The app that makes most sense to a person of diverse interests? Twitter perhaps. It was certainly the first service that interested me. Almost 8 years ago, on signing up I didn’t quite know what to do with it. Some of its early adopters, well known faces of the digital space, talked a lot about social media and the nuances of interaction on the platform. Beyond a cursory interest, there was nothing in common that would sustain extended conversations.
Twitter to most of my colleagues, friends or clients resulted in blank faces. Instead of looking for work related material, I looked for music, books and over time work topics that interested me. Found interesting links, knowledgeable people and there was a sense of a growing community of similarly interested people. There’s a word for it in hindi, apnapan. A sense of belonging is the closest to that definition.
One could listen to music from far off lands, discuss books and engage with authors and present one’s view. There were regulars one interacted with and met offline as well. One followed events and got a sense of the latest discussions from across the world. There was something of interest even if the person was not the most gregarious of people.
But slowly things began to change and perhaps it was bound to happen with growth. The nature of the stream changed. From a generally positive stream it took on the shape of another culture i.e of outrage. It wasn’t as if things were completely negative. There was still a lot going for the service. It was being used for medical requests, help information and so much more. The overwhelming sense though was of increasing negativity. People who were regulars initially started voicing their concerns about the service and eventually dropped out. They found alternate services that better addressed their needs.
In essence, the customer was churning out and the word of mouth, in the social circle, was also not always positive. On the other hand, the newer customer was very different and acquired in completely different circumstances. New customers are important but equally it is the responsibility of a company to better manage the experience of existing customers. Services and features felt like an ignored set for customers.
Consider the hypothesis, that the company focused on a specific customer type and aligned their services and features for this person. Maybe their current problems arose from the actions/inactions of that time. Their decision to link closely with media/news and consequently verify media personalities and properties could explain their rapid growth. Unfortunately, it also changed the nature of the stream. People were participating in news, policy conversation, sports events and so on. A lot of people got to express and that is a good thing too.
The service thus changed from being a discovery/serendipity engine to something of a broadcast tool. One got a sense that feature development did not keep pace with the changed needs of the stream. Eg. Did the importance of having emojis in time for the world cup supersede the decision to filter out this content? Smaller events available in the discover or moments feature could have got attention too?
The predicament today can be viewed as a customer experience problem. Algorithmic timelines or extended tweets alone are not going to carry the day. It starts with getting into a better understanding of who their customer really is and how best they might serve them.
Revival plan would need to be multi-pronged activity. It needs to improve the experience of the people who are on today and also make it simpler for new people to make the most of this service. My list of things to address would be on these lines –
The app has changed features too many times. The lack of speed and stability is very surprising. Lack of consistency of features across devices and apps is an ongoing problem.
Improve the DM Experience
– Remove inconsistencies in the treatment of the DM service which has been prominent sometimes and other times hidden. There are issues with deletion and search that to be addressed on priority. A lot of good conversations happen on DM and yet they are not searchable. Let’s say a link was shared 20 days back, how easy is it to look this up? It certainly is difficult today.
Improve the Lists Experience
– Lists that do not work for days due to API issues are not uncommon.
They need to improve topic based lists discovery. An example could be suggest lists from people in the following list.
Make it easy to share photos
– The current photo sharing experience is rather undercooked. Putting in reminder screens (current approach) to encourage people to connect the twitter app to photo gallery is not going to move the needle if the photo sharing experience is sub par across all types of devices. Compare it with other platforms to see how feature limited the current experience is.
Search and classification experience
– There are so many links being shared on twitter. Compare that with the search on offer today and you realise the service could do so much more. The service needs to make searching one’s own link and messages easier and help with topic classification too.
The Trending Experience
– I’ve never actually looked at the trending section. The themes or topics I follow are just never there. Why can’t the service offer things that are closer to my interest areas. The kind of material a user tweets would give a fair idea of the interests. The service needs to make this count.
Mentions experience – Make it easy to manage the mentions stream
– There are instances of hateful comments, bullying and related themes. Why can’t the algorithm make it easy for the user to filter out messages and people from the mentions stream. A click to not receive messages of a certain type or from specific people should be a simple matter. Would help manage the anxiety of unwanted or undesirable responses.
Ironic that companies are encouraged to build the best possible customer service with twitter and yet twitter itself has not invested in a service infrastructure that is meaningful for anyone other than a few chosen ones. Hate and abuse besides being a social issue is also a customer service issue that could be handled better.
Do you really think customers are going to trust you with their credit cards if you cannot handle basic things like abuse and other service related issues?
– Not available on the mobile platform is one aspect. Who does it serve and to what extent is a question that needs to be addressed.
– Twitter will send an email daily to sign up for ads but local currencies are not supported and they won’t answer any questions. They have signed up partners for their bigger businesses but compare the experience of signup of say Linkedin and Facebook, and Twitter comes up short.
– The closing of apps is well documented but the outreach in the newer avatar seems either to have not borne fruit or just tepid. When others have app stores, this company seems to even fail to list other developers who have setup twitter based services. The developer is a customer too. From figuring out the simplest twitter card to emerging use cases for the stream are concepts to discuss with developers. Trust is an important aspect of this relationship. Opening up frameworks, API and the like is not going to increase trust. There needs to be demonstrable action that builds trust.
All change is an opportunity to do more. The search for new frontiers is exciting and must be undertaken. In that quest though, one must not lose track of what is with us today. The acquisition while important needs to be balanced with retention too. Not many existing customers will be turned away from the algorithm based tweets if other services are on track.
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