All good things must go, and that will eventually include Twitter as we know it. Until that time, Twitter has some fundamental qualities and current developments that will help it to weather the storms of Facebook, Google Buzz, and other social media challengers.
A double-edged sword that tends to work in Twitter’s favor is the fact that you start with nothing. A new Twitter account does not come with or from any particular network, and unlike in Google Buzz, new accounts are not fundamentally populated by contacts from any major email lists.
In order to become active on Twitter, users must manually scan for real-life friends, search out communities, and forge new friendships. The work put into building and maintaining a following may alienate many would-be Twitterers, but those that last have invested considerable time and social energy which are not easily forsaken. This concept is clearly illustrated by the fact that “nearly all of the tweets on the social network were coming from about 1/4 of the userbase.” (Mashable) Those that invest the time remain vigorously active, and those that do not will simply leave. With over 75 million accounts, that leaves more than 19 million loyal power users – enough to keep the service going strong for some time.
The nature of Twitter as a text-based service also inspires ardent love or fiery hate. For those who want rich content full of pictures, embedded video, article summaries, and massively popular games, Facebook is the way to go (and ugly, boring Twitter can go do naughty things to itself). For the busy professional, swamped writer, or no-frills personality, Twitter offers a simple stream of small, text-only updates that can be quickly reviewed and manipulated with minimal fuss (and Facebook can go drown in its own filth). I’m still amazed at the sheer number of things you can do with @, #, and some simple text-based commands.
Lastly, I would point out that while many of the technorati are ever-ready to pounce on new technologies, the vast majority of the internet-using population is a few steps behind. For instance, while Twitter was created in 2006 and enjoyed massive popularity in 2009 for its role in several newsworthy events, it is only now in 2010 that personalities such as Bill Gates, Lil Wayne, the Dalai Lama, and Conan O’Brien join the social network. As these heavyweights adopt the Twitter trend, so too will more of mainstream America (and the world).
Local businesses and public services, as well, are jumping on the bandwagon a bit later than the average techie. Better late than never, though. Nineteen million power users – and 75 million potential users – is a big audience, and a free one to address. Also, according to a recent social media usage study (eINFO):
- 79% of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend brands that they are following
- 67% of Twitter followers are more likely to buy the brands that they are following
- Consumers believe that brands not engaging in social media are out of touch
With features and aspects like these, Twitter will not be easily forgotten or replaced. It is possible, and ultimately likely, that the service will be incorporated (or developed!) into a larger platform, but the basic Twitter feed that we all know and love is here to stay.
Where do you think Twitter is headed? What do you like or dislike about the service?