Recently on Timehop I came across an old tweet. I see plenty of my old tweets from 4 or 5 years ago, but occasionally one will show up from the year I first started using Twitter – 2007. I was on board before many people, and if you weren’t, you might not know just how different things were at the time. For one, that dates back to when it was Twttr instead of Twitter. As more people adopted the service they were able to finally get some vowels in the domain name. At that time you could go to the front page of Twttr.com and watch a real time feed of every tweet, not simply people you followed. Many times you can’t even keep up with your own feed anymore, let alone a global one.
But name changes and growth aside, the service itself has changed greatly. It still has the same 140 character limit, and hopefully that signature will never change. But a service that used to watch users and adopt the way they utilized the platform to make changes has grown to something that needs to satisfy advertisers and seek to continue growth. Gone are the days that brought @ mentions and #hashtags as a result of users creating the idea first. More importantly, gone are the days of a developer friendly platform. For the first several years of its existence, Twitter had a famously open API that allowed developers to create apps and ways of interacting with Twitter than continually expanded the use and functionality. Fast forward a few years and they’ve bought Tweetdeck, removed most of its features, and all but shut down the ability for any new apps to be created.
They also continue to add in functionality that will work only within the native Twitter apps. They may owe their popularity to the developers, but they aren’t willing to allow that path to continue. While Twitter continues to grow, and more people and brands adopt the network, reach continues to grow. But engagement is falling. Why? Pure competition. When you checked your timeline and saw 10 new tweets, you read them. Now that you see 100 new tweets you skim… at best. The more that vies for your attention, the less likely you are to notice anything. And as marketers, we have to change our strategies to fit the times.
It’s a problem that Facebook has already gone through, and continues to adapt to. Their solution? Ads, ads, ads. The more you pay, the more likely you are to get your content seen. While Twitter doesn’t yet alter the streams to affect what people see, it’s hard to imagine that isn’t coming. Facebook, and Twitter, two networks that were once incredibly different, are more and more becoming the same. When Twitter changed the profile pages to look similar to Facebook, it wasn’t the only way they’re moving in that direction. And paid advertising to have a real shot at reach and engagement are coming… if not already here.
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