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Twitter Grows Up Figures Out Its Business Model And Doesn’t Need You Anymore

LEGO Twitter Fail Whale


I’m sitting here at #SXSW, it’s Sunday morning and people are just starting to roll into the convention center. After a canceled flight I got into Austin late last night and every party was packed and the town was crazy(er). Rumor has it that both Pee Wee Herman and Mike Tyson will be here today. Paul Rubens is speaking and Mike Tyson has a new app out (of course he does).

SXSW is growing up. The big brands like Pepsi, Chevy, AOL and Microsoft (client) are all over the place.

Twitter’s growing up to, this week Twitter told the early adopter they didn’t need them anymore. See @marshallk’s @RWW coverage (Now Friends With Charlie Sheen, Twitter Tells Its Nerdy Old Pals to Drop Dead) and @parislemon’s @TechCrunch coverage (Twitter Drops The Ecosystem Hammer: Don’t Try To Compete With Us On Clients, Focus On Data And Verticals).

I’ve been on Twitter since January of 2007. That’s 4 1/2 years. Aside from being married, there are very few things I have ever stuck with longer than 4 1/2 years. I have spent countless hours tweeting, blogging about tweeting, helping corporations launch their own Twitter accounts and building value into the ecosystem. There is no single social media site I have spent more hours on than Twitter. In fact, I bet, I have spent more time on Twitter than I have on every other social network combined. I’ve even used the Blackbird Pie WordPress plugin to integrate this blog with Twitter.

I remember when you could view the entire Twitter stream, literally every single users tweet used to be displayed on the main twitter.com page. I remember when the community started using hashtags, @ replies and RT’s in order to better communicate on Twitter. These were all inventions of the community. In fact @ev even spoke at TED in 2009 called Listening to Twitter and how by listening to the users on Twitter they were able to build a platform and a business when they still weren’t even sure what they wanted.

Hey @ev remember when you used to say Twitter wasn’t going to go into advertising? Yeah, good times. But @ev’s not the CEO anymore, they’ve raised a lot of money ($360 Million) and now they have to grow up. #sucks

You Are Not Twitter’s Ideal User

Twitter officially launched in 2006 but didn’t get much pickup until they launched the next year at SXSW. Like Foursquare now, the tech early adopter used to be Twitter’s main audience. Not anymore. Now it’s “the mainstream.” People like my brother-in-law who joined Twitter to follow his favorite actors, musicians and athletes. Early adopters are great for building value but horrible for monetization. Especially when you’re revenue comes from advertising.

I used to say that Twitter was the social media equivalent of command line prompts and that the Social Web would need a new UI. That old Twitter I talked about was way too complicated and ugly for mainstream users. Twitter doesn’t want us adding our own manual RT’s to the stream or doing things that can confuse less tech savvy users. You know why? Less tech savvy users click on ads far more than tech savvy users do.

I argued last year that advertising was wrong for Twitter. But advertising is too easy, building out and monetizing a whole ecosystem off a non-media model is much tougher. Twitter wants users who follow at most a few hundred people, use Twitter.com as their primary interface and click on ads. They don’t want geeks who follow several thousand people, use clients like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite and organize their followers into columns and will go through efforts to avoid advertising.

But Twitter still wants developers to build out publishing tools, analytics and niche vertical applications. Why? Because that’s what’s going to get the big companies like Pepsi, Chevy, AOL and Microsoft (client) to continue to invest serious resources, time and dollars, especially advertising dollars, into Twitter.

I don’t blame Twitter. They’re a business and they need to make business decisions. They need to grow up. Even if it means they’ve outgrown us. There was a point in time not long ago that early adopters controlled Twitter. Now Twitter is in control of their own destiny. As it should be, I guess.

To quote my colleague @fatforehead: “I’ve seen this movie before.” Everything cool and fringe eventually grows up, goes mainstream and looses it’s soul. #sucks

But don’t feel too bad for us. We’ll find something else bright and shiny to focus on, eventually <sigh>. Yeah, I’m just being a whiny geek but if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to go pout and listen to The Pixies. You know the early stuff before they got popular.

Photo credit by tveskov

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • http://twitter.com/alanpeart Alan Peart

    Luckily the Pixies broke up before they ever got really popular :-)

  • Rob

    Its. Its business model.

  • Anonymous

    However, there is one rule of business Twitter is breaking here:

    “Never alienate your hardcore users.”

    Keeping your hardcore fans happy is the surefire way to sustain a business, and Twitter is at risk of losing the “cool” factor that keeps those hardcore users happy.

    Something new and better will come along someday, because I agree with our buddie @fatforehead, we have all “seen this movie before.”

  • http://todayblogtips.us/2011/03/twitter%e2%80%99s-black-friday-signals-an-exit-strategy/ Twitter’s Black Friday Signals an Exit Strategy - Blogging tips

    [...] Yes, because Chirrup was built on the backs of tens of thousands of third-party developers who added much need functionality and played a key role building Chirrup what it is today. These third-party developers, along with the broader Chirrup community, were the ones who implemented hash tags, RTs, @ answers and many of the features that Chirrup now takes for granted. Even Evan Williams, one of Chirrup’s co-Founders, admitted as much at the 2009 TED Talks. See the embedded video below (thanks to Tac Anderson reminding me about this in his post Chirrup Grows Up Figures Out Its Business Model And Doesn’t Need Y…). [...]

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/early-adopters-are-not-ready-to-leave-facebook-or-twitter-yet/ Early Adopters Are Not Ready To Leave Facebook or Twitter Yet | New Comm Biz

    [...] We’re used to users on Facebook revolting every time they make a change to anything. And recently we’ve started to see dissent towards the ecosystem changes Twitter has started to make. [...]

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/twitter-grows-up-and-doesnt-need-ev-anymore-i-liked-evs-twitter-better/ Twitter Grows Up and Doesn’t Need @ev Anymore? I Liked @ev’s Twitter Better. | New Comm Biz

    [...] a comment Filed Under  Business, Twitter Tweet A few weeks ago I wrote about how Twitter was growing up. It had finally decided on a business model and was starting to lay down the law on it’s [...]

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