When Twitter started off, 10 years ago today, perhaps no one thought it would be this big. One of the most popular social media websites turns a decade old today and it has been a journey that in many ways is a microcosm of the social media space itself.
There has been drama, there has been mystery, and so Twitter’s story, quite ironically plays quite different from its basic ideology; a very taciturn approach to the internet, that was quite at odds with the likes of Orkut and Facebook. But the platform, that billed itself as “microblogging”, alternative, in an age when the internet was the domain of the verbose, held strong and stayed relevant for the better part of its 10 years of existence. The future, however, is not set in stone and in the fickle online environment, Twitter has been seeing something of a struggle in recent years to stay relevant.
It has been an interesting last few years for Twitter. When we first interviewed Twitter’s India Head, Rishi Jaitley, back in 2014, he was adamant that the focus of the company was to increase its user base in India; already at that time marked as one the fastest growing market for Twitter; and for competitors like Facebook as well.
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Fast forward to 2016 and has a lot has changed. The earlier attitude towards revenues, which the company always said, was not the main aim in developing countries like India has changed. Now, you see a new Twitter----more aggressive, more practical. Last year, Twitter introduced its self-serve model in India. It is a something that has served them well in the US but something that Twitter had been hesitant to introduce to India for some time. Till then, a company that wanted to carry out a Twitter campaign had to commit to a minimum of $10,000; which put off a lot many, as can be expected in a price sensitive market like India.
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Given last year’s change in management and the added pressure of investors, the company went public and it seems to have inspired a more practical school of thought. Over the past year we have seen Twitter introducing new products in the country and aggressively courting brands for partnerships.
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For one, it’s CEO Jack Dorsey and his team have got one thing right; it is no longer about just market dominance, you need to start thinking about revenues, especially since the company has gone public recently. The pressure to perform is much more right now and recent results, in terms of active users (monthly and daily) have not been the most impressive. Twitter is working to change these things; to make the platform easier for first time users while still retaining the interest of the old users, but so far it has not been plain sailing; think, the recent attempts to change the timeline to an algorithmic version. It is something that Facebook did and most, including users and marketers, have made their peace with. But, Twitter is not Facebook and blindly following them will not really help their case.
Twitter has been pushing itself as the second screen for television and this is something that it might have an edge over its rivals and also something that the company itself seems to realize. Various new products like Periscope, Amplify, autoplay, videos that play within the tweet, etc. are great examples of where the company sees its future. The recent launch of Twitter Moments is another example of how quickly the company is putting out new video products. It definitely sees this as an avenue where it can steal a march on Facebook; which itself is not being lethargic when it comes to video properties, but Twitter’s ‘real time’ USP might just make the difference.
Going forward, we would expect faster product development from Twitter (we have already seen examples of that). More importantly, it seems that the company hierarchy has realized that they need to consider the monetary value along with the usage value; it will be interesting to see whether they manage to strike that balance.