Editor's note: Jon Westenberg is the founder of Creatomic and the CMO of Speedlancer. He can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Twitter, you’ve been equal parts awesome and awful, crucial and optional for a long time.
You’ve allowed businesses to communicate, one on one with their customers in an absolutely unprecedented way, and we’ve loved that. But now a lot of people are saying your time is up.
Twitter users are angry at you for not handling abuse, and Twitter users are angry at you for not implementing key features they’ve been asking for (seriously, where’s your edit button at???) – but the good news is, you matter. And you’ll still matter in 2017. Here’s why.
Communication is so core to a business’ success.
As a business you have to ensure that you are always listening to your customers, so you don’t drift completely out of touch with the people who pay you. When customers spread the word about your products, services, developments and improvements you as a business need to be listening.
Ironically, although companies use and rely on Twitter for this, Twitter as a company doesn’t excel at this themselves.
But people and businesses rely on Twitter for this communication, for clear reasons. It’s real time, it’s immediate, and it lends itself well to the messaging that they need. There’s instant feedback, instant distribution and there’s none of the issues we see on Facebook where posts that aren’t sponsored just disappear into the void.
Twitter still matters, because when seeking a simple and straightforward communication platform, we don’t have alternatives.
This means that when you need to communicate with customers, Twitter is a platform that lets you achieve visibility in a frictionless manner and without a huge ad budget. With Twitter you also don’t have to worry about newsfeed and timeline algorithms, or any of the trending issues that we’ve seen on Facebook. Additionally, given the minimalist post structure on Twitter, we don’t have to go through a massive creative process just to create the message in the first place.
Twitter still matters, because when seeking a simple and straightforward communication platform, we don’t have alternatives. Instagram is a purely visual medium, and they’re about to jump onto the live video bandwagon. Well, Twitter has live video too, but you can choose it alongside the traditional way of using the platform.
Snapchat isn’t an open broadcasting and messaging system in the same way that Twitter is. It’s awesome for communicating in some ways, but again only visually and only with certain messages and ideas.
Facebook – don’t even get me started on how tough it can be to use Facebook as a brand.
But Twitter, it still has the charm that we fell in love with, and it still has urgency and immediacy and a sense of easy, free communication. One example of this – looking to the elephant in the room – is the US election. Twitter was the one place to go to in order to be on top of a wide range of viewpoints, opinions, ideas and key messages instantly. Some of the people I work with were pointing out that if they didn’t have Twitter, there’s literally no comparable service that they could turn to. When the news broke that Trump had been elected, there was no comparable way to find reactions, news and analysis.
Other people recognised this too.
That’s why the morning after the firestorm, Twitter’s stock was the only mainstream tech stock on the rise. People came out of the nightmare election with a renewed sense of the cultural importance still attached to Twitter as a platform.
If you’re a brand or a business who needs to have that level of real-time access to an audience, Twitter is still the right way to go. I use it constantly, far more than any other social network for just that reason. It’s the simplest way for me to get in-front of people, and I don’t have to bow to Facebook’s algorithms just to make it bloody work in the first place.
Twitter was the one place to go to in order to be on top of a wide range of viewpoints, opinions, ideas and key messages instantly. Some of the people I work with were pointing out that if they didn’t have Twitter, there’s literally no comparable service that they could turn to.
Twitter has a lot of issues that they’re going to have to fix. While the election certainly demonstrated the need for Twitter, it also shone a light on some of its nastier, darker corners where racism, violence and prejudice have been given room to fester and grow. Twitter’s management team need to deepen their understanding of the impact that this kind of activity can have on a business and act as custodians for their users to help them remain free from online abuse. But I’ll be rooting for them to fix those issues because more than ever I see a massive need for instant communication in a social platform, and a way for me – as an entrepreneur and a brand in myself – to talk to people.
The old sales line about Twitter was “Join the Conversation”.
The thing is, Twitter is still the only real platform where doing that is a possibility. I don’t like a lot of the conversations going on there, but I still want to have them. Talking to my audience in that conversational way is vital.
Twitter still matters now, and it’s still going to matter in 2017. If you’re a brand who’s invested a lot of time into the platform, I’m sure you’ll be seeing reports of its demise and feeling more than a little trepidation. But I don’t think it’s about to go anywhere, because we’re being reminded right now about its value. The abusive trolling and one or two technical issues might have chipped away at that value. But it’s still there.