Is Twitter in good shape to stay the go-to social media platform as we enter 2016?

We recently caught up with Twitter super fan Anandan Pillai, who joined the platform in 2009 and 31.7k tweets later loves Twitter the most amongst all social media channels because of its brevity and promptness. It has been a one-stop destination for this Social Media Lead at HCL Technologies to research, network and get entertained.

Q. Twitter has not been able to keep up with the likes of Facebook in terms of generating enough revenue. Do you think 2016 will ring in good news for them?

It has been a big challenge for Twitter to generate revenues (and profits) that could entice the investors and individual shareholders. Twitter has been trying its best to spike its revenue with innovations like showing Twitter ads to logged-out users, more focus on video content etc. Revenue growth will increase, but it will be still an uphill task for Twitter to match the revenues of Facebook.

Q. With the recent opening up of Twitter advertising for SMEs in many countries, many smaller players have tried their hands with the same and some have reported positive feedback as well. Do you think Twitter advertising can and will be more relevant for startups, SMEs and large corporations alike in the time to come?

It is very subjective to one’s market and industry. In general Twitter ads are costlier than Facebook ads and hence in most industries reaching out to target audience through Facebook is always an economical option for marketers. Further, the targeting features that Facebook provides are far more effective than that are available on Twitter. In India, I don’t think startups or SMEs will find it an economical option. However, Twitter marketing may work for some non-niche kind of product categories like food, travel, apparel, accessories, apparels etc. Will it work for a niche B2B Tier-2 supplier? It is seriously doubtful.

Q. Twitter Cards, Twitter Polls and Lengthier DMs, is there some feature you feel Twitter should come up with to solve people’s problems. 

I have had serious concerns with Twitter Polls feature, as I don’t see them to be effective for brands. Increasingly, I am noticing news channels use this feature to get their votes on a recent debatable topic. Twitter cards have found a permanent place for many social media marketers due to the richness that they bring to the table. I am personally not happy with few changes that Twitter has done recently by renaming ‘Favourites’ to ‘Likes’ and tweaking the image dimensions to square instead of earlier rectangular shape. Twitter also came up with ‘Moments’ feature which lists the top news of the World. Frankly, I don’t find it helpful. Even Facebook introduced a similar feature ‘Trending News’ a few months back.

The question we need to ask is ‘how often do we visit these features?’ As a user I am mostly bothered about my newsfeed and timeline, the prime property where I don’t have to invest much effort to get an update. These recent changes by Twitter are mostly reactive in nature and mostly with an intention to match Facebook features and they will not drive the MAUs or revenues for Twitter. The irony is most of the common users of Facebook and Twitter will agree that Twitter is a better platform from networking, information seeking point of view and yet the active users and total users count are far from the numbers on Facebook. The trend is moving towards more discreet size of content (e.g. Snapchat).

So, in my view Twitter should integrate Vine in a better manner and leverage it better. If the GIFs can entice users, why can’t Vines? We have heard Twitter experimenting with chronological order of timeline, which I think would be a disaster move and kill the entire concept of real-time conversation. I feel Twitter needs to work more on its timeline algorithm and make it more intelligent than just real-time sequential stream of content pieces. Given the high spontaneity nature of the Twitter timeline, it is high time Twitter spends considerable time to understand how users interact with content and it should work towards providing ‘relevant content’ to the user when he/she logs in and not the ‘recent content’ that was tweeted minutes ago. Also, providing better targeting variables on Twitter ads platform (like age, state/city, company, etc.) will build confidence of marketers, especially those of B2B marketers.

Q. There have been rumours of Google buying out Twitter in the near future. To sustain and grow, do you think Twitter should sell off? Could this be a good buy for Google?

Hardly did anyone imagine that after acquiring YouTube, Google would convert it into the second largest search engine of the world, just behind its own flagship product. Can Google repeat history with Twitter? Well, in my guess the odds are less in favor of Google this time, considering their struggles to make G+ work. Even their default subscription of G+ for all Gmail users hasn’t worked that well for brands to build an effective community with decent engagement levels. Well answering if Twitter should sell off is a tricky one and it depends on various factors. Twitter is no more a startup where few co-founders could decide the fate of the company as YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp’s founders did. As of today Twitter is a large public enterprise and hence any decision Twitter CEO takes should be convincing enough for various stakeholders. If I had been Twitter CEO, I would go back to drawing board and spend more time with my product managers rather than discussing acquisition with investment bankers.

Q. Influencer Marketing has been the talk of the town all through 2015. Do you think having a few thousand followers is enough to proclaim one as an influencer? Do you feel that Social Media Influencer Marketing is over hyped currently?

Yes, ‘Influencer Marketing’ has been the buzz term in social media space during 2015. Unfortunately, at least in India 8 out of 10 times, the strategy is haywire. Just identifying Twiteratti with thousands of followers, paying them few hundred rupees for a single tweet or gifting them in kind wouldn’t result into ‘influencer marketing’. The problem with ‘these kind of influencers’ is that within a span of few hours they would tweet about 4-5 brands. Have marketers ever thought what would those influencers’ followers perceive?

Unlike in TVC context where Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar and SRK each endorse 40-50 brands, in social media a true influencer needs to have adequate product / category knowledge for him/her to influence the purchase decision. Potential customers hunt for reliable piece of information before making a purchase. Just having 10 people tweet for few hours and getting hashtag trends in India or even across the world, won’t have much impact on the overall customer psyche. Unfortunately, there is no full-proof methodology to establish the linkage between hashtag being trended and its impact on customer consideration. In my opinion the entire ecosystem is fooling each other – marketers, ‘so-called influencers’ and customers (who follow the herd). In 2016, I hope marketers realize this and will focus on nurturing a set of influencers who not only have thousands of followers but also possess adequate product and category knowledge for them to guide the customers in the best manner.

Q. With newer platforms like Instagram and Snapchat picking up pace, what do you think will be Twitter marketing’s relevance in 2016. Would everybody stay, or will a certain category find this platform most useful?

This is a million dollar question. Every social media platform, be it Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat has managed to build initial craze amongst the users and more importantly has continued to build the momentum with regular product features. Though Twitter is considered to be the most viral platform of all existing social media platforms, it has somehow lacked the momentum to grow (which is very surprising!). Be it terrorist attacks, natural calamities (earthquake/flood), political updates, sports or celebrity news, almost every news first appears on Twitter and it’s increasingly becoming the first source of news.

But, why hasn’t it still managed to increase active users? My guess is Twitter lacks the viral quotient of notifying the network of a particular user. For e.g. if I like / comment a post or interact with an app on Facebook, most of my friends would get to know about it, there is an inherent viral quotient present on the platform, which I think is lacking on Twitter. If Twitter works around innovating its timeline, introduces more effective ways of rich media, not only existing users will spend more time on the platform, but also new users will gets attracted to the platform.

Q. What is your suggestion for people who intend to join Twitter in 2016?

It’s not going to be easy for them ‘to be heard’ initially. So new Twitter users should have patience, identify right set of people to follow, share relevant content (and not just retweet others’ tweets) and try to engage with other Twitter users. The fame would follow only with relevant content.

This article has been republished here as part of LeadSquared’s Partnership with Digital Defynd.

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