Twitter hasn’t had an easy 2017.
Continued complaints of hateful speech and bots have left many users feeling jaded about the platform. Additionally, Twitter has struggled to show meaningful growth of users and to generate steady revenue.
Despite the difficulties facing the company, they are forging ahead with new functionality, as well as enhanced safety features to combat the continued harassment and bot issues, in a continued attempt to increase the popularity and profitability of the platform.
Twitter’s ongoing problems
Twitter has often been criticized for its slow response to reports of harassment and unwillingness to get involved unless a media outlet picks up a story of harassment and proliferates it.
In an attempt to combat this, they introduced a Trust and Safety Council, comprised of researchers, advocates, and safety groups, in early 2016.
Additionally, it introduced a keyword filtering tool, an option to mute conversation threads, and a “hateful conduct” report option.
Despite these introductions, Twitter still fails to fully address the widespread hate speech and harassment that pervades the site.
These fixes have been called a cosmetic fix to a more fundamental problem with the structure of the site.
One of the major problems with policing the hate speech is how fast the posts can be shared, specifically with the help of bots.
Nine to 15 percent of Twitter accounts are bots, according to research from the University of Southern California and Indiana University. This means that of the 328 million users on the platform, at least 30 million are bots.
This is partially done by Twitter’s design, to allow advertisers to share messages and answer consumer complaints with automation, but bots also allow the quick sharing of malicious and false messages. In particular, bots have proliferated hate speech and posts containing extremist political agendas during major elections taking place worldwide during the last year.
Critics explain that Twitter may not be especially motivated to handle the bot problem, as the millions of bot accounts artificially inflate the popularity and value of the platform. If Twitter removed these accounts, the company could lose perceived value to advertisers and investors.
Since its origin, Twitter has never turned a profit. Additionally, it struggles to generate meaningful revenue that competes with other major social platforms, namely Facebook.
In 2016, Twitter generated just $2.52 billion in revenue, compared to $27.6 billion generated by Facebook.
During the first quarter of 2017, Twitter experienced an eight percent dip in revenue, including an 11 percent decrease in ad revenue.
Lack of user growth
After a promising start to 2017, in which the site added nine million users during Q1, things looked hopeful as the year progressed. During the Q2 earnings report, however, they claimed 328 million users, the same number the company reported in Q1.
Additionally, Twitter admitted during the third quarter of 2017 that they had been misreporting the number of users since 2014. Twitter had been including third-party, text-based apps in the total number of users, forcing them to lower their estimated user numbers by two million for the first two quarters of 2017.
The new features
Video website card
On October 17 of this year, Twitter introduced the Video Website Card. This feature auto-plays a video advertisement, and if a user clicks on it for more information, the video anchors to the top of the page while the website loads below.
Advertisers can customize these ads based on their ideal objective—views, clicks, or awareness—and can change the prioritization of these objectives throughout a campaign.
According to Twitter, trials with beta clients proved successful, with higher retention of viewers than with traditional websites.
After defending its 140-character limit last year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that it would extend the maximum number of characters per tweet to 280.
Although this was met with some initial pushback from users claiming that its limited posts were the main appeal of Twitter, the company’s stock prices have increased since the announcement and no major celebrities have left the platform as a result of the new feature.
As part of its growing data business, Twitter is expanding on its offerings of events, sentiment, and customer service analysis. Starting at $149, their new product will eventually provide developers with access to Twitter’s full history of posts and content.
After experiencing 22 percent growth to $87 million in third quarter revenue, the data business poses positive opportunities to generate income. This part of the business already accounted for 15 percent of the total third quarter revenue.
What does this mean?
As Twitter continues to develop and introduces new updates, communication professionals will have to pay attention to how these changes affect the platform and its ability to benefit their brands’ communication strategy.
Despite the trouble facing Twitter recently, it remains one of the leading social platforms for communicators and businesses, especially to share and promote content. Twitter adds important value to many brands’ PESO program, specifically the earned and shared parts of PESO.
For it to add value to the paid part of communicators’ PESO programs, as well as to add more advertising dollars to its overall revenue, Twitter needs to refine features that encourage better engagement from users.
Additionally, it must address the widespread issues of abuse and harassment to attract new users and increase the number of daily users.
Although these new features scratch the surface of the problems affecting Twitter, they represent significant steps to improve the platform’s value to communicators.