Twitter isn’t dead

The Twitter that I use everyday is alive and well. It is thriving, and I get value from it daily. I keep seeing others post that they’re having a different experience, saying that “Twitter is dying”. I know what people usually mean is that the original promise of Twitter is dying, but I’m not a fan of the click-bait type headlines, and after seeing yet another “I told you so” post on my Facebook timeline about the demise of Twitter, I thought I would share my thoughts on the current state of the popular social network.

By now it’s clear Twitter is the definitive place to go when you want to learn about breaking news. Heck, it is where I nearly always find out about breaking news, long before seeing it anywhere else. Twitter is where I go to find something to read, or to figure out whether or not my fantasy football WR is going to be playing or not. I’ve learned more about my role as a startup founder on Twitter than anywhere else — by reading articles and tweets shared by people I respect in the industry. I’ve had conversations with my favorite sports stars, and brands.

But the Twitter that I have grown to love over the past 6+ years is more than just breaking news, it’s community. Communities can’t be downloaded. They don’t automatically appear in an app. They are created organically over time, offline and online. They are built on relationships, trust, friendship, and interaction.

The problem with Twitter might be that our society is used to getting what they want instantly. Instant pizza. Instant streaming. Instant coffee. Everything is available with the click of a button or quick download. The Twitter that has amazing value just simply doesn’t fit that mold. Those of us that thrive on this platform get it. We have worked for it. We have built up countless relationships by being involved and active and sometimes dozens of different communities. We give more than we take. We ask how we can help. We participate for the greater good.

Unless new Twitter users are given a way to see this type of community value underneath the surface then it is unlikely for them to find much value of any kind here. Out of the box, Twitter is probably an overwhelming experience; overrun with adverts and autoplay videos. If I was Twitter, I would look at ways of bringing communities to the surface and allowing people to join those communities — perhaps in a similar manner as we can now follow Moments.

Hashtags, of course, are the easiest way for someone to join a community. There’s no entrance fee. There are no prerequisites. You don’t have to be invited or approved. You simply raise your hand and join the conversation by adding the hashtag. It is an easy “opt in” for anyone to join. And because it requires an extra step, hashtags are intentional, and in my opinion, greatly improve the signal to noise ratio.

If I was coaching a new Twitter user on how to get the most out of Twitter I would spend time showing them how hashtags work. I would encourage them to follow hashtags that they care about or have interest in. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t make this very easy. I am still really surprised that Twitter has not taken a step to help people follow hashtags in a more permanent (or even temporary) manner. TweetDeck, HootSuite and many other social media management platforms offer this functionality, but Twitter does not. (The closest thing they offer is a search history or saved search list.)

I agree with the article linked above, that abuse is a primary concern. The problem with giving everyone a voice is that you have to be OK with everyone having a voice equal to your own. They have been given power to be heard. The counter to this is that we all have the chance to be heard, and the positivity, and support can easily drown out the negativity. The answer isn’t in algorithmic censorship, but in human-powered curation. Perhaps Twitter should look at implementing some sort of filter, that allows users to thumbs down a post, which, once it had enough down votes, would stop showing up in other people’s feeds. I actually see more negativity on Instagram comments, than I do on Twitter. But that is my personal experience. Russell Wilson, Ronda Rousey or any other celebrity simply cannot post anything without a bunch of immature people posting sexist or racist comments. Yet, Instagram is “thriving”. Go figure.

I really hope the Twitter doesn’t go away. If I had to use only one social media network, I am absolutely certain that Twitter would be my choice. I know that I am in the minority on this choice, but that’s because the communities that I’m involved with on Twitter mean so much to me.

Rather than retweeting and posting a bunch of doomsday articles, let’s spend our time building and investing into communities. If we do that, we can help make Twitter the success that it can be. And by doing so we can help ensure its survival and health.

And for those of you that have left Twitter, or are struggling to feel the same way that I do about it, I implore you to find some communities and get involved. If you look at Twitter as a way for you to contribute positively to communities and people that you care about I think that you will be surprised about how much you get back in return.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

#LongLiveTwitter.

Josh Decker @jdbt
Tagboard #CEO