Twitter recently announced yet another dismal set of quarterly earnings. While the social media company did beat investor expectations, it is still running a loss of $132 million after taxes. To make matters worse, the company’s fourth-quarter projections appear to be just as low. During 2015, the product failed to add any new active users in America.
As Robinson Mayer points out in this interesting article, the social network company fundamentally changed back in early 2014, resulting in big problems for the company. Jack Dorsey, who stepped in as the permanent CEO back in September, clearly has his work cut out for him.
In order to understand the problems within the company, however, it is important to understand the two sides of the company. After the social network company went public two years ago, Twitter essentially became two different entities: the San Francisco-based corporation and the character-delimited social network.
On one side you have a corporation that is looking to become a real business and create value for shareholders; on the other you have a network of 320 million humans who are interested in 140-character updates.
The problem is that this group of ‘tweeters’ has very little interest in how the corporation fares financially. But while these two entities are seemingly separate, they are not disconnected.
As Mayer discusses, “no matter how many features Twitter-the-company tacks on to draw in new people, it’s still captive to the whims of Twitter-the-network.”
No matter what extra features Twitter rolls out, the basic principles of the social media platform remain the same; it is an open-space forum where people can publicly hold conversations and share ideas. But has the network of users grew, so did the platforms place in our society.
As more and more people have joined, the participatory collective element of the platform has become more and more strained. People can no longer have an open dialogue without the possibility of public ridicule from others watching the conversation.
The forum, which was once a place where people could “say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty,” has turned into a place where “their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation.”
As a result, people have begun to adjust the way the use Twitter. People are more careful about what they say and, as a result, are less likely to share meaningful ideas within this open forum. People who once provided meaningful, interesting, or possibly controversial points to a conversation are no longer using Twitter for this purpose.
So what should Twitter consider doing to reverse this trend? One possibility is to create more private forums within the platform so that meaningful conversations can take place without the dissection of every word from those lurking on the outside.
It appears that Twitter has forgotten its core business. It has forgotten why people wanted to use the platform to begin with. The company needs to think less about how to increase value for shareholders and more about how to increase value for the platform users.