It takes a thousand tweets to learn Twitter 

My Twitter journey and why the product is struggling to go mainstream. 

Twitter released it’s quarterly financial performance yesterday. Despite more than doubling its revenues (beating expectations), Wall Street is punishing $TWTR in the pre-markets (now down over 12%), due to collapsing user growth.

This tweet tells the story:

Even if the product is widely adopted and celebrated amongst key groups of people (techies, celebrities, politicians, activists, ect.), investors want to be confident that Twitter can go mainstream and attract upwards of 500 million users worldwide.

So why is growth slowing?

Why isn’t my mom or my ‘non-techie’ friends using the product?

Why isn’t Twitter being adopted faster by the masses?

Because it takes a thousand tweets to learn Twitter.

Teaching people how to use the product and what its value is has always been a challenge for Twitter. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, ‘I just don’t get Twitter — why should I use it?’.

Facebook is easy to understand and you get into the swing pretty fast. Friend you friends, post a few pictures/status updates, like some stuff, get likes backs (read: positive feedback–you’ve learnt how to use the product, yay!), post again — the cycle continues.

On Twitter it’s a different story. Where are my friends? Why don’t people favourite my tweets? What am I supposed to tweet about? I’m out!

The thing is Twitter has a completely different use case from Facebook, but it takes time to learn just what that use case is.

Here’s the story of my first thousand tweets:

Tweet 1 — 333

  • Joined May 2009
  • Hmm what do I do here?
  • Tweet some random stuff
  • @guykawasaki says I should auto-follow everyone who follows me — I’ll do that
  • Getting followers, but who are these people?
  • Tweet some random stuff
  • @message one of my few friends who is also using twitter, get a reply — cool! But couldn’t we have just done that on Facebook?
  • Tweet some random stuff
  • More random followers

Tweet 333 — 666

  • Ok I’m now following a bunch of random people, tweeting about stuff I don’t care about — maybe a shouldn’t have listened to @guykawasaki
  • Cancel auto-follow! Unfollow everyone! Start from scratch.
  • Follow a bunch people who tweet about stuff I care about.
  • Tweet about stuff I’m interested in — adding hashtags seems to get me favourites and relevant followers (positive feedback!)
  • Ok, now my feed is starting to get interesting — this is becoming my go to news feed.
  • I need a great speaker for a Startup Weekend event I’m organizing — maybe I can get someone via Twitter.
  • This guy @ml looks pretty sweet — he hangs with Branson. Tweet at him. Boom instant reply! That never happens via email.
  • @ml wants an iPad to come to speak at my event. Shit — no budget for that. Let’s try @brokep — he founded The Pirate Bay …
  • Boom instant reply again! @brokep is in!
  • Meet @brokep in person, he speaks at my event. That was pretty cool — let’s keep tweeting!

Tweet 666 — 999

  • My Twitter use case becomes more clear …
  • Consume tweets (links) about my industry (tech and startups) distributed by folks globally who know what they’re talking about
  • Contribute to the stream by tweeting my thoughts, and links relevant my industry with a dose of personality to keep it human (you are what you tweet!)
  • Engage with people I follow and folks that follow me with @messages — the most rewarding part of Twitter
  • Note to self: DMs (direct messages) are a great substitute for email, especially for hyper-busy people
  • Tweet, tweet, tweet
  • Remember to engage with people — still kind of intimidating
  • Don’t spend too much watching the stream — can be a time suck, but definitely more informative than my Facebook stream
  • Tweet, tweet, tweet

Tweet 1000

May 2009 to July 2013 — just over 2 years. That’s how long it took me to learn Twitter, and I’m in tech. Will the masses have the endurance to get a thousand tweets?

The growth numbers don’t lie.

Twitter needs to play with the product to help people through the adoption curve. If it continues to take a thousands tweet to realize the value of Twitter it will never be widely adopted.

The latest design change makes your Twitter profile look a lot like your Facebook profile — something most people are familiar with. Definitely a step in the right direction.

My Twitter profile

My Facebook profile

I think Twitter will get there. Leading up to the IPO the team was largely focused on proving to the market they could monetize the platform. The quarterly revenue numbers show they can.

For a deeper looking into how Twitter’s monetization strategy is just getting started read this.

But now, I presume, the key focus of the company will return to growth, and tweaking the product to be something than can go mainstream.

There’s a lot of smart people working at Twitter and I’m still long.

Next Story — [Live Now]
Currently Reading - [Live Now]


Meerkat is a new app that let’s you live stream video from your mobile to the internet. The live feed is spread on Twitter and it can only be watched in real-time. It’s a dead simple, magical product that has captured an engaged group of early adopters — actors, VCs, musicians, entrepreneurs.

Something about about the concurrency of live video makes for a very intimate and real experience. It’s the draw we have for live television (sports, award shows, news)—the fact that you know others are watching and the event is happening all at the same time is comforting and exciting. On the internet, Chatroulette, for a moment, created a similar intimate experience but was ruined by perverts, something Meerkat no doubt is conscious of. The fact is, as Matt Mazzeo points out, live makes the internet a less lonely place.

Mobile live streaming isn't new. Bambuser, a Swedish company, has been doing it since 2007. But sometimes a few product changes can trigger a whole new wave of adoption. In Meerkat’s case it’s all about the ephemeral streams and viral hooks.

On Meerkat once a live stream has ended it’s gone forever — no reruns. The ephemeral video stream triggers behaviour that promotes both video creation and viewership. Creators become less self-conscious, more spontaneous, and increasingly willing to experiment. Viewers feel a sense of urgency to tune in since they know now is their only chance. Combine these behaviours with [LIVE NOW] tweets on Twitter, real-time viewer comments, push notifications, and scheduling and Meerkat delivers a unique experience that keeps bringing us back for more.

Hard to say if Meerkat will gain mainstream adoption, but it sure does feel like the developers hit the sweet spot. And it’s exciting to think about what happens when every human with a smartphone realizes they have the power to go [LIVE NOW].

Will you tune in?

Catch me live @bennypage

Next Story — What Song Comes Next?
Currently Reading - What Song Comes Next?

What Song Comes Next?

Apple, Beats, Jimmy lovine, and the importance of music curation. 

It’s puzzling to many why Apple is apparently close to buying Beats for 3.2 Billion dollars. Is it the headphone business, the streaming service, the brand? It’s certainly uncharacteristic of Apple — who historically prefers to do much smaller deals, as a way to acquire technology IP to integrate into their own products.

My take is that this deal is all about music streaming. Streaming is clearly the future of music distibution, and Apple is way behind. Furthermore, there is a deeper entertainment play here centered around Beats creator Jimmy lovine, and knowing what song comes next.

The record industry claims that 80% of music listening is when someone’s playing the music for you and 20% is when you’re playing the music yourself.

Most of the time people just can’t be bothered to DJ their own music. It’s why today — despite all the commercials and self-promoted content — FM radio is still so popular . It’s why Pandora has created such a successful business out of engineering an algorithm that chooses the next song for you. What comes next is so important because, most of the time, people leave that decision to someone else, and that’s a lot of power.

Jimmy lovine knows the importance of what come’s next — the importance of curation. In this interview he talks about how curation will differentiate the Beats streaming music service from the competitors.

Everyone wants to know what song comes next. Who doesn’t know what comes next is your best friend on Facebook. Cause’ if he knew what song comes next he’d be making twenty five hundred dollars a night like David Guetta … you don’t want someone guessing, you want a trusted source.

Jimmy’s idea was to bring curation to Beats by partnering with music professionals and combining their knowledge with algorithms that learn and study your behaviour and taste.

Admittedly I’ve never tried the Beats streaming service — so I can’t testify to whether the product is any good — but with a only 200k reported customers, Beats is clearly well behind the competition and is struggling to differentiate the product. Jimmy lovine is a producer and a marketer after all, not product guy.

Of the streaming services I have tried (Spotify, Google Play, Deezer) none have satisfied my appetite for discovery or curation— they simply provide provide utility.

For music curation I seek out people for who study the art — folks like Jeremy Sole, Dan Wilcox, Broodje Tinus and the DJs on BBC Radio 1.

Will Apple be able to realize Jimmy’s vision? A vision which I believe to be true: music is best experienced when curated by people who know what song comes next.

Thanks for reading! If you got any value out of this, I’d really appreciate it if you scrolled down and hit the recommend button.

Next Story — Monument Valley
Currently Reading - Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Just finished Monument Valley — a beautiful puzzle game designed by Malmö and London based studio USTWO.

This title is a piece of art as much as it is a game. Lead Ida, the silent princess, through 10 architectural labyrinths full of color, delicate sounds, and illusion. The puzzles are challenging, but not frustrating allowing you to fully soak in the experience and adventure.

Highly recommended for all players of any age.

Next Story — Oculus
Currently Reading - Oculus


Facebook bought Oculus Rift today for $2 billion — what does it mean?

I first saw Oculus Rift in action a few month ago at Launch Festival. The picture below shows a player wearing the Oculus VR headset connected to a custom treadmill and gun. The screen on the left shows the game and what the player sees. When the player runs on the treadmill he runs in the game.

I didn’t get to try myself, but I could tell the player was immersed. At one point I took a few steps closer … the player had the gun pointed just a few inches from my head and didn’t even notice. Literally IN THE GAME.

Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus made me scratch my head. Interesting that they would buy a hardware company. What does VR have to do with social networking?

Then again imagine meeting your Facebook friend/family member from across the world in a virtual environment of your choice and having a conversation face-to-face. That would be pretty special. Is this where Facebook is heading?

Fred Wilson says this is the search for the next platform after mobile. He’s probably right and Facebook is buying an option on what could be the next thing.

Anyone have an Oculus? I want to try.

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