To say something is amiss at Twitter would be the understatement of the week. In one day, the platform lost its chief operating officer and its head of North American media, who both resigned in the midst of major management restructuring. One high-profile executive's ouster is notable, but understandable--people leave companies all the time. But two in a day is a trend that signifies Twitter's internal struggle to transform itself into...what, exactly? The company is still figuring that part out.
COO Ali Rowghani and North American media head Chloe Sladden both announced their departures from Twitter on Thursday in fitting fashion: with tweets. According to Recode, the timing of the exec exits wasn't coincidental: CEO Dick Costolo was stripping Rowghani of his responsibilities, which included growing Twitter's unimpressive user numbers. (To recap, Twitter was expected to hit 400 million users at the end of 2013, and instead struggled to hit 240 million.) While Sladden's media charge was considered a success--she's the reason you see hashtags all over TV commercials and billboards--she also reported to Rowghani.
Now Costolo is more directly responsible for the future of Twitter, including how it looks and how it can make the platform friendlier to new users without alienating the people who grew Twitter into what it is today.
Making Twitter friendlier
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Twitter has to stop imitating Facebook. The two networks serve profoundly different purposes: Twitter is primarily a public publishing platform. Facebook is, cheesy as it sounds, designed for friends and family. People read news on Facebook, but they break news on Twitter. Redesigning profiles to resemble Facebook Timelines and messing with Twitter's chronological stream to show you which tweets algorithms consider important (like News Feed does) aren't the best ways for Twitter to take on the big blue network.
There other ways that Twitter can become easier to understand--and use--for regular folks who don't live and die by the Internet. The most important is curation: Twitter should ask for your interests and then give you recommendations of interesting, high-profile people to follow. Love famous people and the gossips who write about them? There are plenty of both on Twitter. If you're a sports diehard, you can find athletes, teams, and sports reporters all over the platform. Your entire stream could contain nothing but NBA-related tweets if you wanted. Local news, politics, weather, technology and its many, many subcategories: You name it and Twitter can curate a feed for you. Or it should.
Right now, Twitter's on-boarding process isn't that simple: The network shows you some popular accounts and suggests some options based on other people you've followed, but then it requires you to manually search for friends and well-known users.
The company is wading into curation with a well-timed World Cup promotion that offers up a timeline for the entire tournament as well as one for specific matches. You can also tag your tweets with "hashflags," or flag emoji, to rally around your country. Who doesn't love emoji? Separate, niche timelines are a perfect way for to show new users what Twitter is made to do: gather people in the public town square and let them chatter away.
Another separate timeline that would make Twitter less overwhelming for newbies is one that curates the most important tweets of the day. The great thing about Facebook is that it puts the biggest stories you missed at the top of your News Feed. If you want to catch up on what you missed while you were away from Twitter, good luck. It's damn near impossible.
The thing that makes Twitter so frustrating for new users--and irresistible for us old-timers--is that it requires so much dedication (also known as work) to stay on top of the stream. If the platform makes it easier to get sucked in by doing a little more hand-holding, it won't have to compete with Facebook. It can just be what it is.