2016 has been a year of Twitter finding itself. Jack Dorsey took the helm as the company’s leader. Twitter Moments launched. It even has an algorithm. The platform has been working diligently to implement changes designed to bring in new users, keep new users happy and get both groups to use the platform more often. The biggest update, however, may be how it talks about itself. Twitter recently changed its App Store categorization from “Social Networking” to “News,” where it quickly became the #1 free app in the category.
It’s Not a Change. It’s Doubling Down.
The social networking space is, needless to say, crowded. Between mainstays like Facebook and Instagram and newcomers like WhatsApp and Snapchat, the field is pretty dense. But one thing that Twitter’s alway excelled at when it comes to the competition is its focus and success when it comes to real-time news. Despite great efforts from Facebook with trending stories and Snapchat with Discover, Twitter still stands out when it comes to real-time news and events.
Instead of competing on the same ground as everyone else, Twitter’s move just shows that it is focusing on that point of differentiation. It aims to compete for attention and users by focusing on its unique selling proposition—news.
The Real-Time Platform
Twitter’s about what’s happening in the world in the here and now. Other social networks are about what’s happening with you here and now. Twitter is about joining a worldwide conversation about something everyone is talking about when other social networks let users talk about what’s on their minds and going on in their lives. These delineations have exceptions, but in general, that’s what separates the platforms.
This could end up being a very good thing for Twitter. It’s certainly differentiating, giving it more prominence in the App Store, which will lead to more attention and, in turn, more users. It also makes Twitter’s value more apparent to new users. It says, “Get news here,” allowing them to dive in and get started, while picking up on the other features along the way.
More users makes the platform more attractive for brands, and investors will certainly be pleased. The move is a small, simple one, but it’s potential impact could be significant.
What About Brands?
The move should point brands more in the direction for how they should share content on the platform. Many brands approach Twitter with content calendars of planned content, but if Twitter aims to focus on being a discussion around news and real-time conversations, planning out content unrelated to what people are talking about may not be the best use of the platform. Instead, Twitter’s inviting brands to look at what’s happening in the here and now and then add a relevant perspective to it. Leave the planned content to the other guys. This doesn’t mean commenting on everything but the conversations that are relevant to the brand and its audience. Add value, not noise.