The Importance of Twitter and How To Understand It

A makers advice to the Twitter team

It’s easy to take shots at Twitter. The stalled user-growth. The falling stock prices. The simultanious depart of multiple executives. Answering “What is Twitter?” to non-users. The awkward reactional feature setups around the product only experienced users seems to know how to use “right”. It’s easy because the target is huge.

I even offensively wrote that Twitter has an “astonishingly imbalanced, elite-oriented inequality in their userbase resulting in a few percentage of the users having a massive amount of followers, while the other massive part have a few followers and end up tweeting to the black hole. Effect? People do not sign up for Twitter to tweet. People sign up to follow the elite.”

That’s one way to look at it. But that’s also only one way to look at it. There’s much more to Twitter, but the “more” is often unfortunately difficult to explain and debate. An explainable and new way to look at it which I recently discovered made me think: “That’s it! That’s the core and future of Twitter!”

My thoughts were trickered yesterday when I saw Scott Belsky’s tweet:

After a period of lacking optimism and imagination for Twitter I felt I owed Twitter optimism and imagination. Don’t be a hater. Be a maker. My thoughts eventually lead me to this:

Twitter is a Public Media.

Social Media vs Public Media

Weighing the Public Media term against Social Media is important. It seems like for everytime Twitter is being presented as a Social Media platform it ends up feeling a little weird. The Web is entering a new decade that will change the way we understand how everything in the bigger picture is blindly architected and ultimately the way we use it. The News Feed / Timeline has been here for about 10 years and it’s been an decisive factor placing Twitter to the Social Media term. In time we learn, in time things naturally evolve, in time we adapt our understandings.

Time to adapt our understanding of Twitter and to finally free it from its Facebook measurements is now. Twitter is much more important and stronger than Facebook in crucial areas of the Web.

Twitter is a place where you universally make yourself public, publicly available and accessable.

It doesn’t matter if you are actively tweeting or not. Twitter is a reflection of your main activities in life. The followers you get and the followings you make. The reactions you get and the messages you receive. The more results you create in life the more results you make on Twitter. The more impact you have in life the more impact you have on Twitter.

Twitter is a reflection of the public you. It’s where you connect and communicate with the public relations unlike connecting and communicating with social relations.

And the public you? It’s an highly important extension of yourself. Public oriented people care about it, so much that they visit their own profile multiple times a day.

Chris Sacca’s profile is a good example of to create a good personal public intro. Notice his pinned tweet. It’s an article portraying who the public Chris Sacca is written by Forbes a year ago.

Advice to Twitter

Yes, Twitter is 6 times smaller than Facebook, or maybe even smaller when you think of actual people accounts. That’s OK. We live in times where an account no longer should be measured by if it is a real person or not. An account is an account and it is valuable in varied ways. Measuring Twitter to Facebook is a broad thing. When new people sign up for Twitter they often do it with the mind of using an alternative to Facebook and end up getting dissappointed. There’s no intimacy in the way you connect with accounts and a feeling of privacy for your posts. It’s just so public.

Rethink and work towards changing the pre-experience of Twitter = What is Twitter and how is it valuable to me?

Embrace the Public
Strenghten the public intro experience of profiles and the reaction-abilities for accounts and their tweets (Quick trend tip: Test “Seen” label in Tweet stats that appears when the user you’ve tagged in your tweet have seen your tweet. Even if there’s no reaction, it’s still very impactful for the user). Focus on powering the actual-people accounts. They are the crucial mass which brands and Media are depended on. Why? Brands and Media accounts often have a team of experts making an awesome account setup and public appearance. Actual people accounts (the mass) does not. We have ourselves. We need your help and guide without having to be experienced users to setup the best public and dynamic profile. How can you help?

If you care about reading further please continue. I’m sharing my thoughts and ideas on how to improve the public appearance on Twitter.


Public Introductions

Example: At project Balloon we are using a design pattern we call “Profile Entry Design” that will give people a “frontpage” experience when visiting profiles.

There are many ways to capture the challenge, but a simple way to begin is to start outside software. How do you present yourself in the public/when meeting new people? How are non-users doing it?

Do a series of tests by observing how people introduce themselves alongside with what extensive questions they get during the intro and find the repeating components. Become founders again. If Twitter were to launch later this year with zero users and limited funds, how would you set your traction strategy?

Here’s my improvised take as I write:

Me “Hi my name is JJ Sandgreen and I am the founder of Balloon. Our mission is to build a next generation of a social media experience by building a news feed experience around moment-oriented micro-events we call Balloons.”

Observation: He tells his name and quickly dives into what occupies him.

Name: JJ Sandgreen
Occupied with: Making Balloon

You “How old are you?”
Me “I’m 27.”

Name: JJ Sandgreen
Age: 27
Occupied with: Making Balloon

You Where are you from?
Me I’m from Greenland.

Name: JJ Sandgreen
Age: 27
From: Greenland
Occupied with: Making Balloon

You “I unfortunately have other things to do. Where can I learn more about your project?”
Me “On Medium. We are writing about our progress in a Publication we call The Adventure of Balloon.” (Preferrably in the future, we want people to say: find me on Twitter: jjsandgreen)

Name: JJ Sandgreen
Age: 27
Occupied with: Making Balloon
Featured link: medium.com/the-adventure-of-balloon

What are we learning and what is different?

Name
My real name is Jens-Jakob Martin Lennert-Sandgreen, but on a daily basis I use “JJ Sandgreen”. That’s my public name. Signing up for Twitter it is not required to differentiate your first- and last name, so it gives me space to be bold about my name.

Age
When people ask about my age I don’t reply with “I’m born in May 5th 1988. It was a Thursday in case you were wondering…” and then let them do the calculation. In other words, by birthday is not relevant to the public, but it is relevant during sign up or in settings. The relevant appearance is my age which quickly further helps placing the public me. Yes as a 27 year old, I’m peaking my ignorant creativity :)

Occupied with
Now I deliberately chose not to use the term “Work” or “Occupation” or similar static terms. Where I am working, what I am working on or what I mainly do is fluent. I do not want to be defined by a single occupation as I do more than one thing. “Occupied with”, or similar, helps me define what is taking most of my time these days or even months, without statically defining me.

Featured link
This is an overseen but important feature in userbased platforms that still hasn’t been updated to the new times. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other several userbased platforms provide “Link” as a standard feature in user profiles, but the way it is being used is dynamic. Users feature a new link based on what is happening in their lives. It could be a link to their latest YouTube video, an article they want more awareness to or in my case: our Medium publication I want more followers to.

Bio description
You have the best. The way Twitter accounts use this is broadly spot on. In my case from the example above it would perhaps say “Founder of Balloon. Our mission is to build a next generation of a social media around moment-oriented micro-events we call Balloons.” Adding the intro’s above would also make more space to the users bio field.

Summing it up: The feature advices above might appear like small changes, but small changes can make very impactful changes in time in why we sign up, why we use it and how we use it.

Supportive extra
Twitter Interests:
What are my public interests? What am I using Twitter for? Example:
- Tech News
- Tech People (Investors and Makers)
- Chelsea FC and its players

This is an idea I feel still feel unsure about, but a feature like this could help me show my Twitter profile visitors what my main interests are in the public. A way to categorise the accounts that I am following. Inside following: Tap on “Tech People” then the Tech People I’m following will appear without being mixed with Chelsea FC’s football players. It’s like the “List” feature, automised.

There’s certainly optimism and imagination for Twitter.
The question is: Where’s Twitter after the next decade? Where will the Twitter team take it? Will the CEO’s shy personal public intro hold Twitter back from becoming the leading and preferred Public Media platform for the mass?

My ultimate advice is: You’re doing well with Public Figure, Brands and Media accounts (positive revenue signs), but find a way to do equally well for the mass. The mission pattern is “Public” approach. Twitter is a place where an ordinary person from a remote place on earth can instantly and directly communicate with The White House or Taylor Swift using the public media platform.

Twitter is a Public Media reflecting the Public You.

-JJ