Twitter and the Verified Celebrity Contra-Culture
The more time I spend on Twitter, the more confounded and confused I become as to the service’s purpose and merits. Is it a news reporting device? Is it a celebrity PR machine? Is it your television? Twitter can try to be all things to all people, but Twitter does have a serious people problem — a user problem, really — where new users initially sign up and engage the service, and then abandon the nest in flocks, and that’s a bad and dangerous precedent for any social media mingling service.
Reading this morning’s latest PR blurp from the blue bird confirms Twitter is in full-on acquisition identity crisis mode and they’re just as confused as I am as to what they’re really doing here:
One of the best ways to follow events as they unfold is through real-time videos on Twitter. As we continue to invest in video, it’s important for us to provide tools that make it easy for TV broadcasters, businesses, and event producers to share high-quality videos. To that end, we’ve agreed to acquire SnappyTV.
Twitter should’ve been what WhatsApp! became, but it didn’t because the service has always about about celebrity and stars and not its ordinary, everyday, users.
Twitter got its jump start by being a machine for celebrity. They trolled all the big stars — and purposefully separated them from the rest of us with Verified accounts — and they coddle and celebrate their celebrities, and I never thought there was any money in that game plan for any business to rely so solely on celebrity integration and fame propagation on a mediated social networking site where the masses should matter more than the starpower niches:
According to the study, the top 25 percent of users’ tweets accounted for almost three out of every four retweets. Even though more than one in five people on Twitter use the microblogging site to engage in political debate, the almost 200,000 observed users retweeted celebrities such as left-leaning comedian Bill Maher, and conservative media personalities Sean Hannity and Karl Rove the most.
Retweeting celebrities was especially high among newer Twitter users with few followers (less than 90) but was common for typical users with up to 1,000 followers. The study also found that celebrities or elite users tended to reply to other celebrities, and while they rarely retweeted another user, it was usually another celebrity. They also replied to messages just as often as Twitter “rookies” did.
Twitter users are the most active during live media events such as the Oscars, the World Cup or presidential debates. But despite Twitter’s reputation as a unique platform for open conversations from a variety of voices, users seem less interested in articulating their own thoughts or those of their non-famous friends or followers.
If Twitter wants to be a star chamber — echo chamber, in fact — that’s fine, but I think it’s going to be really hard to monetize that business plan in the long run. Verified accounts create a tremendous credibility crevasse for Twitter.
For some reason, Twitter created a kingdom of the Haves and the Have Nots and people race to social media for fairness, socialization and democratization. Having a stratified service only serves the celebrities, and not the real people, and when the experience is not predictable and common and universal and fair, people pretty quickly figure that out and don’t hang around very long feeling left out or misplaced.
There’s no way to apply to get Verified on Twitter. The process, for some unfathomable reason, is non-transparent and obscure and nascent and no user wants to dedicate any amount of time to an arbitrary and whimsical service that dances with the tide.
Twitter is going all-in on being your celebrity bash-up and TV link bait, and while that’s disappointing, and actually fosters only passive reception and non-active engagement in users, the company has to do something to make it appear the service is doing more than just flapping its wings:
1. Twitter + TV = Increased Brand Awareness vs TV Alone. For brands that used Twitter alongside their TV advertising, the study found on average a 6.9% increase in awareness for exposed audiences and significant increases for exposed and engaged audiences across awareness, intent and favorability measures.
2. Twitter Amplification = Sales Lift. For the brands that measured sales impact, we saw sales increases of 4% on average in households exposed to ads on Twitter and TV vs just TV ads alone.
I’ve been in and around twitter since 2006 or so and I still really have no idea what the service is or what I’m supposed to do with it. I get Facebook is for friends and LinkedIn is for business. Twitter is for… what? All the above and nothing below?
Twitter stumps me, and user engagement timeline numbers prove I am not alone, but it may be too late for the bird to beat the street.
Twitter could have been the grand messaging App of its generation, but other services were keener, and quicker, and hungrier — and they didn’t throw all in on Verified stratification — and, for the lack of a looser term, the Twitter competition didn’t feel the innate need to become Starf@ckers to try and sell a service to the ordinary folk.