Op-Ed: Filling in the $7.5 Billion Gap – What Marketers Want to See in a Twitter Redesign

By Kiran Aditham 

Twitter-Logo-300x293We’re jumping back into the op-ed game with a debut entry from Jack Holt, a former strategic planner at the likes of Akamai and Broadwing who currently serves as co-founder/CEO of of Austin/SF-based brand research firm, Mattr. Below, the Austin-based Holt talks, you guessed it, Twitter redesign. Take it away, sir and if you care to follow Holt on Twitter, you can find him here.

As a social media platform, could anything be better than $665 million in revenue? Surprisingly, yes. You could have Facebook’s $8 billion.

But instead of taking Facebook’s approach to cashing in, Twitter has fallen behind, leaving marketers everywhere rushing to understand the value of a follower, a retweet, and a hashtag — and finding nothing.

Have you heard the expression “better abused than ignored”? Well, marketers have one big, fat, totally rational fear of the latter — or, more specifically, silence. After all, only 29 percent of tweets get a reaction of any kind.

If you’re struggling to find an effective Twitter advertising strategy, you’re in good company. Brands big and small are fretting over what to tweet or post, and Twitter’s losing cash as a result. So how can Twitter kick-start 2014 to make up the difference? By catering its application updates to what marketers want to see.

#WSTD: What Should Twitter Do?

The most recent update to Twitter was disappointingly aesthetic. From a usability standpoint, Twitter has significantly reduced the size of and moved the tweet text box, lowering that activity’s weight on the page. And, by adding an icon action to enter a tweet on the top right corner, they’ve increased the call to action a bit, but it’s still not nearly as visually heavy as it was before.


Instead of focusing on aesthetics, Twitter needs to design an interface that’s conducive to engagement, not to finding new people to follow. More and more, marketers want to see the potential for results from Twitter, not a dilution of their strategies. They want a bona fide brand page with usage metrics — not simply a verified account. They want promoted tweets that are marketing-focused, not open to any and every user and barely used.

How Can Twitter Drive More Engagement?

Rather than rearranging how content is presented to users, here are some ideas that might help Twitter drive engagement for marketers and improve user satisfaction all around. The goal here is engagement — not simply finding new people to follow and new streams to search.

1. Auto-create a list of people I interact with most. As it stands now, building a list of the people you interact with most on Twitter — your Tweeps — is a necessary yet tedious task for Twitter power users. Most users put off this task for as long as they can. Twitter could dominate the social media realm by automatically giving users a list of their Tweeps.

2. Show me retweets of my Tweeps. Twitter should put more weight on the activity of users you engage with regularly. This is similar to how Facebook handles its “top stories” in a user’s news feed, and it works. Rather than making me sort through updates I don’t regularly engage with, show me the tweets my Tweeps are retweeting. If they find them interesting, I might, too.

3. Let me auto-follow. Here’s a chance to be a little ballsy: Provide an option in settings to “auto-follow” when you interact with a tweet from someone you don’t follow. Make it an opt-out, and see how users react.

4. Take the mystery out of trending content. Twitter shows you the hashtags trending now, which are determined either by region or a mysterious algorithm branded as “tailored trends.” In not divulging the logistics behind these “tailored trends,” Twitter missed out on a big lesson from Klout: You must be transparent about how you derive your automated features or reap the negative consequences. If Twitter is going to ask agencies to spend their clients’ money on its platform, its secrets must be uncloaked or advertisers won’t take the risk.

4. Make it easier to start a conversation. I can’t believe the Twitter homepage still doesn’t have a way to add text to a retweet. The mobile version has this feature (albeit with two character-sucking quotes), and TweetDeck (acquired by Twitter a few years ago) has always had it. You can “reply,” but that knocks out the context of the tweet for your followers and stifles conversation with the original user.

If Twitter wants to catch up to Facebook’s $8 billion, it needs to close the gap by giving its users and marketers what they want: access to increased engagement and information on topics unique to users’ interests. Anything less, and Twitter is bound to lose its clout in the social media marketing industry.