Twitter has come a long, long way in 2009, maturing from a simple status updating service to a fully-fledged news broadcasting system that is as pivotal and informative to the global media as it is to the general public. The social network is now arguably the hottest thing on the internet as we move into the heady days of 2010.
As any network grows, it’s forced to change and adapt. Here are five predictions I’m making that we will see on Twitter in 2010.
Twitter Will Start To Become Profitable
Twitter’s deals with Microsoft and Google in 2009 mean that a good chunk of money is finally hitting their bank accounts. Other features they’ll add in 2010, including premium accounts for businesses (see below), improved metrics and a deeper (and billable) integration into television and other mainstream media, will ensure the pot never runs dry.
It won’t be huge in 2010, but I would expect $150-250m in profit by the end of the year.
(If they’re not making at least $100m in clear profit, my gut tells me they’ll be bought.)
The Difference Between Media And Social Media Will Continue To Blur
I’ve written about this in some detail before, and we already saw significant evidence of this in 2009, but as the newspaper industry is forced to adapt a ‘live or die’ attitude to survive the difference between old and social media will blur to a point of invisibility. Already many major newspapers (The Telepgraph, New York Times, The Guardian and, yes, amazingly, The Daily Mail) are seeing and capitalising on the value of internet-appealing editorials and reportage, be that in the form of using Twitter (and other networks) to break and share news first, or through good old-fashioned link bait.
Comments sections are now the norm on nearly all online papers, and increasingly these publications will seek to build and shape these communities. Ultimately, the leading and most talented folks within these networks will become a significant part of the contributory process within the newspaper, too, both assisting in ‘on the spot’ news reporting and the decision-making process that determines the direction that the publication(s) will take. A truly social media.
It’ll Become Harder To Register A New Username
Twitter account names, and the subsequent URL that gives you (i.e., twitter.com/Sheamus), are increasingly becoming a huge deal. They’re tracked and displayed on Google, and for many people their username is listed at or near the top of the first results page on almost all search engines.
I see two things happening here – one, multiple accounts, aliases and anonymity will increasingly become frowned upon. Why? It’s too easy for an individual (or corporation) to set up hundreds of accounts and retweet and blag their way to glory (or do a lot of harm). You’ll need a good reason to be running many accounts from one computer. (Likely IP and cookie checking will be used to counter this.)
Two, I think the days of being able to register anything on Twitter and getting away with it are almost over. Graham Cluley recently wrote about an incident where it appeared that noted online newspaper The Huffington Post appeared to have its Twitter account hacked, when it was actually an imposter‘s profile that was breached. My question: why was this charlatan even allowed to operate on Twitter in the first place?
Fraud has been a major issue for celebrities since the very early days of Twitter. Brand fraud is the next hot issue, and it won’t be a concern for long. Thanks to complaints and the inevitably of legal action, Twitter will be forced to clamp down on this… hard.
(Don’t get me wrong – the process of registration likely will remain straightforward. But any form of deception will be quickly weeded out and dealt with.)
Premium Accounts Will Polarise Users
Twitter has been promising us premium accounts for months now, but they are coming in 2010. And with them, I predict a huge polarisation of the user-base, particularly if they give pay-to-tweet users something special that standard, non-paying users never see. And if they don’t give business and the other premium users something extra-special, why would they bother to pay?
Twitter has already hinted what you’ll get for your cash: contributors, better metrics, a bigger chunk of the API, and so on. But I also think they’ll throw in at least one thing that’ll have the ‘can’t pay, won’t pay’ majority crying foul. And while my own research suggests more people than one might have initially suspected are prepared to pay a small amount to improve the way they tweet, if Twitter overprices these premium accounts that number is going to drop faster than Tom Cruise’s box office clout since his appearance on Oprah. Lots of folk, no matter how gullible they might be, object at the idea of paying for anything in social media.
Personally, I welcome and will almost certainly pay for a premium account, but this is a huge test for Twitter. If they get it wrong just a little bit, the impact on the network could be huge.
More Z-Listers, Less ‘Real’ Celebrities
Expect the numbers of Z-lister and wannabe, Reality TV-type celebrities on Twitter to start to outnumber the genuine, bonafide stars by hundreds-to-one by the end of the year. For these guys, particularly if they get verification, it’s the easier and most profitable way to get back into the public eye… and the tabloids.
And as the Twitter profiles of the major celebrities continue to be stalked, obsessed about and scrutinized by the public and media alike, expect many of them to start protecting their status updates, leave entirely, or start posting anonymously (only to then be outed by those same stalkers, obsessives and haters).
It’s not something any of us likes to see, but I would expect more managed celebrity profiles in 2010. How will you be able to tell which ‘celebrities’ are actually writing their own tweets? Easy: they’ll be more famous on Twitter than they are everywhere else. (Plus, of course, the God-awful prose and grammar. They won’t be tolerating that from their PR agency.)
Bonus: Security On Twitter Becomes THE Talking Point Of 2010
Because of the problems I’ve outlined above with fraud, stalking, abuse and good old-fashioned weirdos on Twitter, security and privacy on the network will become the hot topic of 2010. The platform already has major issues in this area, with the built-in block feature about as useful as putting on a pair of sunglasses and an oversized hat. And Twitter’s introduction of geo-location metadata – which is an absolute God-send for marketers and stalkers, whilst being a nightmare for folk who aren’t all that technical-minded and/or walking home alone, late at night – means all of this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
This will have to change. Likely, the inevitability of legal action resulting in something horrible happening to somebody popular will force Twitter to change the way tweets are distributed and how profiles are displayed, putting the emphasis on privacy first.
What about you? What do you expect to see on and from Twitter in 2010?