundreds of less well known artists and bands (if you are not aware of these artists feel free to ask me about them @OnPirateSat).

I knew none of these people before Twitter.

It never even occurred to me to try to contact them. In many cases, I never have tried to contact them, they saw my messages and contacted me.

Twitter creates new connections.

What Twitter is getting wrong IMHO is that Twitter's actual user core are very Libertarian because they built the communities and connections on the platform themselves (often through hard work).

I don't mean that they are politically Libertarian, I mean they are social networking Libertarian (Twitter needs to keep hands off). When Twitter comes up with some grand new scheme to get those bright and shiny "New Users" they usually anger the hundreds of millions of active users they already have because the current users are social networking Libertarians.

The solution to the dilemma Twitter faces IMHO is a two step process:

1) Twitter needs to do a MUCH better job of integrating, welcoming, and helping new users understand how to use Twitter effectively. Right now it is like being dumped into a mysterious valley. Basically, as I recall, Twitter says "add people."

Twitter can make a difference on this end. Google does a MUCH better job of on-boarding for most of their many platforms. They have communities and expert boards and blogs set up to help people understand best practices.

Heck, it has taken me months to explain to people one at a time why Likes are inferior to Retweets when marketing on Twitter. Part of that is because you cannot find an honest explanation from Twitter of what "Likes" or "Retweets" even do (yes, we all know but do a Google search, see what turns up).

Twitter, seems to make decisions, give little explanation, and then leave the users to sort things out.

For example, when Jack Dorsey sent out his mea culpa on the new algo changes, he included the address @Jack which is not an active Twitter address we can use. I don't think you should act like you are "one of us" by including your Twitter address if it is not one tweeps can actually write to you at.

People like transparency and like to feel cared about, they don't like being pandered to.

What it feels like to most Tweeps now is that Twitter cares much more about new users than it does about the 300 million who use it now. That might be unfair, but it is accurate.

2) People on Twitter (or Tweeps) need to do a much better job of welcoming and helping new members. We should all follow back most everyone that we can, especially new folks. If we want to keep Twitter out of the functionality of Twitter, we have to do a much better job of being welcoming.

It is well established Twitter knowledge that you want to follow less people than follow you. This thinking might help your brand in some small way, but the vibrancy of the entire community is helped when you follow the people who follow you.

I generally only unfollow people when they post things that are constant streams of advertising or ho post gross of offensive content.

I guess what I am saying is that we Tweeps cannot have it both ways. We can't expect Twitter to stay hands off in a world in which we are not welcoming to new members.

Twitter has to keep growing, and we have to help grow it. If we don't help grow it, we will continue to see these crazy annoying and misguided top-down solutions.

Either way, what @joshconstine said is true, I doubt fiddling with the Deck Chairs by the management will do much but piss the Titanic Tweeps off. It is certainly a recipe for disaster to get no new members and anger all of your current members.

Anyway, I do agree with much of what you said, I doubt Twitter tinkering from the top down will do much to right the ship.

Joshua B. Hoe