Why I’m bullish on Twitter

15.36, Wednesday 14 Oct 2015

My take is Twitter has three killer opportunities, invented by users and, apart from the first, ignored by the company itself.

Everyone else seems to be chipping in on what Twitter should be doing, so this is me joining in. Those three opportunities:

  • Breaking news. If there’s a traffic jam on my road, I find out on Twitter there’s a bus broken down a mile away. If a politician is caught out playing fast and loose with the truth, Twitter is where the story comes out, and where I find out first. It’s global and hyperlocal, it’s the latest analysis and a direct connection with the people involved. Later on, when I’m reading news, I end up going to the Guardian or Reddit – it feels bonkers given it’s Twitter where I learn about events in the first place. Twitter Moments might be the feature that creates value here, by editorialising trending topics for the mass market. It might not be, but as least the company is thinking about it.
  • Customer service. Look at any brand’s “Tweet & Replies” tab… an airline, broadband, bank, fashion. It’s brands talking to people, it’s customer service. Potential businesses abound – there’s a need for automation, artificial intelligence that divides inbound requests into easy-to-repond-to customer “intents.” Where are the China-style chatbots that talk customers through problems, account management, browsing the product range, upgrades and so on, efficiently backed up by humans only when necessary? Other companies are trying to build this, outside Twitter, but that makes no sense: Customers are already talking to brands on Twitter, and the brands are at breaking point. This is a prime use-case for Twitter when creating a new developer ecosystem, only one that allows for sustainable businesses this time around.
  • TV. Watching TV alongside Twitter is amazing, it makes it worth watching a show at broadcast time again… The Great British Bake Off alongside the #gbbo timeline is hilarious. And you know, Twitter is also where I hear about new shows. If I was Twitter, I’d do something like Soundcloud’s enormously clever audio player that follows you round the site as you browse: Perhaps it would be a picture-in-picture feature, integrated with every streaming service I subscribe to. Tap the pic to see the timeline and to invite others to join you. Twitter could be modern mode of video distribution, of socialising around TV; the TV phone-in, and the electronic programme guide, all rolled into one. Or at least, it should try. It should come with a projector too.

Breaking news, customer service, TV. I don’t say these because they’re places Twitter could possibly go. I point them out because users have already demonstrated that this is how Twitter works for them, and because Twitter’s competitors aren’t there. (Yet.)

I’m bullish on Twitter because these opportunities are obvious, and Twitter Moments and the recent leadership changes hint that maybe they’re ready to take the advantage.