Is Twitter the Next Big Thing or the Next MySpace?

Is Twitter the next big thing or is it the next MySpace? And what about Facebook and Google? These are interesting questions managers keep asking themselves. I was reading earlier this week an article published in Business Week on how Twitter has made the real-time web an important issue on the Internet and how it can be considered a potential competitor for Google. Briefly, the author interviewed a truly biased specialist who has invested money in Twitter and companies that offer solutions to track Twitter information. Personally, I think the article was biased and off-the-track, and I don’t want to offend the pro-Twitter squad, but Twitter has many similarities to past social platforms that have failed such as (1) Friendster, (2) MySpace and (3) Second Life. This leads me to pretend that Twitter tends more to be the Next MySpace than a potential competitor for Facebook. Here is my reasoning in 8 points:

1. Too much reliability problems
2. Too much spamming
3. Not enough privacy
4. Too much babbles
5. Not enough readers
6. Too hard to maintain conversations
7. Too simple
8. Too much competition on the radar

Twitter

1. Too much reliability problems

This seems similar to what Friendster and Second Life have experienced in the past as Twitter is getting attacked from everywhere on the planet; how many times will you hear “Twitter is down… again”? Is there anything worse than trying to log onto a website that is not working? These reliability problems are not causing too much damage for the moment, but one day, users will get tired and trust will be broken.

Twitter is down

2. Too much spamming

Spamming on Twitter is just starting. For instance, just add 10 Internet gurus to your “follow” list and you will receive tons of new followers (spammers) that will chase (follow) you not to connect with you, but more to add you (if you reciprocate) as an extra follower. There is a developing market of companies sharing techniques to increase their number of followers; Mashable even wrote an article that summarizes this emerging market. What is the point of having new followers if these followers don’t care about you? Anyway. Personally, the worst type of spam I have experienced is when non-followers mentioned me, with the known symbol @ in a non-targeted corporate tweet. Sure, it is possible to block them and report spam, but this is time-consuming for nothing.

3. Not enough privacy

Some may also say that Twitter is really bad in terms of privacy, and I totally agree, but for now, if I want to have more privacy, I just log onto another platform and share with my friends on Facebook or on the good old MSN.

4. Too much babbles

In a recent study, it was said that 40% of the content on Twitter was insignificant babbles. I would totally agree with the point of view of researcher and social networks specialist danah boyd who argued that babbles are not necessarily babbles for everyone. However, these « babbles » are generally information I categorized as spam for the writers (my “following”) I don’t really know personally – and if I know the writer of those babbles, well then, maybe they are not always to be considered as such.

Recent Study

5. Not enough listening

What is really surprising on Twitter is that you can have 10,000 followers but it can happen that almost none of them will read what you post. To read you, they need to be online, they need to be connected to their Twitter account via the Twitter website, via Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Twitterriffic, depending which tool they are using, and they need to actively follow you. The Dunbar number stipulates that one human cannot follow intimately more than 150 people. Good luck! This is why Twitter is a paradise for quantity and not quality.

6. Too hard to maintain conversations

Have you ever tried to maintain a conversation of four to five tweets exchange with someone on Twitter? This is really hard, and personally, when I want to do that, I just use another platform.

7. Too simple

If the idea behind Twitter is simple, this is mainly what makes it popular; however it is sometimes too simple. The only thing you can do is post a tweet or read a tweet, so once again I use another platform.

8. Too much competition on the radar

Facebook has bought Friendfeed, launched Facebook Lite and Google will launch Google Caffeine and Google Wave. What does this mean? This means that even though Twitter is growing fast, it is a matter of time before competition gets the better of it. In other words, every user should say thanks to Twitter for forcing Facebook and Google to come up with ideas to exploit the real-time web as fast as possible.

Should your company be on Twitter?

After listing all these reasons why Twitter is not the next big thing, the main question some would ask me is: “should my company be on Twitter?” And my answer would be: YES. Why? Mainly because Twitter is an interesting way to control your brand image, not to build it, but to control for negative comments against your brand. However, is Twitter the next big thing? NO, and if you want to build for the future, focus your energies on Facebook and follow the launch of Google Wave.

What will we learn from Twitter?

We should at least learn two things from Twitter, that there is need for the real-time web and a need for fandom.

1. Need for the real-time web

The 140-word tweet has been a good vehicle to bring the real-time web as an Internet mainstream issue which could have been predicted by the emergence of SMS. This trend is there to stay. This is also why Google will launch Google Caffeine and Google Wave soon enough, in order to answer Twitter’s growth.

2. A need for fandom

Some might say that there is a “voyeur” in us all and that there is a need for fandom. That would explain why celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher (more than 3 million followers) and Weird Al Yankovic (more than 1 million followers) have embraced Twitter to give the possibility to their fans to follow them, to read what they have to say because they are celebrities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I personally don’t think Twitter is the next big thing, but more likely a fad that will soon go away like Friendster, MySpace and Second Life did in the past ten years. However, we must thank Twitter for bringing the real-time web to another level. Any other opinions or thoughts on the topic?

Jean-Francois Belisle

If you like this post, be sure to subscribe to Jean-Francois Belisle RSS feed!

8 thoughts on “Is Twitter the Next Big Thing or the Next MySpace?”

  1. I found all of your points are right on. I currently follow about 20 people using tweetdeck and I feel it’s taking a lot of my time already I can’t imagine those who follow like a thousand. I now open it once a day and read all the updates. Also, I wonder if the need for real time news is not overrated. Except for a Tsunami coming or a bomb dropping, most people do not need to know the news the exact moment they happen.
    Also, one point that I feel sould be looked at more deeper is that many bloggers may be writing less in depth articles and tweeting more recently. Or maybe it’s just the summer vacations… We’ll see in september.
    Also, Twitter may be a fad, but looking at the insane amount of financing going into twitter clients and apps makes me wonder if it’s not 1999 again.

  2. @Jean-Francois I totally agree to the fact that sometimes real-time news sounds like low quality news, sometimes it is needed, sometimes it more like noise (or spam) and everybody’s opinion doesn’t have the same value to anyone’s eyes. I also agree that some bloggers seems to switch to videos or Twitter instead of focusing on writing in-depth article. However, I guess it all depends on the positioning of everyone, my positioning is in-depth writing, but this is all personal and this is where I can contribute. Last point, like you mention, the large amount of funding in social networks makes me wonder if we are not in a social media bubble where there are too much overrated players and a lack of structure. Anyway, I guess we’ll see by the end of the year.

  3. Real-time news seems to be a trend but I do not think it is a need. I would say that most news could wait a week. It is certainly sad that Patrick Swayze is dead. However, the only ones who needed to know this real fast are those that will be attending the funerals and the vultures who will try to profit from his death.

    Concerning your 8 points, those that matter most are:
    #5: Too much talking and not enough listening. Tweeting is like saying something in a very crowded place. A few people will hear you but for the others, you are just backgroung noise.
    #6: Twitter is indeed very poor for conversations and it pollutes the stream of tweets of uninterested parties.
    #8: A lot of competition is on the horizon. The big idea behind Google Wave is to simplify conversations. Facebook is also forcing its way into the party with more and more Twitter-like functions. This summer, 50 million people joined FB in 75 days. That is more than the entire Twitter user base.

    This is not to say that Twitter is not useful. However, things will get interesting in the next year.

  4. @Marc Thanks for your comment, your 3-point summary is a must-consider for many organizations. Strangely, it seems like Twitter is a victim of its success and in relation to point 8 and your interesting post (http://marcpoulin.blogspot.com/2009/09/abandon-massif-des-nouveaux.html), it could end up as a niche SNs such as MySpace. As you mention, the highest growth in absolute terms is still in Facebook and that should be considered by organizations.

  5. I totally agree with the points that have been brought up, especially the fact that there is too much talking and not enough listening, and that following a few people can already be overwhelming. However, I do not feel that Twitter is a fad, at least not the concept of real-time micro-blogging. I believe the main failure of Twitter lies in its incapacity of making clear distinction to the masses about its role as a tool as opposed to that of Facebook or Google. Also, it failed in giving clear benefits to the end-users, the non-corporate, the everyday Joe. Huge amounts have been invested into it and a lot of efforts are put together to develop better Twitter tools for businesses. That’s all great, but to make Twitter the next big thing, we need to give the masses, outside of the “foreground social media addicts”, a reason to use the tool in the first place! As you have mentioned: not enough response from that side.

    *** My comment got too long, I posted it on my blog instead. Read the rest here *** http://synapticdream.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-twitter-next-big-thing-or-next.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *