How Twitter is Evolving

on August 10, 2012

Credit @Jack
As an analyst I am not entirely focused on social media as a primary area of my market focus. But because I study consumer markets holistically it is something I observe with a watchful eye. I was fortunate enough to be able to have candid conversations with many of Twitters earliest investors which has helped me shape my opinion on the platform thus far. And from my view, it has been fascinating to watch Twitter evolve and get to the point today where it is basically embedded into society.

Narcissistic Roots
I have always rejected the notion that the roots of Twitter appealed to people’s inherent narcissism. In fact, I was on a panel many years ago with author Andrew Keen and we heavily debated this topic. Many of Andrew’s books like The Cult of the Amateur are very strict critiques of the negative effects of things like blogging, the internet, and other key technologies on societies. Andrew makes many good points that are food for thought but I largely disagree with the premise that Twitter at its roots is only for those who love the spotlight.

When Twitter was first starting out I was adamant in my analysis of the service that it presented a valuable platform for those who are in the public eye. Folks like celebrities, athletes, political leaders, the media, etc., and that I questioned what an everyday mass market consumer would get from “tweeting.” My thought initially was that the value to the mass market the value would be in consuming tweets rather than actually “tweeting.”

I point out the value of consuming tweets in my column Why I love Twitter. My main point being one of the many ways I use Twitter is as a information filter of many of the key industry sources I follow for work. Twitter’s value as a real-time filter for real-time information is a key value proposition.

Although, now that we have seen Twitter begin its ascent into the mass market, it is becoming clear that Twitter is evolving into a conversation in a fascinating way.

Next Generation Communication
I am convinced that Twitter is no longer a platform to broadcast and has evolved into a platform to communicate. Of course broadcasting can be communicating but it is generally one way. Twitter has now become a two way dialogue with those broadcasting and others interacting.

It is interesting to see how the aforementioned public figures I spoke of are using and embracing Twitter to interact with the masses. Many folks we speak with who joined Twitter simply to follow celebrities, athletes, or media personalities, found that the bulk of their Tweeting was less about saying what is on their mind and more about interacting with those they follow. Perhaps even more interestingly the large majority of those we spoke with received a tweet back or re-tweet of a public figure they follow.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I follow Justin Bieber on Twitter. I do it because I am intrigued with how he uses Twitter (a story you can choose to believe or not.) But I am genuinely surprised at how active @JustinBieber is on Twitter and how often he interacts with his fans. Not only is he encouraging his brand loyalty amongst his fans but he has a instant communication channel with them for anything he chooses–personal or professional.

This is one example of many that shows how Twitter has evolved from broadcasting platform to a true two way communication platform. I believe Twitter will may play a key role in further changing communications as we know it.

Even simply looking at how many broadcast outfits are using Twitter around the Olympics demonstrates my point. Many networks covering the Olympics are not only encouraging Twitter interaction but also tracking and sharing key statistics around how its being used. Many athletes as well are using Twitter (some not too intelligently) to engage with their fan base.

Twitter truly had humble beginnings. And Gripe as some may about how it has evolved, it has added to the evolving use of technology in the ways we has humans communicate and interact. And I believe we are still only scratching the surface of its possibilities.