I’ve been using Twitter for close to three years now. At first, I didn’t see it’s usefulness. I’m frequently bored by what I’m doing, why would anyone else care to know I’m editing PowerPoints at the office or want to hear me complain about the bad television I’m watching?
But then usage of Twitter evolved. Adding hash tags to my thoughts gave my tweets context. I could see what other people thought of debates between Obama and McCain (#debate08), episodes of #Heroes became an interactive Mystery Science Theater 3000 as I tweeted my thoughts on what would happen next and laughed about some of the silly props with other viewers, and I came to enjoy the Tweetup at both concerts and networking events.
But the excitement and interest on the social web shifts like the desert sands. Things seem to be changing once again. Facebook has over 200 million users and many of them update their status regularly. Although I cannot find stats on the volume of wallposts versus tweets , I would guess that Facebook users are more inclined to update their status than Twitter users because Facebook users (all 200 million of them) spend an average of 4 hours and 39 minutes on the site every month, and Twitter users (25 million) spend and average of five. And let’s not forget that Twitter has an 80 percent abandonment rate and that 10 percent of Twitter users create 90 percent of all tweets.
Now before you go on saying how I’m bashing Twitter – I’m not. I think it’s great. I just think it is a niche network that is reaching its saturation point and that a more mainstream site, like Facebook, is going to take take microblogging to the next level.
What I see happening to Twitter
As advertisers, spammers and public figures hop on Twitter, the site becomes more about promoting oneself or one’s agenda. The site is less and less about conversation between individuals and more a channel for advertisers to hock their wares. I’m exaggerating a bit – it’s not traveling salesmen selling snake oil; it’s thought leaders and people with influence talking to the masses to try to convince others of their point. Even people providing entertainment aren’t likely doing it altruistically, but to gain some notoriety. So for all intents and purposes, Twitter is becoming a commercial channel to sell your brand (brand = ideas, yourself, tangible products, etc).
As more commercial Twitter feeds are launched (this includes all the types of accounts for self-promotion mentioned above), the less everyday folk will tweet – that is to say professional users will drown out amateur tweets. This seems to happen in all mediums of communication. (I’d even argue that YouTube now has its own celebrities that people regularly follow, making the whole community less amateur and more commercial.) The radio didn’t originally have ads, nor did the Internet – but marketers will eventually take over and sully an otherwise pure channel. I’d say most people don’t want to be advertised to based on their TiVo habits.
And this is happening with Twitter. Most of my followers are vacant accounts with a baited link that will infect my computer with some nasty STD, internet cam whores, or marketers hoping I will follow them because they follow me (not going to happen). Why are these people following me? Because they all think they can get my attention in some manner.
And to some degree Twitter is encouraging this type of behavior. It’s going to launch commercial accounts in the near future that will put companies in touch with interested users. I doubt this very much. Unless I’m very interested in the product (at the moment I’m following @Diablo in hopes of learning more about the Diablo 3 video game. In the three days I’ve followed it, it’s been entirely worthless. @Marvel, however, does a wonderful job).
What’s going to happen next?
People are still going to use Twitter, but it will mostly be for real-time information gathering – like metro delays, traffic reports, sports scores and to follow their favorite celebrities. It’s going to be a message dissemination channel. Sure you’re always going to have your die-hard users – but it’s not going to gain any more traction with the plebs (I use this term in jest – I simply mean non-techies).
As Twitter becomes more like QVC, people will turn to other sites to post their status updates – the most likely candidate, by sheer user volume, is Facebook. And, as I posited above, people likely doing this now. And Facebook is going to make it easy for people to broadcast their status updates across all networks.
One recent, immediate step is the Facebook app that allows you to send you status update to Twitter. This is just the start.
With Facebook’s recent acquisition of Friendfeed, a site that collects all of your web activity into one feed as well as allows you the ability to post new content to several sites, it is trying to position itself as aggregate source for all social media activity across the net. This will content aggregation will likely be integrated into Facebook very soon.With new widgets, applications and other software, Facebook will be the one site you’ll log in to update all of your social network accounts – making Twitter entirely moot for 99% of its users.
And finally, I would guess that almost all Twitter users also have Facebook accounts. And when people eventually pull down some of the privacy walls they’ve built up on Facebook, we’ll see mircoblogging reinvented.
I’m giving Twitter three more years – then Facebook becomes the mircoblogging hub of the Internet.
So, what do you think?