There is no question that Twitter was the darling of 2009. Whole vocabularies that could fill a Twebster Dictionary were built up as people slathered and frothed their way to a social media hyper-frenzy.
I have a personal index for determining how big a technology is. I call it the “Mom-Crossover Effect”. It derives from Bill Simmon‘s similar use for sports stories. Basically, if my mom asks me about a technology, I know that is way-past early adopter stage and is right at the top or just past the peak of the customer acquisition bell curve. For Bill Simmon’s Mom, last year’s cross-over was Tiger’s infidelities, that was enough to catch her attention. For my mom, 2009-10 was the year of Twitter. When my mom asked me how Twitter works, I know something is big. (For a reference point, we had a conversation earlier this year about the iPad, although iPhone 4 drew a blank…)
While Twitter is still a site du jour, they face some serious issues going forward. Sure there are some scaling issues as the “Fail Whale” still appears a little too often. But the one thing that is going to leave Twitter on top of the dot.bomb scrap heap currently populated by altavista, excite and myspace is pure and simple data quality.
I am sure each of you has experienced this in your forages in the Twitter Twighlight… Life coaches selling webinars, elixirs that will grow various body parts and when did we get offers for 10 business gurus each?
One of the biggest complaints I run into with Twitter users is all the “crap” that is polluting their feed. This is certainly an issue that Twitter is aware of and working on. But even if Twitter does manage to completely eliminate spammy and automated tweets, there is still a torrent of drivel that fuels the Twuniverse from regular folks who want to share their eating habits, sleep patterns or office nuisances. And that torrent is growing.
In June, TechCrunch wrote about how Twitter has 190 million users and 65 million daily tweets. 65 million a day is a big number. 65 million is a number that many start-ups would kill to have. But ask yourself this question:
Would you rather have 65 million McDonald’s hamburgers or 1 Kobe Steak?
I worked at start-ups in New Zealand and Canada where data quality became an issue that caused one start-up to fold and leaves another on life support. I know from working with the leadership teams at both of those start-ups that if they had an opportunity to do it over, they would have be rigorous in their data-quality decisions early on. A little early pain is worth avoiding the drastic repercussions down the road that poor data can cause. Which leads us to:
Can you name one successful internet company with poor data?
I am going to guess that you struggled to come up with something here. Google? Nope, legendary data. Facebook? Its mostly user generated, but quality. I can to the conclusion that poor data and being successful are mutually exclusive events in the Internet space. Except for Twitter. Twitter has so far maintained a growth rate that ensures new users more than make up for those failing off with the poor data. But, how long can Twitter maintain this growth rate? There is only so much fresh meat out there, this begs the question:
Is Twitter a Zombie? The living dead that is perpetually one sunrise from destruction?
Late in 2009, Google, Microsoft and Facebook jockeyed for position to acquire all or part of Twitter or Twitter’s data. There was constant speculation on what the final valuation would be and who would win the real-time search war. Finally a deal was struck and 2010 saw tweets appearing on the first page of Google search results.
Except, Google is the master of Data-driven decision making. If Google users did not find value in having Tweets in search results, they would disappear. 6 months later, the only searches that show Tweets are the super-top-notch trending topics. Google users have voted against Twitter with their clicks. Ouch! This raises yet another important question:
If you and I don’t find Tweets to be useful information, what benefit does Twitter add?
But enough from me! What do you think? Is the writing on the wall for Twitter? Or will a clean-up of the data save the day? Or maybe Twitter is fine just the way it is! Let me know in the comments below!