Category Archives: Social Media

A response to “The End of Twitter”

I really enjoy and usually agree with much of what Joshua Topolsky has to say about the world of tech and media but felt compelled to respond to his New Yorker article “The End of Twitter”

I wanted to annotate it with Genius but for whatever reason, wasn’t able to, so I’ll post sections I want to respond to here:

It wasn’t that long ago that I — and many other people I know — would have argued that Twitter was more than just another social network.

I’d argue it still is, there’s not really a strong argument here about what’s changed that would make that not the case. The article seems to focus on the financial and organization issues the company has had but not the service itself. Which, for someone like me, a self-admitted power user, who would normally scoff at major changes, hasn’t found any changes so drastic as to scare me away. The same utility that attracted me remains.

A lack of rigor in verifying reliable sources made information suspect or confusing. More troubling was the growing wave of harassment and abuse that users of the service were dealing with — a quagmire epitomized by the roving flocks of hateful, misogynistic, and well-organized

This contradicts the previous paragraph. (you’ll have to go and read it, I’m not going to copy and paste the whole article) Just a moment ago you were fine with the rawness of the feed but suddenly you’re not. I don’t know of any social media platform currently that plays an editorial role in choosing what’s accurate and what is not.

Facebook has surpassed the company by orders of magnitude, but it’s hardly Twitter’s only foe. Instagram, WhatsApp, and even WeChat all now have more individual users than Twitter does. Snapchat has almost caught Twitter, too.

You can’t on one hand complain about noise, a by-product of growth, and simultaneously cite a lack of growth. As a user, it doesn’t matter to me if Twitter grows to the size of Facebook, since at the current size it provides a tremendous utility. Were it to grow, I would simply want to continue to manage feeds my way, even if new users get a custom experience tailored by Twitter based on their behavior. It’s not difficult to offer both and I actually believe, in words and deeds, this is Twitter’s opinion as well.

In Facebook’s case, the company has demonstrated its mastery of product focus and long-term commitment to user experience.

Not exactly. Facebook Paper was a huge flop, they’ve had to reverse major changes to the NewsFeed several times, and in fact almost all internal products developed haven’t taken off. They’ve mainly innovated, product-wise, by acquisition, not by internal development.

If users get abusive on Facebook, they’re dealt with.

This isn’t backed up by any evidence. I would cite users who don’t agree with this but that too would be anecdotal. Since I am not the author of this piece, I think it’s incumbent for the author to actually back up his thesis that Facebook is a utopia for users looking for a harassment-free experience.

Unsurprisingly, the company’s stock has lost about fifty per cent of its value over the past three months.

I’m not sure Wall Street is the best measurement of if a service is useful or not. Is Twitter currently being run as a business that makes Wall Street happy? Obviously not, but again, I don’ think that’s an indication that people like the service or not.

…the service could run for another four hundred and twelve years with current losses.)

Which contradicts the title of this article, which is: The End of Twitter.

it’s not difficult to see a future in which Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or even a newcomer like Peach (yes, I am citing Peach) focus enough on real-time news that they obviate the need for Twitter’s narrow, noisy, and oft-changing ideas about social interaction.

It is, actually difficult to see, since none of these services were developed with the intention of being Twitter. Their users use those services because they’re offering something else that isn’t Twitter. Citing Peach seems like troll-bait, so I’ll just ignore that one.

If Facebook wanted a Twitter-replacement stand-alone app, they would have done it by now. I don’t think they’re interested in being in that business, for whatever reason. Perhaps the same reason they dumped Parse, it distracts from their main focus. (I wrote Fabric instead of Parse here originally, thanks for the heads up, Jana!)

This is especially notable to all of us in the world of media, the people who fill these services with highly valuable and hotly traded “content,” such as the piece you’re currently reading. Social media is a scale game or a product game, and Twitter is failing at both.

Is there any evidence to back up that media companies aren’t still publishing to Twitter at the same pace? I certainly don’t see individual journalists using Twitter less, in fact seems quite the opposite. It still is the #1 way I get news and before anywhere else.

Rumors currently swirl (and have been all but confirmed by Dorsey) that the service, best known and best loved for its tight hundred-and-forty-character limit — an economy that often forces clarity — will begin allowing ten-thousand-character Tweets with multiple images or video content.

But the experience will still start with a 140-character message, so while Twitter will allow you to go deeper, you’re still forced to provide what makes Twitter special, a short message that travels wide and can be quickly received.

That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. There are hundreds of millions of dedicated users (I count myself among them) who still see tremendous utility in the service.

This goes back to my earlier argument. I don’t care if Twitter is a multi-billion dollar company, I just want Twitter to be what it has always been for me. Hundreds of millions of users is a big deal, it doesn’t need to be the size of Facebook to be a sustainable business, it can be a great, but smaller business that provides the tremendous utility it already offers.

The company just needs to find the right way to show the power of those connections to a bigger audience, and the value of that audience to advertisers and partners. Not a simple task, but for Twitter an unavoidable one.

It doesn’t have to, but it wants to, but ultimately it could still be a very successful smaller business for a highly engaged audience. If Josh’s thesis would have been focused on the business, I would have a hard time disagreeing with him. The results (at least in the short term) look bleak, but I don’t agree that Twitter today is any less useful, or essential, than it ever was. I am still a hardcore user and fan.

Kill off the Social Media Editor at your own peril

Rock and roll is dead, the web is dead, Facebook is dead, Hip Hop is dead.

At one time or another, everything seems to be considered dead and buried. The latest tripe is that the Social Media Editor, as a practice, is dead. This is ridiculous. There are some places that grew up in the era of digital and some that emerged during the era of social, an even shorter amount of time. Suddenly many feel that you’re all specialists at social media. No, not the “how to grow your Twitter following to a million in 30 days” variety or “how to be a socia media :sic: influencer” or even worse “guru” variety. There are serious people using social media to do very valuable tasks with social media to inform and produce real work for newsrooms.

The problem is that gap hasn’t been fully closed yet, both on the digital native side of things and on the more traditional side. Every organization is different. To say they all have evolved to the point where they no longer need specialists who have unique skills of a social media editor is born more out of a need for columnists to have a clever narrative than something well rooted in reality.

Buzzfeed might not need a team of social media editors (but they do have them!) , most of their employees are well versed on how to mine social platforms for sources and first-hand information. What they might not be as well versed in is being able to vet and verify that information (some are better than others) which is where many traditional, more experienced newsrooms may have an advantage. You need a hybrid of both.

I always felt I was a hybrid, I think over time I just happened to learn more about the traditional journalism skills that Reuters is lucky to have a wealth of in their newsroom. Hopefully I absorbed much of that and integrated it into my work as a social media editor. If you’re a traditional editor, you need to do the opposite, and really understand what it takes to be a social media editor because you really need both of those skills these days to do either job. They’re essentially hybrid roles on either side because news doesn’t just happen where traditional editors were trained to look even just 5 or 10 years ago.

The job of the social media editor is now more important than ever and it’s a role that demands even more accountability, skill and ability to communicate well with the wider newsroom. They need resources, they need a team of people who also focuses their efforts on informing their newsroom about what they’re seeing on social and training them on how to do it themselves. They need people who are constantly testing out new tools to figure out which ones will help them separate the noise on social from the valuable newsworthy first-hand reports in the form of updates, photos and videos that can either be used on background or integrated directly into stories. If you think all newsrooms are already doing this without the assistance of social media editors you’re kidding yourself and you don’t actually know what the role of a social media editor is.

Newsrooms need to be better at doing these things without the help of a social media editor. Sorry, but most of them are not there yet and killing off the role of the Social Media Editor won’t help it happen anytime sooner, in fact it will likely make the transition longer and more painful.