We recently rounded up Twitter in 2013, and now it’s time to look forward to this year. What can we expect from everyone’s favorite 140-character messaging service in 2014?
The answer is really much of the same. Twitter is not a company that makes drastic changes, especially now that it is a listed entity, which will mean more of the same incremental pushes to emphasis multimedia within its service, develop its advertising business (and revenues), and develop its user experience.
More like Facebook than ever before
Back in November 2012, we predicted what Twitter would look like in the future.
We’re not there yet and the mock up of the future (below left) is an extreme example, but increasingly we see more in-tweet content appearing in our Timelines (mine is to the right below), particularly if you live in a country where Promoted Tweets are well used (I don’t.)
Essentially, we can expect Twitter to make our streams more ‘interactive’, with more content flashing up by default.
For example, most images or link previews require you to click ‘expand’ to see them, that could be something that becomes default, in the same way that images and videos hosted by Twitter and Vine have popped up automatically since October. For now though, that is unlikely, since that exclusivity gives more emphasis to Promoted Tweets, many of which use Twitter-hosted images.
For many long-term Twitter users, the gradual move to Facebookize the service is unwelcome. Twitter is unrivaled as a platform for gathering and broadcasting information, and photos of cute polar bears — while being very cute — deflect attention from breaking news and other bulletins.
However, this is business and Twitter needs to broaden its appeal beyond power users. It needs to get those who are less engaged to be more active: both in terms of how often they visit to consume information and how regularly they tweet.
Push to become an attractive advertising platform
That segues nicely into priority number two for Twitter: revenue.
This year, more than ever since it is a listed company, Twitter needs to grow its income.
Unlike other services, Twitter has experienced little trouble adapting to the rise in mobile apps and smartphones. Its product is inherently suited to mobile, the only question mark hangs over its business model: can it provide a compelling platform for advertisers to reach consumers without disrupting the experience?
Twitter has earmarked TV and content as a particularly sweet spot for its business — a ‘global town hall’ — thus we can expect more broadcast-related deals. It’s also likely to continue to introduce new products — which now includes targeting via email addresses — and expand its existing suite of ad tools to more markets, particularly in Asia where, beyond Japan and Korea, it has little business presence, and Latin America.
We are also likely to see greater synergy with MoPub, the mobile ad exchange Twitter bought last year. Late last year, MoPub began offering ‘native’ ads in apps, which is essentially advertising that is branded as content within an app. So, in chat app Tango for example, ads can be bundled up to look like regular messages, helping them generate greater engagement than ‘spammy’ ads.
For now, the MoPub service is not integrated with Twitter’s own ad products, but it stands to reason that it will be at some point soon. Linking the two ad platforms could allow Promoted Tweets advertisers to tap into MoPub’s native ad product and expand their footprint into other apps too.
Facebook has thrived in Asia and other emerging markets where, for many people, it is the Internet. Twitter has done well in the West but it is still to crack the global market, and recent partnerships to boost its presence in the emerging world — deals with Truecaller in India, and SMS-companies Myriad Group and U2opia Mobile — are likely to be be the first of many to build visibility.
Twitter is also increasingly looking to work with carriers — it recently signed a deal with Deutsche Telecom — as a way to widen its user base and increase engagement.
It seems likely that we can expect Twitter to bring more updates to its Direct Messaging service. Up until recently, the feature was pretty much buried in most Twitter clients, but it has since returned to the front page of the Web service and is more accessible within Twitter’s mobile apps.
New business models emerging in Asia — such as chat app Line, which makes money connecting brands with fans who opt-in to follow them — the Snapchat ‘phenomenon’, and the growth of Kik‘s username-based service, which tripled to 100 million users in a year, are all signs of what Direct Messaging could (or, indeed, should) be.
As we said in the 2013 round-up post, experiments were a very big part of Twitter’s development last year and that will continue into 2014 too.
The company has developed numerous test projects — including @achievementbird (analytics), @eventparrot (breaking news) and @magicrecs (content recommendations). The latter project was adopted into the Twitter mobile apps, validating the company’s model of piloting new features and changes among early adopters on the service.
— Magic Recs (@MagicRecs) October 21, 2013
Thus far, the pilots have also centered upon aiding content discovery and engagement, and future experiments may look something like @magicpixx (an unofficial test from a Twitter staffer) which pulls in multimedia related to tweets.
It’s challenging to look at what companies will do for the future, thinking of the Twitter user experience, there are a few areas where it could innovative and develop.
Audio: I’m a big fan of audio recording apps and services — such as Asia-based Bubbly and push-to-talk features within messaging apps — and, personally speaking, the introduction of a native audio recording platform would be an interesting new channel to complement video and images.
Tighter integration with Vine: Twitter bought Vine a year ago, and since launching the product it has pushed regular updates — the most recent of which was the introduction of Web profiles. It figures that Twitter will look to leverage Vine into its main app, perhaps with a direct link to open the app, or some form of video recording native to Twitter’s main apps, in the same way that you can snap a photo from inside the apps.
Vine Pro: Vine has developed a niche following around its service. While it has no plans to introduce ads, like rival Instagram, some kind of paid-for ‘Pro’ service might be on the cards, offering new features and functions to more serious users.
Tools for power users: Twitter has become a critical part of the breaking news scene. We’ve seen it experiment with new services, but analytics, distribution and other features for power users could increase engagement and revenue too.
A new approach to #music: Twitter #Music has largely disappointed — to the point that Twitter is considering canning the app — but a number of services — such as Tracksby and Twitmusic — have shown the potential benefits of social media distribution for artists. Twitter could refocus #Music to address this, which could boost its ad business to boot.
How do you see this year panning out for Twitter — what new features would you like to see?