Social Update: Twitter's Midlife Crisis
A limited amount of characters attempting to encompass the never ending stream of opinions, ideas, and news, ranging from extreme to extreme, is Twitter functions as today.
While almost everyone is aware of and most likely uses the primary social media platforms, namely Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, users often utilize each application in completely different ways. While Instagram and Snapchat are distinct from other platforms in that they rely on other styles of content and messaging, Facebook and Twitter serve similar functions. There is the ability on both platforms to continually post new content, engage with posts from friends and those followed, and also keep up to date with breaking news on events that occur around the world.
The stark difference between these two social media giants is that Twitter is mainly used for breaking news and instantaneous reactions to moments around the world. Whether it be the election of Donald J. Trump, Brexit, the Boston Marathon bombing, or even the Chicago Cubs winning the world series for the first time in over a century, Twitter is the home of immediate reactions.
Partly due to interest in news and engagement in world affairs, 22.5% of those age 25-34 have used Twitter throughout the last month of 2016, in addition to the 328 million active monthly users of the platform. While those numbers are impressive, they pale in comparison to other social media outlets like Facebook, which counts 1.6 billion active users.
Twitter, created in 2006, does indeed have an enormous user base. However, it has in recent times hit snags in its ability to expand and grow as many had expected it to and as many other platforms have exploded in terms of growth and profits. Changes in leadership positions of the company have in some part prompted the decrease in the stock of the company, but the main reason for Twitter's struggles come back to user experience and its ability to differentiate itself from other platforms in relation to offering new services.
The growing presence of internet trolls across all online platforms is nothing new for those who have grown up with technology and have seen the internet expand and involve more content. Twitter has specifically experienced an increase in the amount of abusive and violent content that has been posted to its feeds. Because of this, the company has had a stall of sorts in terms of the ability to expand their user base. Twitter does offer similar services and engagement as Facebook, but lacks the ability to give its users the ability to at all times use the app and not have to engage with negative content.
Though negative content, or negativity in general, exists in all parts of life, Twitter is battling to create a better user experience. As those who grew up with this technology move into the work force and beyond, the hope would be that they continue to use the platform. One specific way in which Twitter is able to stand out from Facebook and other applications is its ability to be the main hub for breaking news and live updates on events.
A study conducted by the American Press Institute states that 79% of users happened upon news or other events that they were not aware of while scrolling through their feeds. In addition, 60% tweeted their reaction to what they had read, and 61% retweeted either what they had read or something similar to it.
As Twitter continues to be the main place for those who use social media to learn about the news and opinions of it, the company is adding to the ways that users can engage. A recent deal with Bloomberg News will allow the application to broadcast news from the Bloomberg News company in addition to having live reports and updates aired through the application. This allowance for users to both read and view news reports on events around the world is something similar to Facebook in that it offers video. The major difference is that the direct link with Bloomberg News will allow Twitter to solidify its place as the social media platform for breaking news and instantaneous reactions.
This usage by Twitter of broadcasting live events isn't a new one; they’ve showed live Thursday night NFL games in early 2017, but have since lost that time slot to Amazon. In addition, Twitter also teamed with Bloomberg News in 2016 to air the presidential debates. The difference with the new deal struck between Bloomberg and this social media platform is that it allows users to stay updated on news without the need of a television or other screens like a laptop.
As a result of the current generations familiarity of technology, people want a user-friendly experience that allows them to communicate with their friends, learn about goings ons in society, discover new cultural aspects of their community that they weren't aware of before, and obviously stay up to date on breaking news and affairs. Twitter continues their battle, both against stagnancy, internet trolls, and other social platforms to create a place for people to have new, interesting conversations. The hope is that from the achievement of their new goal, new narratives about civil rights, civil liberties, political movements, sporting events, and the potential components of our own zeitgeist may emerge.