I see over on Mashable that Twitter’s traffic is flat. Is Twitter in trouble?
Based on my watching of more than 16,000 accounts, no. Usage is better than ever. But, keep in mind I only care about geeks and tech talk. I don’t track how many people are talking about cat photos or celebrities or all the other dreck that’s on Twitter.
But these reports and charts have two major flaws:
1. They potentially undercount overseas users.
2. They potentially severely undercount users who use clients like Tweetdeck or Seesmic.
Last week I spoke to two groups at CES, mostly marketers. Most of those audiences raised their hands when I asked them whether they used clients like Tweetie, Tweetdeck, and Seesmic desktop. So, if compete.com and quantcast are undercounting those who use clients, or aren’t counting them at all, then we’re all arguing about nothing.
But, let’s say that these charts are right. Does that matter? It does to Twitter. After all, it’s easier to get hype and get advertising if the charts head up.
Why might these numbers be right?
1. New users get shoved into celebrity land immediately. That hardly is very satisfying. Come on, have you looked at what Oprah or Ashton are tweeting about? How about all the other celebrities. Here, go check it out (I’ve embedded a preview of this celebrity list from Mashable here):
2. Text in 2010 is boring. In an age when YouTube is growing nicely (here’s a comparison of Twitter’s growth to Youtube’s) it’s time to add some nicer displays to Twitter. When Twitter is looking as boring as my black and white Kindle you know something is wrong.
But, anyway, this is all a way to say that there’s a good amount of room for improvement on Twitter. I can see many many areas that Twitter could improve its service to make its service more engaging. Here’s some:
1. Get rid of the 140-character text-only limit. Facebook is a lot more fun to use than Twitter because you can see photos and videos right inline in the feed and you can actually communicate something more than the metaphorical equivalent of a grunt.
2. Greatly improve the list feature. The idea that it’s limited to 500 accounts is really stupid and the fact that I can’t create more than 20 lists per account is equally stupid. It means you can’t create lists of things that are complete. For instance, I already know of more than 500 tech startups. Let us create lists of lists, which would dramatically increase their usage.
3. Come out with a “supertweet.” Or, a new display surface for each tweet that can display all sorts of metadata. That would make each tweet more useful.
4. Add comments to each tweet.
5. Make the new retweet feature more useful by showing much more information about each retweet.
6. Improve search so that it has some usefulness.
7. Integrate a game into Tweeting, like Foursquare has. Give out badges for good behavior.
8. Greatly expand the bio. Or, just scrap the bio and make a deal with Google to integrate Google Profiles (here’s mine) into Twitter. Make it easier to search for people and companies.
9. Get rid of the follower counts. They are a game that increases noise. Everyone knows, like Anil Dash reported, that they don’t mean anything anyway. They just reinforce bad behavior.
10. Get rid of the suggested user list and, instead, point people to Listorious or something like it, which would let people find groupings of people using Twitter (with a preview).
11. Give us a private Twitter that we can share just with our friends (and make it easy to choose where Tweets go).
12. Give us a much better direct messaging capability. Right now that’s very lame, even compared with the very lame Facebook capability.
13. Give us a major UI update. Time to take Twitter into 2010 and stop making it try to fit into a 2006 mindset.
14. Make it easier to create and manage multiple accounts. Why do I need to use tools like Seesmic to tweet to my three accounts? Why can’t Twitter itself hook them together? This would let me create accounts with a lot less noise and a lot more purpose, which would help new users a lot.
Just some ideas.
But, anyway, how real are these numbers? Is Twitter’s traffic in trouble?