By: Charlie Feinerman

  • Published:
  • Under: Marketing & Communications Strategy
Twitter isn't trending

In a social media environment of vibrant videos, and photos that are worth well more than a thousand words, 140 characters isn’t cutting it for users anymore.

Much of the financial world is abuzz over the release of Twitter’s (NYSE: TWTR) fourth quarter earnings from 2016, which showed only a one percent growth year-over-year. News outlets, such as USA Today, point out that if President Trump’s use of Twitter—which has increased Twitter impressions—hasn’t helped increase new users, the company may be in trouble as 2017 rolls on.

At CHIEF, we’re constantly evaluating the various social media platforms to ensure that our clients are best represented across all of their channels. So while we may not know what’s next for Twitter, we can certainly shed some light on how Twitter found itself in this situation.

Twitter, a company that was once compared to Facebook in terms of potential profitability, is in danger of becoming the next Myspace (read: a relic of days passed).

Over the last several years, Instagram has overtaken Twitter in terms of monthly active users, and just last year Snapchat surpassed Twitter in active daily users, but the question is why?

The answer may be as simple as the age old saying a picture is worth a thousand words. In today’s social landscape, videos and images are the content du jour, and merely ‘posting a status’ is becoming less and less the way to connect with your friends, followers or consumer base In fact, only 7% of Twitter’s 17 million users engage with the platform.

So why are we, as social media consumers, gravitating towards images and videos?

In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Professor Jonah Berger discusses what makes ideas and trends ‘catch on’ in society, while others fall to the wayside. One of the key elements he discusses is the importance of emotion.

It may sounds obvious, but we, as humans, are much more likely to interact with and share things when we care about them. A vibrant image of a bride and a groom kissing is far more likely to draw emotion than 140 characters saying that a couple was just married. It is this emotional pull that gives social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat the advantage over Twitter, and it is no coincidence that the former three companies are thriving, while the latter is struggling.

“But Twitter does have video and pictures,” you might say. Yes, Twitter does have video and photo sharing functionality, but those are not the focal point of the medium. The 140 character “updates” are the focus, the images are secondary.

On social mediums like Snapchat and Instagram, the images and videos are, and have always been, the focal points. Users can edit and make their images as visually stunning as they desire, and then add a caption. Consumers of these platforms are focused first on the visuals, and second on the captions.

Facebook has also adapted to fit the visual trend. In recent years, the social network has altered its algorithm to prioritize photos and videos when surfacing news feed content. This is a stark shift way from the manuscript style of status updates, which the platform was known for when it was first burst on the scene. These days videos play automatically and photos are shown in full-screen as users scroll their feeds, making for a more immersive and emotional experience.

While Twitter has worked to adjust to become a more visual, emotion-driving platform in the past year—having added live video streams of important events like debates and sports games —it may be too little too late. Growth of users on Twitter has slowed dramatically (down to 4% last quarter) and the company must evolve soon, or face the fate of dare we say…Myspace.

No matter how Twitter plans to pivot in 2017, it will certainly be a landmark year for social media platforms, and CHIEF is looking forward to embracing the transformations however they come.

So what do you think, can Twitter avoid the fate of this ominous outlook? Give them some help by TWEETING your thoughts at @agencyCHIEF.