Ever since Elon Musk acquired control of Twitter, the company’s future has been the subject of much conjecture.

According to the ‘network lock-in effect,’ however, it may soon come to a crossroads where it can go one of two very different ways. In one, it thrives and grows, but in the other, it might not survive. The likelihood of there being a compromise between the two is low.

From this theory, not even you, me, or Elon Musk can predict which of these two possible futures will actually occur.

ExpressVPN looked at the current statistics and potential future of Twitter, including the challenges and opportunities that the platform may face as it adapts to changing user behavior, emerging trends, and regulatory pressures.

Rather than being determined by corporate strategy shifts, the outcome will be determined by a cumulative feedback loop of hundreds of thousands of individual decisions.

If that’s too abstract for you, try seeing a flock of starlings abruptly veering. They all turn at the same time, yet no individual bird knows exactly when.

Four transformation paths for the organization have been identified

1. Smarter algorithms for differentiated targeting

Data from 2019 (the last year the firm revealed its monthly active user total after several years of major contractions in its customer base) reveals Twitter has a five-fold disparity with Facebook in terms of active users, with both services having millions of users (now Meta). 

But, Twitter has a hard time turning its user numbers into cash; the company only brought in $5 billion that year, compared to Meta’s $118 billion.

Twitter needs to be more creative if it’s going to make up ground. In particular, the company’s targeting tactics leave much to be desired, despite the fact that advertising is central to its business model (up to 90% of profits come from ad sales). 

According to CNBC’s article, for instance, a professor from Columbia Business School saw sponsored tweets in his stream that were more appropriate for a 13-year-old girl.

Twitter needs to refine its algorithms to better target its adverts to the right users if it wants to keep its status as a standalone microblogging platform. With adequate segmentation, Twitter’s active user base has the potential to become a fruitful resource for highly targeted advertising.

In light of the company’s thin profit margins and sluggish user growth, this is more vital than ever. Twitter is used more for broadcasting thoughts and ideas to the masses than for personal communication.

2. Focus on entertainment

Twitter users prefer to consider themselves informed because the network is often seen as the place where news first appears and quickly spreads. Because of its real-time nature, a platform is also a powerful tool for commercial customer care and assistance; in fact, Twitter now accounts for almost 80% of all social media customer service inquiries.

Also, 69% of journalists say it is one of their most trusted resources for breaking news and other information.

It’s impressive, but it might not be all that appealing to advertising. Twitter users typically just stay on the platform long enough to get their daily dose of celebrity gossip or breaking news before moving on.

In 2021, users spent 10 minutes every day on Twitter, compared to nearly 40 minutes on Facebook and 20 minutes on Weibo (a similar service for Chinese customers). The less time a visitor spends on a website, the less likely they are to be exposed to advertisements.

Is it possible that Twitter will primarily serve as a source of entertainment? Weibo and TikTok (a short-form video-sharing site) have been popular in China because they provide users with an outlet for lighter, more entertaining content than mainstream news and communication outlets. 

As a result, marketers can interact with consumers when they are more attentive and open to persuasion. 

In addition, this structure does not imply that Twitter has to abandon the contentious debates and discussions that have become its trademark; brands can gain additional exposure by incorporating trending words into their messages, as has happened with Weibo and TikTok discussions following major events.

3. Diversify the format

Twitter may be able to lessen its exposure to loss and increase its revenue growth through strategic diversification.

Companies in the social media space may worry about Twitter’s plan to shift emphasis away from advertising, but the platform has an opportunity to increase user engagement by offering more content types.

As a Chinese example, Weibo has integrated video features like Miaopai, which lets users add various soundtracks and filters to their uploaded movies.

In addition, it has included new live-streaming technologies that support simultaneous broadcasting by numerous people. The number of people using the site has increased dramatically thanks to these efforts.

So, Weibo is able to make 12% of its money from premium features like VIP memberships, live streaming, and game-related services.

4. Pursue the development of a super app.

Imagine if Twitter users could do more than just post tweets, retweet others’ posts, and leave comments. If only it could be used to order a taxi or send money, that would be amazing. 

As examples of “super apps,” or comprehensive applications that provide a number of different functions from a single user interface, WeChat in China and Grab in Southeast Asia are excellent choices to consider.

Twitter’s lack of a payment system, a crucial part of super app architecture, suggests that it may be too soon for the company to make such a shift. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be thought of as a future route for transformation.

To what extent, though, will Twitter be able to implement these strategic alterations? Time is needed for this. So far in his brief tenure, Musk has focused on “stopping the bleeding” by cutting costs in a rather traditional manner. 

Recently, he compared Twitter to a “plane heading into the ground at tremendous speed with the engines on fire and controls that don’t work.” Twitter currently loses $3 billion per year. But now comes the challenging part.

A replacement pilot is on the way. A Twitter poll asking users if they thought Musk should remain CEO yielded a negative result, and Musk has since promised to replace himself with a new CEO as soon as he finds the appropriate one. But until he does, it’s just another headache for the struggling business owner.

Twitter needs a dedicated (and tenacious) leader if any of the aforementioned strategies have any chance of being put into action. Less people will want to work with Musk, so he’ll need to take a gentler, less punishing, less micromanaging approach.

While he may find it challenging, he may need to make an effort if he wants his $44 billion investment to succeed.

The Future

Ultimately, the success of Twitter is not dependent on any one person, but rather on whether or not the weight of individual defections ever reaches a critical amount to swing the party elsewhere.

Twitter says its user base is expanding at an unprecedented rate right now. If Twitter does begin to lose users, though, the shift will likely be fast and permanent as rival platforms race to achieve the same level of network dominance.

Furthermore, once they have it, Twitter will have a hard time, if not an impossible time, retrieving it.

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