Steve Rubel was one of the first people to demo Twitter, back in December 2006, and since then he’s been all over it. But he’s come to the conclusion that it is about to jump the shark. 

He provides three reasons why this will happen, though I’m not sure I agree with him. Steve writes: “No community has ever had staying power. Twitter right now is poised to fall victim to the same trend.”

Why Steve thinks Twitter has peaked, after a period of 'nuclear' growth:

1) Celebs Flocked to Twitter. "Twitter is losing it's geek creds as celebs flock to the service. Historically, as the geeks go, so goes social media."

2) Twitter is Disorganized. "What was once "a feature" could begin to be seen as "a bug" and lead us to seek more organization. It's also a big reason why Tweetdeck is succeeding." 

3) Twitter is a Mile Wide but an Inch Deep. "As Twitter grows and people begin to crave reading Tweets from personalities and others they trust, I wonder if they will want a deeper relationship - one with less anonymity."

All interesting points, but in response…

1) I'm not sure that critical mass is a bad thing. I don't think Ev and Biz would see it that way. Early Facebook users were students, not social media folks. The same can be said of Myspace, which has a core of musicians and music fans. Those businesses are much more powerful now that they've scaled. That social media folks complain about this happening to Twitter simply presents an opportunity for the company. Twitter Groups, anyone? Tags? 

2) With regards to disorganisation, Twitter has a tremendous API, and many third party apps help users make sense of it. The likes of Tweetdeck are essential tools for powerusers, to help filter tweets and group tweeters. It's early days, and I think there will be more official Twitter tools and onsite stuff launched in the months to come. 

3) It's horses for courses. I like the concise nature of Twitter. It focuses the mind. It's a bit like how movies have movie trailers… bite-sized chunks that tempt you to see the film. You wouldn't want to issue a press release *on* Twitter, but you could so it *through* Twitter. The 140-character framework isn’t a restriction, it’s an opportunity. Brands that remain anonymous and robotic will not succeed, but for my money Twitter is one part of a customer engagement strategy that should take place across various platforms and channels. See the bigger picture.

I might be wrong on this, but what he seems to mean is that Twitter is becoming a little bit too noisy for social media people. 

Steve’s advice for Twitter is as follows: 

“Twitter can get through ‘the dip’ that stares them in the face, but it will need to adapt by: keeping its core users intact, remaining attractive to corporations and celebs, and by becoming more organized.”

But does Twitter need to pander to ‘core users’? I’m not sure. Consider the way Digg has evolved. Kevin and Jay and the team don’t seem too concerned about the concerns of core users, having annoyed the hell out of many of them, with changes to the way Digg works. Now Digg has 25m unique users a month. Is it better, or worse for that?

With Twitter, powerusers have the tools they need to be more efficient at how they interact with people, helping them to consume tweets and monitor discussion. The tools are out there, and most social media pros will know where to find them. The site will evolve just as Digg has done, for good or ill.

Steve says Twitter should acquire Tweetdeck, and maybe it should, but I’m not sure what message that would send out to the rest of the developer community. From where I’m sitting it was a smart move to let developers add functionality to Twitter for free, and they’ll continue to do that so long as the platform is relatively open (and where there are no conflicts). Developers have helped to cater for the needs of users, showing Twitter the kinds of tools that could be rolled out on the platform. I'd think twice be fore putting a spoke in that wheel.

At any rate, I’m sure the Twitter team is watching - and listening - with intent.

What do you think? Has it jumped the shark for everybody, or just for social media mavens? 

[Image by CarrotCreative on Flickr, various rights reserved]

Chris Lake

Published 17 March, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (5)



I think the natural reaction is that when something grows exponentially without a defined and easily digestible goal or intent, early users see a chicken mcnugget.

Uses will vary, I find it hard to believe I will ever follow Shaq or Kelso, but some people want that type of experience, who am I to judge that anyhow.  The great thing I find currently about Twitter is it has allowed a more neutral playing field to connect and share ideas.  Whereas blogs were simply one opinion with potentially some feedback and idea sharing, and facebook was largely a friend reconnection service, Twitter allows soft connections to be managed, cultivated and grown in a way that is comfortable for the individual users.  It allows people who have something to share or want to find things being shared to connect and make choices on the quality of information.  I am not saying anything that has not already been said in that Twitter is a People Engine in a world that has been Google dominated Search for a few years now.  Google is great, but I can only type into google search the things I am an interested in so often before I know the websites, organic or paid results, I want to go to.   With Twitter, I can crowd source, my hobbies, interests and business needs. 

over 9 years ago

Ian Jindal

Ian Jindal, Founder and Editor in Chief at InternetRetailingSmall Business Multi-user

Interesting post and your commentary too, Chris.

I expect that twitter may become more of a 'backbone' or 'dial-tone' for micro-messaging and that it'll server as a base for other services. The level of 'add on' richness (eg tweet tags, GPS/location, images, in-reply-to) are not well implemented via the on-web twitter page, but increasingly well provided for with iPhone Apps, AIR applications on the desktop and 'meta services' on top of the growing twit-stream.

A useful analogy is that of email (or, more precisely for my parallel, 'email standards'). As 'celebrities' started to email the 'early adopters' didn't abandon email in disgust!

Also, the number of email clients and services build upon 'messaging' increased based on that standard.

With an open API and no charge to use their infrastructure, twitter provides a backbone and standard upon which other people may build commercial and niche, free services.

The question I have is how might twitter pay for this? "Email" wasn't monetised directly (it wasn't 'owned' by anyone). Twitter _is_ owned and so needs to find a model.

The success of many of the applications built upon twitter will indirectly make the backbone more valuable and there are myriad ways to monetise this.

In time, we'll no doubt stop talking about twitter per se, and rather about 'that which is twitted' - we'll see through the phenomenon and look at the usage and benefit. In order for this to happen though we'll need to find a way to pay for it.

over 9 years ago


Steve Blamey

I am not about to abandon twitter, but I have felt the need for better organisation for some time. I'd like to see tags added to the API so that followers can be categorised in any client.

over 9 years ago


Eric Miltsch

Steve says this simply because he is bored with twitter now that the "famous" people have joined twitter? (at the urging of their savvy PR people)

Making the claim of a slowdown in growth after any meteoric rise doesn't take a visionary to identify; saying that at a time when the trends don't even indicate a plateau is premature though.

Steve even admits to being dead wrong by predicting it wouldn't go anywhere when he was first shown twitter by Evan.

What happened between 3.11 and 3.18 that made Steve's adoration for twitter turn sour? On the 11th he gushed about how twitter search is poised to eclipse Google search.

Steve is fortunate enough to be among the uber-adopters & see the cool stuff before us mortals do...

You can lose sight of the big picture & long term benefits of these tools to the people/organizations who play their cards right as they use them to their fullest extent.

For me and my company, the trends and stats don't point to a leather clad dude hurling himself over an angry fish anytime soon.

over 9 years ago

Felix Adewoye

Felix Adewoye, search & e-marketing at mvgmedia

I think i would lean more chris on this subject. I think twitter is a great platform for specific things. One of them is reputation management where you can monitor chatter about your brand and act with promptly. Twitter is an engagment tool.

I think twitter will evolve and become more useful as developers devise clever little ways of using it. Who knows it may spawn a whole new industry, oh it might already have.

over 9 years ago

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