As we all know Twitter is one of my favorite topics to talk about. This weekend I actually had a chance to talk with a friend of mine who works for a competing micro-blogging service on the future of this niche area as well as what lies ahead for Twitter. I can’t name what company he works for but let me just say if you are a heavy user of Twitter you probably use his service as well.
Think Twitter and other micro-blogging services like Pownce, Plurk and Jaiku are not forces to be reckoned with? Twitter had close to 15 million visits last month with 15% growth. Impressive stats for any website let alone one that hasn’t been out of Beta for very long. Also, think about the amount of time a visitor spends engaged with Twitter via the web, desktop applications and mobile applications. I couldn’t find exact stats on this metric but I am sure it is impressive to say the least. Either way you look at it, Twitter and Twitter like services are here to stay.
For those of you even somewhat familiar with Twitter, you know that their biggest challenge lies in fixing the technical issues that have caused its not-so-recent downtime and performance issues. But, let us assume for a moment that the good people behind Twitter fix everything and from now on it runs smoothly. Great, now what? Twitter’s challenges are just beginning, they now have two major hurdles ahead of them: growth and monetization. Two challenges that every Web 2.0 type web service are grappling with and are not solved very easily. However, I do believe that Twitter is in a unique position to overcome these challenges by leveraging its existing user base, allowing micro-blogging to become truly mainstream and building itself into more of a true social destination as opposed to an outlet for the tech savvy.
I think everyone can agree that the obvious path to meeting all of the challenges I listed would be to have micro-blogging go mainstream. But how does one go mainstream? Then once you are mainstream how do you monetize the traffic? Going mainstream is not as easy as one might think, the web is littered with thousands of websites and web services that failed to become even marginally popular let alone hit the social mainstream. With that, based on what was discussed this past weekend here is a quick outline of what I think Twitter could do to take their service and business to the next level.
- First, don’t mess with the main Twitter interface – let the micro-blogging / Tweets remain the core focus of the website. In order to create a successful (and profitable) web business you have to do two things: 1)do something different or 2) do something better. Since micro-blogging is still in its infancy Twitter accomplishes both of these right now – no need to fix what isn’t broken (not counting the downtime of course).
- Secondly, blow out the social aspects of Twitter, let users create full profiles that they are used to seeing on other social networking type websites. Don’t overdo it but make it so it becomes an extension of the micro-blogging. For example, show most popular tweets, expanded groups (which Twitter mentioned was in the works), have better location / photo integration, create a private twittering section…seriously the list goes on and on.
- Also, it has to be mentioned…since the technical issues will always be in the back of peoples minds, make sure to setup the infrastructure in a way that wont affect the main service. For example, Twitter.com/khawe would stay as the twitter hub while the social networking component lives on a sub-domain (e.g. khawe.Twitter.com). Creating a separate infrastructure allows for the best of both worlds, without effecting the performance of either.
- Now of course, how do you monetize such a “soon to be” mainstream web service? First and foremost let me make it clear that I do not recommend monetization the main Twitter value – the Twitter / Tweet page. Serving ads on top of the Twittering will negatively impact the user experience and the overall micro-blogging experience. However, if you do have to monetize the the main Twitter interface I would do it via overall page sponsorship…change a background, add a ‘sponsored by” type ad, but nothing that becomes to intrusive or extreme. The main source of revenue would come from the deeper, social, part of the website that contains more static content that Twitter can sell ads against in the traditional CPM model.
- Lastly, You can (but I don’t recommend) create a Twitter premium option – like Pownce Pro – but how much will that really bring? Not a big fan but it is an option so I thought I would at least mention it.
Bottom line is that by creating a social network behind the micro-blogging instant communication functionality allows for a more in-depth and sticky user experience. What more can you ask for?
Ok, that is enough about Twitter for now…are you on Twitter? Be sure to follow me at Twitter.com/khawe