The Valuable Business Lessons of Failing Twitter

Twitter is caught-up in a controversy involving nastiness, but, this will surely pass when its next quarterly earnings report is made public. The microblog’s last report, published in February, touted a revenue of $710 million, but contained a net loss of $90 million for Q4 2015. By comparison, its previous Q4 report boasted a revenue growth of 90 percent, and, its net losses decreased by 27 percent. Though an improvement, the term “net losses” demonstrates there’s real trouble at Twitter. In fact, its user base is also simultaneously flat and shrinking. The number of active monthly users in the U.S. remained at 320 million from the previous quarter, but declined from 307 million international users to 305 million. However, the valuable business lessons of failing Twitter are worth so much.

The Valuable Business Lessons of Failing Twitter

Though Twitter execs assure the public they understand and are willing to deal with change, the proverbial elephant in the room is how. Its household name competitor, Facebook, is awash in advertising earnings. The world’s largest social network is profitable, with 1.4 billion registered users, and 900 million monthly active users. Twitter execs are fully aware of their situation, and during its company’s earnings call, chief financial officer Anthony Noto said in regard to irregular users, Twitter remains, “too difficult to use.”

Entrepreneurs sometimes fall into the trap of creating a totally new product or developing an untried business model as they launch or grow a company. Their thought process is not without logic. They reasonably believe that the newness of their offering is enough of a differentiator to attract customers, and that the field is wide open without hordes of pesky competitors to get in their way. Some have done quite well with this strategy, but too many have failed. —

Let that sink-in, “too difficult to use,” is a stunning admission the company has identified a big problem (perhaps the largest). But, just why is it too difficult to use when there’s a posting limit of only 140 characters? When a company is faltering, it’s usually due to more than just a single reason. Facebook is a remarkable success, though it has had some failures through its journey. Those are good examples from which to learn, and we can also look at the valuable business lessons of failing Twitter:

  • Personalize your company. One of the biggest reasons Facebook is so popular is that has always been personal. You actually know the people who are in your feed. You might interact with some daily or weekly, but, there’s a stark difference with Twitter. The platform just isn’t personal and trolls (users who intentionally start arguments or offend others) are ubiquitous. The lesson: be the face of your company and provide customers with a personal experience.
  • Provide quality over quantity. New tweets appear in rapid succession; dozens, scores, and hundreds are posted in a matter of minutes. Tweets are very short and don’t contain any real context. Conversely, Facebook’s feed does provide context and that creates a quality experience. The lesson: quality beats quantity in business and is why the phrase has become cliché.
  • Let others share your passion. Because Facebook has always been about a personal experience, it’s only natural to share your hobbies and interests. Its Groups feature puts this phenomenon front-and-center, allowing users with the same hobbies and interests to share experiences. Though Twitter has a similar feature, it remains disparate. The lesson: show your passion to your team and customers and they’ll share your enthusiasm.
  • Change when the industry evolves. Though Twitter might have popularized the hashtag, it has not really invented or innovated for the past several years. It’s relying on gimmicks more than user experience and it can’t seem to crack the code Facebook has. The lesson: don’t shirk away from change and embrace it to your advantage when it first appears.
  • Emulate what already demonstrably works. The people behind the dominant social network understood Andy Warhol’s famous fifteen minutes of fame comment and only let real people join. In the latest news, Facebook is cracking down on fake accounts, something Twitter, for some reason, just won’t do. The lesson: be genuine and be rewarded.

What lessons have you learned from failing or troubled companies and how have these made a difference in your own business?


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