The Twitter app ecosystem continues to flourish, yet people still ask the question: “I don’t get it, why should I use Twitter?” You tell them, sign-up and follow some people – it’s a great way to get connected with people you respect – this could be a friend, colleague, industry thought leader, celebrity, or journalist. Yet, once convinced (not because of you, but because Twitter is everywhere), people sign up on Twitter.com and tweet….once.
The famous words: “So I signed up for Twitter, I don’t get it, now what?”
While Tweetie 2 launches their revamped app and TweetDeck released some updates to their app, to help hardcore Twitter users get more value, no one focuses on addressing the needs of the 75% of users who tweet once . (BTW, for a later discussion, can someone objectively tell me why TweetDeck is really better than Tweetie? Specifically, what real technology is underlying in these all apps? I think I heard there is a joke going around “What is the Twitter app of the week?”)
The larger opportunity is to serve the 75% of users who tweet once. Help them get more value out of Twitter. Some ideas:
(1) Twitter apps need to help new users discover people. Maybe ask some basic/fun questions. No more than 5 to use as a basis of providing recommendations of who to follow. “If you were watching a TV show, which one would you watch?”[American Idol][Jimmy Fallon][Drew Carey][All of the Above]. Depending on what you click, you would be given recommendations of who to follow. Another question: “Who did you vote for?” [Barack][McCain][I wasn’t old enough]. I’m sure you can think of others. Twitter provides recommendations, but they are completely arbitrary. Based on these questions, tell them who they should follow.
(2) Once new users start following 5-10 people and they start tweeting once or twice, give new users more recommendations of people to follow. Think of this as “Facebook Suggestions”. New users will get value out of following the first set of people, but help them discover more. Maybe integrate Mr.Tweet’s API and provide recommendations every couple of weeks.
(3) If 90% of the tweets are generated by 10% of the people, then the other 90% of the people are just viewing tweets. Create channels, and help new users discover the most popular tweets in these channels. Organize tweets by the way AOL & Yahoo, and do it: Finance, Autos, etc. If that’s how people view information today, make it easy for people to make sense of all the real-time data. Think of TV. You can Tivo your show(this is your personal feed of the people you follow), but then there are the normal channels. Organize data in a way other people understand.
(4) 300M people are on Facebook. Facebook is doing something right, but show that Twitter has “Facebook-like” Features. If your start following 3 friends, and those friends start following 3 friends, it would be really helpful if you could see “[Your friend] started following 3 people. Find out who they are.” This is how Facebook helped people discover more and more friends. Twitter (or Twitter apps) should do the same.
(5) Add “Getting Started” type features – think Pop-Up Video. So many of the apps just jump right in, ask for your username/password, and then wah-la! good luck! For new users, this is not the way to go. Maybe ask the new user “Are you a new user? No problem, we’ll help you navigate the world of Twitter.” You know the pop-up videos from VH1? Try having small pop-ups on occasion to show features that have not been used. Use PinchMedia and Flurry to understand user behaviors . Then, if someone is not using a feature (for example if they don’t know what direct messages are), have the application prompt the user as follows: “Send a direct message to X. Direct messages are private short messages, think of it as a single line instant message”. Well, maybe that’s too long, but you get the point.
Twitter is a great tool to connect you with the people you respect, admire and find interesting and it’s a great way to get real-time information. Twitter developers, like us, should have a mission to help consumers get value out of the real-time stream.