If Twitter is to go mainstream it needs users to be genuine

19 Apr 2011

Rumours of a TweetDeck acquisition and all the recent strife surrounding Twitter suggest a realisation within Twitter that it needs to do more to make its 200m-strong audience stick if it wants to attract advertising dollars. It needs to go mainstream.

A few weeks ago, I wrote how Twitter needs to become more social, less elite, and how its management team was planning Facebook-style pages to attract advertisers.

The latest rumours suggest Twitter is engaged in a bidding war with UberMedia to buy TweetDeck.

If this is the case, it can only mean Twitter is trying to do something to arrest the perception that its 200m users aren’t real users at all – unlike Facebook which attracts more than half of its 500m-plus audience to the site daily.

A study of 260m tweets by Yahoo Research that contain bit.ly shortened URLs found that 50pc of all content consumed on Twitter is generated by only 20,000 users. If this is right, then it’s astonishing when you consider Twitter has 200m users worldwide.

Life is tweet?

Twitter has been trudging through a battlefield lately, dealing with negative cover stories in Fortune magazine, which attracted a retort from co-founder Biz Stone, and lately UberMedia has been rumoured to be planning a rival social network if Twitter drops the app player from its ecosystem.

Indeed, a recent blocking of UberMedia by Twitter, which everyone believes was already close to acquiring TweetDeck itself, suggests a bidding war of sorts.

There can be no denying the power of Twitter to share a message with potentially thousands, if not millions, of people in seconds. But my guess is the folks at Twitter itself realise it needs more social glue than a small cabal of the same old characters following one another’s every word and joined by the occasional user if it wants to truly attract advertising dollars.

The rumours, the alleged management strain and the return of co-founder Jack Dorsey, all point to a realignment that is taking place within Twitter.

What it has created is too sacred to radically change – it’s not broken – but to go mainstream it needs to be a friendlier place with more context, content and actual services that will keep all of its 200m or so users coming back daily.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years