Twitter Investor Chris Sacca Outlines His Vision for the Future of the Platform
View original article by SocialMedia Today
Tech media was buzzing recently after billionaire investor Chris Sacca, a long-time Twitter supporter and owner of a substantial amount of Twitter stock, announced that he would be ‘more critical’ of the micro-blogging giant in future. This came amidst a storm of criticism around Twitter’s management and direction, particularly after their lower than expected Q1 numbers. Many saw Sacca’s statement as an endorsement of these woes – if a major Twitter cheerleader like Sacca is willing to openly criticise the company, then there must something seriously wrong there, right? But more than anything else, Sacca’s perspective would give us an inside look at the issues and concerns being mulled within Twitter itself. Sacca was once part of Twitter’s management team, he has very close ties with decision makers – his insight could be the most revealing and objective look into the social media giant we could hope for.
Backing up his stance, Sacca has penned an 8,500 word essay on Twitter’s challenges and issues. The long and detailed post looks at various ways Twitter could better connect with a wider audience, could better rationalise the sometimes messy Twitter streams and, ultimately, how it could be made into a more user-friendly experience in order to build the biggest audience possible to ‘show ads to’. It’s an interesting read, well worth a look if you have the time, but if you don’t, here’s a summary of Sacca’s thoughts.
Sacca first identifies Twitter’s main problems, saying that the three things the platform needs to focus on to make Twitter better are:
- Make Tweets effortless to enjoy
- Make it easier for all to participate, and…
- Make each of us on Twitter feel heard and valuable.
Sacca then goes on to explain the things that Twitter is doing well, praising the company’s increased speed of development, its willingness to take more risks in making changes to its core product and its ongoing revenue growth (he says no public company of similar scale is growing anywhere near as fast). Sacca also makes note of the recent deal with Google to index real-time tweets, and the acquisition of live-streaming app Periscope as major wins.
Sacca then moves onto the problems at Twitter, what’s not going so well. He highlights the slowdown in user growth, the high rate of people who’ve used Twitter and not stuck with it and the company’s inability to convince investors of its potential upside, attributing the last point to the company failure to adequately articulate its plans, despite saying it has a clear strategy. The good news, Sacca says, is that all of this is fixable, going on further to explain, in detail, the various steps Twitter could consider to bring more engagement to the platform.
Moving from Tradition
Sacca makes an interesting note about the construction of Twitter and how the company may need to consider moving away from its traditional focus. He says that Twitter can be an intimidating and noisy place for outsiders, and while hard-core ‘twitterers’ have attuned their streams and worked out how to best filter the noise, newcomers can easily be put off by the rapid-fire stream. Additionally, Sacca says that locating Twitter’s most valuable insights can be tricky if you don’t know who to follow in order to find the info of most interest. Sacca suggests that Twitter may need to re-think its inherent assumptions that recent tweets are always the best tweets, and that only the people we follow post the best tweets. In this sense, Sacca suggests that Twitter needs to better enable the filtering of streams in order to uncover the information of most relevance to each specific user. Remind anyone of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm?
In order to better filter Twitter’s streams, Sacca suggests breaking out elements like live events into their own tabs, or even apps. The live stream of tweets on an event could then be curated and edited to ensure they stay free of spammers and irrelevant content, giving users a dedicated and focussed collection of tweets on any given subject. This would be similar to following along with a hashtag, but Sacca goes further, saying the events would be scheduled, so you’d never miss a live event, and would be manually moderated, to some degree, to ensure all the most relevant tweets are shown in the stream, not just those specifically tagged as such. Having this discussion in a separate tab or app would also mean logged-out users could easily follow along, expanding the reach potential of such an innovation.
Sacca expands on this idea even further, saying that ‘channels’ could be added to filter topically relevant tweets into dedicated streams for everyone to see. This would make it easier for non-tweeters to see the relevance of the platform and learn who to follow and connect with.
The addition of a human editorial element is certainly an intriguing one, and one which may have significant benefits, particularly when viewing tweets from the outside – but is it feasible, at scale?
Relevance and Popularity
Tapping into and highlighting the value contained within the masses of data locked within Twitter’s never-ending streams is a key focus of Sacca’s approach. All the information is there, relevant discussions are being had. It’s just a matter of bringing them to the surface, showing non-users the information of most relevance to them – proving Twitter’s value-proposition is the key element in bringing in more users, in Sacca’s view. In line with this, Sacca suggests better utilisation of location data in tweets in order to better link real-life happenings with on-platform discussions; highlighting the most relevant discussions and content being shared on the platform to entice non-users to take part; and, again, separating content into topically relevant segments to ensure streams are better rationalised.
Sacca also suggests a save button to enable users to keep tabs on the most relevant tweets, a prompting system to get people tweeting by suggesting things to tweet about and improved off-platform integration (with Medium or WordPress) for more in-depth discussion about any given topic. Another recommendation is a ‘suggested content’ type system that would indicate popular content users could link to in their tweets, again, similar to what Facebook is doing with its ‘add a link’ option in updates, in which users can search for relevant content to link to their posts.
Among other options, Sacca suggests a ‘read receipts’ system, where users would be notified when a celebrity or ‘Very Important Tweeter’ sees their activity:
“For example, if we follow Tyra Banks, the next time she scrolls through her notifications tab and sees that we followed her, we should get a notification in our feed saying “Tyra Banks saw your follow.” To feel like we just shared a moment with such a famous person and she saw that we exist? So cool, heads will explode.”
This is an interesting idea, and it definitely does work to Twitter’s strength in being able to easily and quickly connect, on some level, with anyone in the world. Sacca also suggests that Periscope, while an amazing addition in itself, will eventually need to enable all videos to exist beyond the current 24-hour expiration period, if only to offer the most logical placement of ads in a future iteration of the platform. The benefits of Periscope videos existing on archive forever obviously extend beyond this, but again, Sacca makes an interesting point, and one which no doubt people either already have or will take notice of.
In his concluding remarks, Sacca reinforces his belief in Twitter, noting that the company’s issues have been compounded by its “unsuccessful attempts to convince investors and the public that it has a clear vision and product roadmap that will accelerate growth.” Sacca reiterates that he is confident that ‘hundreds of millions’ of new users will join the platform and countless others will find Twitter indispensible, so long as it’s “done right, and done soon”.
It’s an intriguing document, one which anyone interested in social media and social media marketing should have a look through – Sacca is clearly a passionate, engaged and intelligent investor, and his ideas apply not only to Twitter, but to social media engagement more widely. Will Twitter take up these ideas? I suspect that several of them are already in play at some level, but it’ll be interesting to see how the company goes about progressing to the next stage.
Main image via Christopher Penler / Shutterstock