Twitter’s Education Problem

If you’ve been online today, chances are you’ve seen a blog, article, or exposé spelling the near death of Twitter. Their growth is halting, their management is in disarray (shocking), and thus, their stock is tumbling.

We’ve argued over character limits, hearts vs. stars, placement of features, order of tweets — the list goes on. All of these are minuscule problems in the main scheme of things — yet Twitter has seemingly ignored their biggest problem of all…

The average user still does not know how to effectively use Twitter.

Before we ask how to fix this, I think it’s important to figure out how we got here. Previous to Twitter, the main social media outlets were MySpace and Facebook. Using these two services is fairly intuitive. You connect with friends, post pictures, videos, share what you’re eating for lunch, and maybe repost the occasional article. Social media rarely stepped outside of our circle of friends. Until Twitter.

Things changed with Twitter. We were now within reach of government officials, industry leaders, celebrities, athletes, etc — and could create meaningful, impactful dialog even though we were in different time zones and tax brackets.

Twitter opened up an entire new world. It quickly became the main outlet for real time news. No longer did we have to wait for CNN and FOX to cover events. Users were already on location and ready to share their experiences. It also became a source of social and political organization — both abroad with the Arab Spring and stateside with #BlackLivesMatter.

Twitter was changing the world — yet the majority of its users were using the service as it were MySpace or Facebook, connecting with friends in a trivial manner and sharing pictures of their lunch.

Despite it’s lackluster attempts to educate users on the opportunity within the medium, many people simply ‘did not understand’ or ‘get’ Twitter. They didn’t need another outlet to share those lunch pictures, or to ‘like’ their friends’ status. Users didn’t embrace or grasp it’s potential…so they left.

Within it’s UI, Twitter tries to help out. Suggesting us to follow certain users and serving us trending hashtags to explore. However this doesn’t seem to be enough.

New Yorker columnist Joshua Topolsky wrote one of those pieces I mentioned earlier, titled “The End of Twitter.” In it, he mentions a troubling quote from Jack Dorsey.

People ask what is Twitter, and we ask what is Twitter. And we don’t have an answer, and that’s okay. Twitter is the world, it reflects the world, and it’s different things to different people at different times and we need to embrace that. It does present a messaging and marketing challenge, but that’s what it is.

And that’s okay.”

Maybe back in 2011 that was “okay.” But since the company has IPO’d — they not only have to cater to their users, but to Wall Street as well. And since they have failed to make Twitter ‘something’ — both are now abandoning them.

Twitter needs to take a stance, determine what they are, and help it’s users leverage the service to get the most out of it.

Since they have failed to do so — I will share with you how I’ve found so much joy in it’s offerings.

1. Diversify your bonds.

Follow people outside of your real-life social circle. We get enough of these people on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. We don’t need to see any more engagement rings or vacation photos.

2. Make yourself smarter.

What industry do you work in or want to work in? Conduct a quick search for job titles or industries. Read through some bios and follow those who are thought leaders within the space.

3. Engage with those people.

Did those people from #2 write something you read? Did you agree? Disagree? Tell them your thoughts.

4. Explore hashtags.

Chances are, if you are interested in certain topics, others are as well. An often-overlooked feature of Twitter is the use of #chat hashtags. Many industries will hold weekly-moderated chats. Do some digging and find one that tickles your fancy.

5. Challenge yourself to think outside of your box.

We are often confined to groupthink. And social media can be a huge vehicle to drive this process. Unless you expose yourself to countering viewpoints, you’ll continue down this road. Follow people from opposing political parties, different religions, races, cultures, etc. to gain insight into their thinking.

6. The whole have-fun thing.

There are some funny and entertaining people on Twitter. Follow a few of those fuckers too.

I firmly believe that Twitter is one of the most important tools of our time. Its reach has the potential to be more powerful than any medium that currently exists. For it to succeed, people need to know how and why to use it. I just hope that time hasn’t passed.

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