Itâ€™s fair to say that we are now surfing the crest of the first great Twitter wave. Slight tweaks to the interface (the recent introduction of lists) donâ€™t disguise the fact that growth in US user numbers has stalled.
Multi-million dollar deals with Google and Bing, as well as translations (Spanish has just launched), will give the service a shot in the arm but its long-term future is somewhat of a mystery.
Twitterâ€™s development so far has been fueled by users – and developers harnessing its API – not by the company itself. It is these continuing changes in the way it is used that will shape the serviceâ€™s future and ensure its long-term success. But what are those changes and how will they impact?
This is my take on the interesting bits from this:-
- Mobile will be used more than the web â€“ a huge number of users now tweet using client software and as an increasing number of people acquire smartphones their tiny keyboards will be the beginnings of most posts.
- Geotagging â€“ Smartphones are already feeding this trend and the adoption rate for the latest handsets is ever increasing. Coupled with Google and Bingsâ€™ deals, this will make location-based SEO and advertising ever more important.
- Status updates will be everywhere â€“ Hard to disagree with this one as they already part and parcel of so many social networks. Facebook has the biggest chunk of the action at the moment (45 million updates a day) and mobiles with Facebook and Twitter clients will only increase this trend.
- There will be more devices publishing updates than humans (planes, trains, cars all posting updates) â€“ Err… not sure about this one. Â It would serve a real purpose for public transport but might not replace already well-established services at the moment.
Reputation management and marketing
- Live reviews of any place and product will deeply influence it â€“ This trend will only grow in significance and those companies that donâ€™t monitor Twitter will have no way of mitigating the fall out if a faulty gadget or bad meal is broadcast to the twittersphere.
- Promos by brands and retailers will have big success for last minute deals – Again location has a big part to play in this if we are looking at local, physical shops. It seems inevitable that online retailers will also continue to see the sort of benefits that Dell has through its promotions on twitter, although they have to be selective or will end up just seeming spammy.
- The social graph will also open up â€“ As an open network Twitter is doing a good job of this already, analysing that data however is still a massive challenge. As users do we realise how much data we are exposing? And perhaps more importantly, do brands know what to do with it?
- Twitter as an overview of a brand or person – Â Twitter is an open network (unless you are one of those perverse people who makes their feed private) meaning anyone will be able to get a snapshot of a person or brand through posts, retweets and links. Consumers will use this to judge whether companies are right for them, and brands will use the data to target consumers.
- Google and Bing will be the dominant ways to search Twitter – Both Google with Social Search, and MSN through a recent redesign of its home page have got the ball rolling on this.
- Google will have its own Twitter and wonâ€™t acquire Twitter – This one is interesting and Googleâ€™s recent work on Friend Connect, plus the chat features within Gmail and Google Wave could well be different attempts to steal Twitterâ€™s thunder.
Twitterâ€™s business model
- Twitter wonâ€™t display ads in your main feed. Other revenue opportunities such as pro accounts for businesses will be enough – Twitterâ€™s ability to open up the social graph of its users will allow the company to continue selling real-time data about its users to search engines, marketers, application developers and social media monitoring services. Anyway Ads would become increasingly useless as fewer and fewer users choose to tweet at twitter.com
It seems these revenue streams coupled with the huge amount of money recently thrown at it by VCs will mean Twitter is here to stay. Â However, what it evolves into over the coming years is very much in your hands and remains the billion dollar question.