Twitter: The social platform that’s less important today than it was yesterday.

Twitter losing lusterTwitter hasn’t mattered to very many people for a very long time.

Of course, for some it hasn’t mattered even from its inception. But when we start reading about Twitter’s most avid users and how they’ve begun to drift away from using the social platform like they’ve done in the past … you know that more than just the atmospherics are changing.

A case in point about this evolution is an article that was published in late April by The Atlantic titled “A Eulogy for Twitter.

The article’s authors, Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer, begin their piece by writing:

“We’ve been trying to figure out the moment Twitter turned, retracing tweets to see whether there was something specific that soured the platform.  

“Something is wrong on Twitter. And people are noticing. Or at least, the kind of people we hang around with on Twitter are noticing … audience-obsessed, curious, newsy … The thing is, its users are less active than they once were. Twitter says these changes reflect a more streamlined experience, but we have a different theory: Twitter is entering its twilight.”

Those are strong words. But the authors back up their assertions by noting that while people may still be using Twitter, many of them are no longer “hanging out” there. And that’s because there’s less “there there” to sustain once highly-engaged Twitter users.

The perceptions of Twitter’s value have been changing because of three key precepts which are now being proven out as “fictions,” according to LaFrance and Meyer.

What are those “fictions”?

  • The belief that other people in the “Twitterverse” are actually paying attention — or at least that a decent portion of one’s followers are seeing the tweets. 
  • The belief that competent and compelling tweeting will increase a person’s Twitter follower base. 
  • The confidence of knowing that there is a useful potential audience beyond current followers, so that the time and energy spent on the platform will pay dividends. 

None of these premises has turned out to be correct in the long-haul. Instead, the following stark realities fly in the face of all the hope (or hype):

  • Twitter is positively stuffed with “spam” accounts. In fact, the median number of followers for a Twitter account is … exactly one. Even if a few of those accounts are actually “legit,” of what value are they to anyone? 
  • Twitter’s year-over-year growth rate has fallen significantly since 2011.

And here’s another clear indication of how Twitter has morphed into something quite different from its original character. Today, Twitter is more likely to be merely a place to promote content published someplace else in cyberspace, simply providing quick links over to that content.

Whereas in the past, journalists and celebs and others were posting statements and opinions — and replying to or retweeting the posts of others — now it’s more likely to be canned promotion and little more.

… Which sets up a downward spiral, because followers aren’t seeing anything particularly new or interesting that they’re not already encountering elsewhere. So interest wanes … leading to reduced participation … leading to even less consideration of Twitter’s “worth” as a social platform.

This phenomenon of “professionalized accounts” means little more than being a bulletin board of scheduled tweets and broadcast links, resulting in collective yawns all over the place.

Of course, there’s one aspect of Twitter than continues its joyride unabated: hate speech and profanity. But that’s the sort of content many people would just as soon avoid encountering.

LaFrance and Meyer conclude that the world may have “outgrown” Twitter. They’re not happy by that turn of events, writing:

“For a platform that was once so special, it would be sad and a little condescending to conclude that Twitter is simply something we’ve outgrown. After all, the platform has always been shaped by the people who congregate there. So if it’s no longer any fun, surely we’re at least partly to blame.”

The authors go on to note:

“Twitter has done for social publishing what AOL did for e-mail. But nobody has AOL accounts anymore … [Today,] Twitter feels closed off — choked — in a way that makes us want to explore somewhere else for a while.”

It may not be time for Twitter’s eulogy. But there are many who don’t see much of a second act for the social platform, either.

By the way … where are those “somewhere elses” in social media that LaFrance and Meyer allude to? Try Snapchat, Instagram … even LinkedIn.  That’s where the interesting action is happening these days.

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