At a new business pitch in the spring of 2009, a woman from a competitive agency walked up to me and said, “Aren’t you MarksKiosk?”
As a matter of fact, that is my name on Twitter. That was the first time someone recognized me in person from a social media platform. Back in those days (2008 to 2010), I met a number of people on Twitter who became offline business acquaintances, even clients or contractors. I was kind of obsessive about cultivating a select following and managing my brand within 140 characters. My schedule included tweeting several times a day every day. People responded to me and vice versa.
On a Friday evening in 2011, I learned on Twitter that a client was filing for bankruptcy protection — not a message anyone wants to see going into a weekend — but valuable input I was glad to have. No other source fed it to me until the following Monday.
By 2014 and certainly 2015, however, I began to drift away from the platform. It turns out I’m not the only one. Twitter has a very flat growth curve; share prices were down when the company reported its second-quarter financials this summer. Its growth could be getting flatter — something for marketers and communicators to think about as they manage brands and the dollars supporting them.
Here are three reasons Twitter has lost luster for me while other digital platforms continue to demand my attention.
It’s not news anymore. Any breaking event of consequence arrives curated on my phone as an alert from any number of sources. Since I allow notifications from a number of different sources to come to me, I get to see all sides of issues and events almost instantly. Yahoo, Medium, NPR, The Washington Post and even alerts from narrow vertical markets ping me when news happens.
• Tribes have gone elsewhere. As a result, the personal connection is gone. The free-form, long-form, closed forum nature of other digital spaces is simply better. My global associates from TAAN Worldwide, an association of independent agencies, have focused conversations on Slack. My biking buddies in Austin have a closed Facebook group to share rides and anecdotes. My LinkedIn feed is curated to deliver topics I care about from people and industries that matter to me. When I post focused information on those platforms, I get more traction than on Twitter.
• Old-school media is now new school. The Washington Post is reinventing digital news by creating a blindly fast and efficient digital news engine. Buzzfeed (founded in 2006, just like Twitter) pretty much perfected quick recipe videos with Tasty, a platform garnering some 2.3 billion views a month by capitalizing on what YouTubers started — quick, visually engaging and really quite practical recipes. Twitter? Well, it has Moments, feeds and you can now use it to post longer, more graphic information. These all seem like catchups.
As a business owner, the personal value delivered to me continues to diminish. The dominance of celebrities has made Twitter more of a megaphone for the famous and less useful to me as an information and communications tool. Twitter once directly connected me to peers and to information that I could not get elsewhere. It no longer does that.
The good news for marketers is that the ability to communicate via targeted digital platforms is getting better and better. Instagram continues to leverage Facebook as it becomes a promotional engine. Competitor Snapchat has evolved into a powerful marketing engine for younger audiences. When you add the power of programmatic advertising and increasingly sophisticated tools for tracking behavior online, fragmented media becomes a target marketers dream. Never have we been able to serve up such sophisticated messaging to such narrow audiences, even on traditional media platforms like The New York Times or USA Today.
So where should marketers spend resources and dollars going forward? First, on audience profile development and insights. Virtually any surviving or emerging publishing platform (including Twitter) has the ability to target individuals, but only if you, the marketer, know the subtleties of those people — not just age, sex, location, income and the like but what motivates behavior and spurs action. The tools to use for that require an investment in some old-school activities like field travel and personal interviews, polling and online activity tracking. Yes, some of this tracking can quickly go from cool to creepy, but it’s part of our world and will continue to be so. Our challenge is to act ethically while harnessing that power to help clients succeed.