A radical idea for Twitter: Kill the timeline, and kill the call center

I just had a pleasant customer service experience with United Airlines through Twitter’s direct messaging feature (no I wasn’t asking about whether I could wear leggings on the plane). That’s the first positive thing you hear from me about Twitter since I stopped tweeting and consuming my timeline in November 2016.

This positive and highly time-saving experience in comparison to a traditional call or email brought me to a radical idea: Twitter should abandon the whole timeline and tweet concept altogether and focus entirely on becoming the world’s major service that connects every single consumer business, from large organizations with hundreds of thousands of employees to the mom-and-pop shop, with their customers.

Twitter has everything that is needed: The brands, the brand recognition among consumers as well as organizations, the technology, the sales force and a good install base of a couple of hundred million smartphones to start with. By becoming the definite customer support platform and thereby saving companies huge amounts of money, Twitter can charge businesses modest fees and increase the potential revenue per participating business almost infinitely considering the opportunities for b2c direct sales, market research and loyalty activities. In the example above, Twitter should now provide the airline with all kinds of tools to leverage the established contact. The limits really are only in one’s imagination and in my acceptance of commercial approaches – but I wouldn’t mind at all to get personalized fare suggestions from United, for example.

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By abandoning the timeline and tweeting functionality, Twitter would get rid of various problems at once: No more need to moderate and ban trolls, no more disputes about censorship, no more struggle to find a meaning and large enough niche among the other social media services, no more need to chase the same ad money that everyone else is chasing, no more perceived growth ceiling (eventually, every single person on the planet would benefit from the Twitter 2.0 that I am describing), and no more support of an infrastructure that in part contributes to (or even has created) the current toxic, destructive and dulling political climate.

Of course, Facebook has been pushing its Messenger app as a way for consumer to business interaction for a while. However, the impact hasn’t been large so far. The company clearly is busy with its “camera” obsession and with eliminating the threat of Snapchat. While more initiatives by Facebook in the b2c communication sector are to be expected and while there always is the possibility that the social networking giant simply would create yet another specific app just for the purpose of b2c crm, there is a clear case to be made for a player that is good at one specific thing and one thing only. Facebook has its hands full with a lot of things. Twitter however still doesn’t really seem to know what it really wants to be. I say it should be the direct and smart link between me (or you) and every (consumer) company on earth.

I labeled this idea radical. Even if there would be support for such a repositioning among the company board and staff (which I have no indications of, and obviously it is always easy to sit in one’s armchair and make suggestions for what someone else should or should not do): Abandoning tweeting and the timeline means killing large parts of the company’s identity, and it is a massive risk which the shareholders – despite all dissatisfaction with the company’s weak performance – might not agree with at all. Particularly because such a move would mean a temporary collapse of revenue (which was about $700 million in Q4 2016). And loyal Twitter users would hate it, too.

No matter what happens, I am looking forward to have more interactions with companies through Twitter direct messages.

One comment

  1. I love speculations about the future of Twitter, so thanks for giving me that; however I do not feel killing everything that makes Twitter Twitter and is loved by their loyal users and doing a total pivot of the product as you’re suggesting would work. I believe most good support experiences on Twitter come from the fact that Twitter has a smaller and more specific userbase compared to e.g. Facebook; there’s nothing specific in their product or DNA that makes them the ideal candidate to “disrupt” the customer support experience. Also Facebook will most likely double down their investments in B2C communication for Messenger and WhatsApp as it’s the only way to make money with these apps, and they already have the eyeballs and the connections, making it difficult to compete for a standalone B2C communication product to stand out even with Twitter’s scale.

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