In Depth: 5 ways Twitter can save itself starting today

Where to begin

Twitter’s fourth quarter earnings call is today, and it’s the perfect opportunity for the firm to reinvigorate its user base. Twitter is struggling, with its user growth remaining flat at only a 3% increase between the previous two quarters.

It’s currently valued less than Pinterest and Snapchat, a far cry from its 2013 high of $40 billion. A recent shakeup at the company has also led to four of its senior managers leaving, and those vacancies are yet to be filled.

We’ve got some suggestions on how Twitter could turn its fortunes around, starting with what it does during its Q4 2015 and full-year earnings call today.

Deliver a sustainable plan for user growth

Facebook has over 1.59 billion users with 1 billion of those logging in on a daily basis.Twitter is younger but needs a similar level of growth to ensure its bubble doesn’t burst any time soon. With 320 million active users each month, there’s plenty of room for expansion.

So, Twitter needs to formulate a sustainable plan to continue its growth. Simplifying the process is one option that could boost numbers. A slew of new features is great for power users, but newcomers want ease of use, primarily.

Tweeting short messages is simple enough, but the site’s search function is messier than it once was, and the introduction of Moments is filler content rather than anything essential.

Research has found that while Facebook is used by a wide spectrum of age groups, the same isn’t true with Twitter. It’s primarily a service used by teenagers and twenty-somethings. Appealing to an older market would boost user growth considerably, and is also where simplicity is key.

There’s also an issue with not needing to sign up to Twitter to read content. Such passive users are now being catered to even more so. The homepage has recently been updated to include a timeline similar to what active users can see, with news and trends now visible, but by offering so much content without any need to sign up, it’s a risky gamble for the firm.

What does ‘becoming more Twitter-y’ mean?

Following rumors that it would, Twitter today activated an algorithm that will populate users timelines with tweets it thinks they’re interested in, rather than in reverse chronological order.

It’s optional, so not all users will be subject to the Facebook-like feature, but it’s an interesting move to increase engagement.

How many users opt-in we won’t have a good read on by earnings’ call time, but investors – and us – will wonder, “Does Twitter want to be more like Facebook?”

With this feature, the answer is, at least partially, yes, though CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted earlier this week, “I *love* real-time. We love the live stream. It’s us. And we’re going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!”

He also tweeted: “[Twitter] is here to stay! By becoming more Twitter-y.”

OK, Twitter is “becoming more Twitter-y,” but does that mean exactly, especially after it rolled out a feature that’s reminiscent of Facebook? Today, we’d like some answers.

Bring a big celebrity on its board

Having a celebrity on the board of directors is frequently a fairly popular move. It can backfire, such as when Al Gore slipped up about a new iPhone release date, but mostly, it’s good business.

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In the case of Twitter, a big name would give the company extra prominence, potentially luring in fans of the celebrity. There’s a certain amount of glamor tied to the process, and perhaps most importantly, a short-term spike in the stock price is almost always part of the deal. The key here is to pick a social media savvy celebrity. One with a large fanbase, and that also offers important networking connections.

The firm is reportedly looking to have two new board members in place by today’s call. Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, is a name that keeps popping up to join the board, and she fits of the bill of the qualities listed above.

Has Twitter pulled off two board hires, or at least snagged one big name? We’ll find out soon enough.

Trolls, tweets and what’s next

Deal with trolls

Trolls are nothing new on the internet, but the instant nature of Twitter is making harassment seem like a much bigger problem than before. The likes of the GamerGate controversy and celebrities reporting problems bring such harassment to the forefront, and to the detriment of Twitter’s reputation. With the recent news of the formation of the Twitter Trust and Safety Council, now is the perfect time for the firm to make a firm stand against abuse.

Twitter will benefit from input from over 40 organizations, including the Samaritans, Feminist Frequency, and Anti-Bullying Pro, for determining how best to tackle harassment and abuse on the site.

Details haven’t been provided on how this will be implemented, but we’re hoping it starts with a stricter code of conduct and more helpful Twitter support, which has frequently come under fire for not going far enough.

Give us clarification on beyond 140

Rumors of Twitter removing its 140 character limit have been around for a long time. Increasing the limit for Direct Messages from 140 characters to 10,000 characters last year only fuelled the fire. Traditionalists aren’t happy but, potentially, it’s a feature that could work.

Tweets would still only display 140 characters but offer some way of expanding the tweet to reveal the rest of the content – much like how Twitlonger currently works, but natively.

It’d expand the potential for discussion, but at what cost? Twitter’s current 140 character limit is perfect for SMS Fast Followers – users who view tweets only through text messages – a service that’s particularly important in developing countries that have limited access to high-speed internet. Expansion could lose the service valuable users in some countries.

What’s next?

Whatever comes out of the today’s earnings call, two things are certain: many Twitter users will dislike at least one announcement, and change is necessary to sustain any level of growth.

The two issues sound at odds with each other, but when attracting new users remains stagnant, something requires a change. Facebook might frequently attract criticism every time a new feature is added, but with its success continuing to grow, it’s time for Twitter to take some inspiration.

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