What I would do to fix Twitter

Twitter has had a spate of very bad press recently, mostly for good reasons that I don’t need to rehash here. Lots of ink has been spilled about what ails the company, but suffice to say, Twitter’s lack of high-quality, professional, and most importantly, full-time management is obviously its biggest single issue. Until that is fixed, nothing else probably matters.

Nevertheless, Twitter’s much-beleaguered product team has had a lot of turnover, and it shows in their paucity of product evolution. Twitter has crowed loudly about such new enhancements as 280 characters, Moments and “Twitter Lite,” among other things you probably don’t care about, as if small-ball like this actually matters, while ignoring the burning, revenue-stagnant ship they’re on.

So, as a product manager who works on products designed to make money, I have some suggestions. I’m not talking to Twitter’s product team here – they’re smart people, and I no doubt have had blueprints for many of these ideas ready for some time. Twitter’s executive management and board, on the other hand, need to listen, or get out of the way. Twitter’s window of opportunity for becoming a first-tier social platform has likely already closed – that race with Facebook was lost long ago.

Twitter can be something else entirely, though, which is still both valuable and inimitable, while its core network of high-value users contributing real-time content still exists. That network is undeniably slipping away, though. Battered by abuse, choked with spam and drowned out by bots, what makes Twitter great is dying. Here are some ways to save it.

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How I use Twitter

It would be fair to say that Twitter is the most valuable online service I use by a wide measure; certainly the best social media platform. I get a lot of my news from Twitter, meet a lot of interesting people, discover ideas and (yes) products that I wasn’t aware of before, and much more. I have a Facebook account that I rarely look at these days and LinkedIn for networking, but Twitter is really the locus of my online identity.

Even now, over a decade after its founding, Twitter struggles with adding and retaining users because so many people just don’t get it. I think a lot of this comes down to the format of engagement. Many, many people use Facebook as a portal for funny videos and other forms of passive content consumption. Indeed, a primary use case of Facebook is as an endless scroll of lols, highly optimized for mobile. That does not really describe Twitter, which is more of an onslaught of unpredictable human-ness. What I tell friends of mine experimenting with the platform is that you have to invest some time into making it work for you – and this is likely what keeps Twitter a relatively niche platform.

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