Twitter migrates into uncharted territory

Sarah Kellner
Lifestyles Editor

In case you didn’t know, Twitter is a cross between a social network and news source that allows users to post up to 140-character messages, which can be shared throughout the network and reposted to other social media sites. It was created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. According to Twitter Inc., as of today there are approximately 302 million users, with 500 million tweets going out per day. Even though those numbers are incredibly high, the company seems to have hit a rough patch.
The quarterly earnings this month were worse than ever, with the lowest amount of user activity. It has been projected, but alas: Twitter is beginning to be phased out in the social realm. David Auerbach from Slate Magazine reports, “Twitter’s strength is being the pulse of the Internet, the place where news gets broken in 140-character messages, where important topics start trending the second they enter the collective hivemind and where politicians and celebrities and thinkers of all stripes can make announcements without the bother of a press release or the filter of the media.”
Yet Twitter’s purpose has become muddled somewhere between a news provider and a social site. This fracture in the system has ultimately caused Twitter to see fewer users active as well as a limited range in targeting audience, particularly with ad revenue. Twitter’s format of direct Tweets of 140 characters has ultimately limited the company in being able to gain information about their users via data sourcing, which has resulted in lack of targeted advertisements. This undoubtably has left advertisement agencies with a bad taste in their mouths on doing business with Twitter.
The company is in competition with Facebook, who unlike Twitter has a large character limit on posts. This gives Facebook greater power to collect data on their users and produce properly targeted advertising. Also, Twitter has a weakness in their privacy department for users. As a company originally set forth for direct news coverage, the settings for posts are completely public. Individual users may not put as much personal information on it as they would Facebook, which has multiple privacy options. Although Twitter has acquired TellPart, “a leading marketing technology company providing retailers and e-commerce advertisers with unique cross-device retargeting capabilities,” said Auerbach, Twitter is gathering its efforts into making a change from user participation, to “monetize nonusers,” meaning people who do not use Twitter, but will read a Tweet or information attached to an advertisement.
Twitter and Facebook currently run off of user-created content: the messages users post are the blood coursing through their companies’ hypothetical veins. However, since Twitter has taken a dramatic loss in that department, they are switching gears to become less of a social media platform and more of a tracking source to gather information about nonusers and partner that content with advertising abilities. It is a hard gamble that may bring about the demise of Twitter as we know it.
That was a lot of technical jargon, but the fact is, companies thrive off of user content. If you didn’t know that before, welcome to the party. Those posts about your drunken Friday escapades, passed out in the bathtub, which you posted on Facebook or live Tweeted throughout the night: all information owned by those companies. Each post on Facebook is not your intellectual property; it’s theirs. You agreed to it the day you signed up for an account (read that sneaky fine print). All those ads you see on the side of your Newsfeed that seem to be reading your mind or hitting your midnight craving? That isn’t a coincidence; it’s user data collecting. Should you feel robbed and violated, or just accept it as part of this generation’s tech-driven people/companies and ultimate lifestyle?

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