Long before Elon Musk acquired Twitter, it’d been the butt of jokes around the tech space for being such a poorly run company. It did not help matters that Twitter’s then CEO, Jack Dorsey was also running another public company, Square, one which he seemed to show more enthusiasm for than Twitter. Not to mention that he did not really want to run Twitter but had to step in after no one seemed to be capable of doing the job.
For years, Twitter was stuck in a rut, there was no innovation to the product, experiments had expensive and familiar endings – Vine, Fleets, Periscope, etc. The one major change Twitter has made which was not recalled was extending the character limit on Tweets from 140 to 280 characters. Their stock performance was so bad, I was puzzled. How can a company which has become critically important and influential in deciding the fate of politics, nations and humanity be so undervalued? The answer lies in how poorly run the company was. Elon spent a lot of money acquiring Twitter, but he’s a billionaire, I feel the reaction to the amount he paid has been outsized. He only had to put up some 30% of that money personally, and had friends and banks come up with the rest.
Making money starts with building products that people love, depend on and are willing to pay for. In this article, I have focused on the product enhancements and changes Twitter needs to make to evolve with the times. Sometimes, Twitter still feels like a 2006 product. I’ve had this article in my mental drafts for more than two years (long before Elon thought about buying Twitter) and I kept building mental business models that Twitter could adopt and hoped to share them with Jack one day. Well, it’s Elon’s now.
My Product Recommendations for Twitter
1. Twitter for Business
Become a CRM, go after Salesforce. Elon famously referred to Twitter as the accelerant to “X”, the everything app. I believe it.
A lot of buying and selling happens on Twitter, most businesses have full time customer resolution channels dedicated to enquiries coming from Twitter. There’s hardly any big business in the world that does not have a Twitter account, interact with users on Twitter and resolve customer complaints in the DMs. People even say they get faster resolution on Twitter than via other channels like phone calls and email. A lot of small businesses also showcase and sell their products on Twitter, a few of them even go viral. A random search on Twitter will show you millions of tweets where users are asking a vendor for how they can pay for a service or product they have showcased. Most of the transactions are consummated in the DM rather manually with some vendors redirecting users to WhatsApp or some other third party tool.
Twitter needs to build a product that helps businesses manage customer resolution appropriately and also allows small businesses initiate and close sales transactions in the DM.
A Twitter for Business solution that combines effective CRM embedded in the DMs – private and secure with a dynamic inventory management system and payments will allow businesses properly track customer orders, enquiries and complaints (with analytics and a premium product that does a web scraping of Tweets that mention a Brand and gives them a sense of what their users complain about the most).
2. In-App Payments
Like I said previously, too much buying and selling starts on Twitter but none of them ends on Twitter. Someone has to always go out of their Twitter app and make a payment using a secondary app. Everything should start and finish on Twitter. Content creators should be able to get paid for engaging threads at the tap of a button, creators should have a Twitter wallet showing their earnings in real time.
In-App payments opens up a whole new world – it sets the foundation for Creators to monetize specific tweets (which can’t be viewed without tipping, etc.) In-App payments also mean Twitter for Business users can easily showcase their catalogue and customers can pay for them at a click.
Don’t also stop at B2C payments, evolve into B2B payments. Become the social payments company, have APIs that allows any business collect payment from anyone even outside Twitter using just the person’s Twitter handle to initiate the transaction. Example, Livenation, the live concert company, can integrate Twitter’s B2B Payment APIs and any user can go on Livenation, input their Twitter handle and then authorize Twitter to debit their “wallet” a certain amount to pay for a Livenation’s concert.
This solution will also allow users add unique payment links to Tweets and customers can buy their products without going through the labourious process of tweeting, getting into the DMs and then going out of the Twitter app to consummate the deal. Add a webstore front end that makes it easy for Businesses to showcase their inventory. Everything happens on Twitter.
3. Videos a Standalone
Go after YouTube. I have lost count of so many viral videos that showed up on Twitter first, yet videos on the platform are such a pain.
Make video sharing and viewing easier on Twitter, unlike Youtube which doesn’t let you locally download videos, usurp them by making it easier for users to save videos directly to their locale. In Summary, make the following changes to Videos on Twitter:
- Have a separate tab or page for Videos
- Allow users to save videos on their locale
- Offer multiple video quality options – high res, low res, etc
- Charge media companies higher for higher res videos
- Offer high-level video editing tools
- Have a separate sub URL for for videos where anyone (logged in or not) can go and watch trending viral videos (but you need to be logged in to watch more than 30 secs)
4. Embrace Photosharing
Come for Instagram and dominate. Make photo sharing a mainstay. Adding more visual appeal on Twitter will attract a lot more young users. Twitter’s media service has been poorly built for a long while. If people are willing to share about their life and experience via texts (which is harder to do than photos) then make it easy for them to share photos as well. So many times, we see Twitter being the authentic source of user-generated authentic information about a real life event shared as an image. But it becomes so hard to search for specific images related to an event. Here are some changes that can transform their media service:
- Make photos searchable by hashtags and keywords
- Show image metadata
- Have a separate tab/page for Images
- Allow tweets to be converted to images at the tap of a button (makes tweets more shareable)
5. Twitter Search
Come for Google. I have said this so many times, Twitter search gives me more contextual user related results than Google does most times. Searching for keywords on Twitter allows me not only find the info I’m looking for but it allows me read what other people are thinking or thought about that same thing before. I am able to read the conversations that was generated about that event in a purely organic way with bias.
Promoting Twitter Search will in the long run give Google a run for their money. It offers way more DIY than google’s sometimes carefully curated results. A google search about a Restaurant’s review might give you nice results whereas you’re able to see the true real time review on Twitter.
6. Multi-level Users
Everyone uses Twitter, most famous people have burner accounts because they don’t want anyone to know what they are up to. Instead of promoting burners why not allow Users do multiple things with their account. Some ideas:
- Incognito sessions – temporary username (anon), no history , tracked, etc.
- Close friends list where users can tweet to a specific audience with screenshot disabled
- Allow users curate the kind of timeline they want – industry specific, no politics, no sensitive content, etc.
These changes would give users the confidence to come back to Twitter knowing they are carefully and specially curate the content they see on their Timeline.
7. Open Source Twitter
At the core of every software product is the Engineers who write the codes. Developers are the most important stakeholders at the core of software. Entice them, open source Twitter and allow Developers build on top of Twitter’s infrastructure. All these guys running to Mastodon will be back. Give Developers a controlled sandbox that allows them plug in external APIs, tweak things and play around with Twitter.
8. Change the Damn UI
Twitter’s User Interface has been stale for too long. Give this logo a tweak, allow multiple colours (perhaps for paid users).
Allow users customer the arrangement of their Twitter app and which icons show up first, bring in a multi-tab functionality within the Twitter App to make cross referencing tweets easier. Anything to keep users within the app.
I believe these product improvements instantly changes Twitter’s outlook, increases daily active users and makes the product fun again. I have focused mostly on customer facing products and initiatives and less on backend things like processes, infrastructure, etc.
I will most likely do a Part – 2 where I’d talk about how Twitter can monetize these ideas in a sustainable way and also chip in on some more retail suggestions like verification, tweet limits, long forms, etc.
Till then, Elon call me.