What’s the future of Twitter?
It’s a weighty, expansive question that’s proved increasingly problematic to answer in the few years since Twitter first opened its doors to an unsuspecting public back in July 2006. Partly this is because what Twitter is now shifts continuously, making it very difficult to guess where and what it will be in just a few months time.
And partly it’s because you always have the feeling that Twitter themselves don’t really know what Twitter is, which doesn’t really help.
Still, that hasn’t stopped scholars at Columbia Business School and the University of Pittsburgh from trying to figure it all out, and in their latest study, which examined 2,500 Twitter users, they’ve come to a couple of interesting conclusions. One, that Twitter as an entity is becoming exponentially difficult to sustain. And two, the future of Twitter as a platform might be closer to a content-driven, TV-like experience than the communications network it largely is now.
The survey, co-authored by Assistant Professor Andrew T. Stephen of the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School Professor Olivier Toubia, looked at why users with no financial tie-ins to Twitter used the service, and discovered that as followers increased, so did the user’s posting rate. Up to a point – once a user’s level of stature rose, their posting rate dropped significantly.
“Users began to realize it was harder to continue to attract more followers with their current strategy, so they slowed down,” said Toubia. “When posting activity no longer leads to additional followers, people will view Twitter as a non-evolving, static structure, like TV.”
The researchers concluded that over time posts by regular users will decrease while celebrities and commercial profiles may post more, largely for financial gain.
“Twitter will become less of a communications vehicle and more of a content-delivery vehicle, much like TV. Peer-to-peer contact is likely to evolve to the next great thing, but with 500 million followers, Twitter isn’t just going to disappear. It’s just going to become a new way to follow celebrities, corporations, and the like,” said Toubia.